Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
November 28, 2023

Sexism, language, and my feminine values

By JHU CONFESSIONS | March 28, 2012

Welcome to the wonderful world of sexism! It took me years to realize that I enjoy talking about this subject, and by talking about this subject, I mean that I enjoy laughing at how many people freak out about it.

Sexism exists, I'm not going to argue that. I'm female and I know what it's like to have people make assumptions about me based on my apparent ... assets. We have been raised with certain stereotypes embedded in us; I have met very few people who do not have these predispositions. The most annoying people are the ones who overemphasize how "politically correct" they are.

Oh, and I am very anti-politically correct, so if anything that I say offends you. . .whoops.

This was inspired by another Hip Hop article a couple weeks ago by Sophia Guthier. It was a great article: "Excuse me, it's enough that men objectify women, but do they really have to womenify objects?!" Well-written, but I disagree with fair amounts of it. Please, Miss Guthier, do not take this personally. Or if you do, write an article in response, I'd love to see where it goes.

Miss Guthier discusses how objects are traditionally given female pronouns. While English technically does not have formal gender in our grammar, it has a lot of gender distinctions. For example, our default pronoun is "he/him/his." This doesn't bother me. I do not feel like less of a human just because singular sentences generally default to male. As for objects, English certainly isn't as stuffed with genders as other Romance languages, but it's not just those based in Latin.

I was going to make a quick list of languages with genders, but, instead, I'm going to write the website I found them on: "" l "List_of_languages_by_type_of_grammatical_genders""

This list is ridiculous. There are at least thirty-five languages with male/female, at least thirty with male/female/neutral, about ten with some distinction similar to animate/inanimate and seven with more than three genders.

And look, English isn't on the list! (Unless you count Old English. . .)

These languages range from Spanish to Swahili, and the latter has a whopping 18 noun classes.

That doesn't mean that we're excused from sexism in language (just look at the etymology for "husband"), but it does mean that we have a better starting point. If you want to change how we use gender in language, go for it, but make it reasonable.

I will never say "chairperson" instead of "chairman," unless I'm speaking to someone who I know will bite my head off and claim that I am not supportive of my fellow woman. Also, "human" is hardly better than "man" just because the latter word is the root word in the former. Let's just stick with mankind until we come up with something that can roll of the tongue equally well.

The first male stuffed animal I had was Cowy, and that was only because I felt bad that the rest were girls. In doing this correction, I made an anatomical error.

Miss Guthier, name the car whatever you please. I call my van Nelly, so when I pull to an intersection and hope the breaks work, I can yell out "Whoa, Nelly!" My laptop, desktops and external hard drive are all female. Not because they're objects, but because I default to female when naming things. I am female, so that's what I can relate to best.

Does this mean I am a sheep in the sexist system? Maybe. But it probably means I'm lazy and don't want to have male things in my room while I'm getting undressed and dressed for bed.


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