Deep Roots of Sexist Language

Sexist and misogynistic language are just as much of a problem as outright sexism and misogyny because they are comparatively invisible and, therefore, rarely talked about. Sexist and misogynistic language are so commonplace that we can sometimes soak it up like we would song lyrics on the radio—that is, without any critical interrogation of it. Phrases like “man up,” “she’s such a girl,” “you throw like a girl,” “pretty strong for a girl,” “crying like a little girl,” etc. are so common that I read them all the time . . . even in books that are not otherwise sexist or misogynistic. And that’s when I feel particularly nervous. Because it suggests that even those who would likely fight against gender inequality have internalized certain gender tendencies to such a degree that phrases like “she’s such a girl” actually communicate something specific for them, as opposed to describing 51% of the youth population. This is a time old concept as sense the formation of “republican motherhood” roles for men and women had been pretty rigid, that is, men take action and do things, all sorts of things, and women all make babies. It’s not too difficult to see how our language has developed accordingly.

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