The gender inequality is one of the most discussed topics in the sociological discourse, but this idea is also related to the linguistic discourse because the gender relations are reflected in languages. Thus, Piercey states that the gender relations in the English language are based on the “masculine-feminine dichotomy that arises in the vocabulary” (Piercey, 2000, p. 113).
From this point, the English language is rather sexist in its nature. That is why, it is important to examine the unequal gender relations reflected in the language and to address the question of how the sexist language can reveal the drawbacks of the patriarchal social system which is answered in Piercey’s “Sexism in the English Language.”
The significance of Piercey’s discussion is the attempts to prove the idea that the English language is sexist in the nature, thus, the topic of the gender inequality is discussed with references to the linguistic discourse and the important aspects of the relations between the sexist English language and society are presented in the author’s article.
In spite of the fact that the English language is international and spoken in different equal societies, it is appropriate to refer to Piercey’s argument while stating that the English language is sexist, and it reveals the drawbacks of the patriarchal system because the gender references in the language are based on biases, the female gender is associated with exclusion and with the words having the negative connotation.
The aspects of the English language, which are associated with the gender issue are often based on the developed biases spread within the society and dependent on the discussion of the female roles. These ideas are reflected in the language because according to Piercey, “the English language is man-made, and it enshrines ancient biases and prejudices against women” (Piercey, 2000, p. 112).
Being the ancient ones, these biases can be discussed as influential for forming the society, and as a result, for forming the language. The English language seems to be developed to serve the men’s needs because the language is created with the references to the set of symbols used by men in their reality (Fromkin, Rodman, & Hyams, 2007; Piercey, 2000).
Thus, the idea of the patriarchal system is clearly reflected in the English language because it presents the image of the men’s world.
The important drawback of the patriarchal system is the intended exclusion of women from the active social life with references to the strict distribution of gender roles. This exclusion is also reflected in the English language.
Piercey states that the language “reflects the cultural values of men, what they find important”, and as a result, this language becomes to be sexist in its form, and the author continues that through the use of sexist language “women are effectively eliminated and excluded from the day-to-day reality that they exist” (Piercey, 2000, p. 113).
Thus, women’s suffer from exclusion of the female gender in the language because there is the tendency to refer to the words related to the male gender as generic and appropriate for all the persons regardless their gender. That is why, Piercey’s idea that the English language works for the men’s benefits while excluding women from the discourse is rather relevant.
Furthermore, the female linguistic exclusion is also observed while focusing on the analysis of the vocabulary in relation to gender because the sexist language reflects the principles and drawbacks of the sexist society where women can be discussed within sexual or inferior contexts.
Piercey claims that “in English semantics, or in the meanings available in English, males not only have more words, but they have more positive words” (Piercey, 2000, p. 113). Following the author’s discussion, it is possible to state that those words which are considered as ‘female’ often include the some inferior or negative meanings, and the roots of this linguistic discrimination is the ideas of the patriarchal society.
The main outcome of such linguistic gender inequality can be further observed in the social relations as the progressive discussion of women as inferior, and it can lead to the further hidden discrimination.
However, it is possible to respond to the imbalanced power relations between men and women observed in the English language while focusing on using rather neutral or non-sexist language in which the aspect of gender is not accentuated. Moreover, according to Cameron, the use of the non-sexist language is correlated with the development of the non-sexist society (Cameron, 2005, p. 483-484).
Piercey’s argument on the observed sexism in the English language is rather credible and persuasive because while discussing the unequal gender relations in the language, the author provides arguments to state that the language is sexist and reflects the patriarchal system’s drawbacks.
The language determined by the social gender biases, negative associations, and gender exclusions not only reflects the gender inequality within the society but also contributes to the further discrimination. Thus, the author’s provides the discussion of these factors and ways to overcome them.
Cameron, D. (2005). Language, gender and sexuality: Current issues and new directions. Applied Linguistics, 26(4), 482-502.
Fromkin, V., Rodman, R., & Hyams, N. (2007). An introduction to language. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth.
Piercey, M. (2000). Sexism in the English language. TESL Canada Journal/La revue TESL du Canada, 17(2), 110-115.