Is the English Language Sexist?

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Is the English language sexist? For centuries the English language has fallen back on inherently male terms, even ‘woman’ and ‘female’ merely have affixes to the words man and male. Even though language has evolved rapidly since the 1970s due to such acts as the Sex Discrimination Act were passed, there are still issues with our language today. Deborah Cameron, of the University of Oxford talks on the differences between language before the 1970s and now. She focuses of the improvements to language equality, for example the introduction of the term ‘Ms’ for a woman who does not wish her marital status to pre-determine her as men have with ‘Mr’, and the changes to gender neutral profession names such as ‘firefighter’ instead of ‘fireman.’ However the English language is still subconsciously sexist. Sarah Mills, author of Language and Sexism, brings to attention the lexical gaps between male and female terms, for example there a large lexical gap for insulting male terms, whereas there are many for females. If a woman is promiscuous she can be negatively referred to as a slut, whore, skank, slag, hoe, tart, sket or harlot. However, there are not nearly as many insulting terms for a promiscuous man, and those that there are seem playful and even positive, such as man whore, pimp, player. Lexical asymmetry can also be related to this problem, for example the connotations for an unmarried man, a bachelor, are usually positive, associated with a man living a carefree and independent life, however the connotations for an unmarried woman, a spinster, are usually negative, implying that the woman has been unable to find a partner. These lexical differences prove that despite the actions taken, sexism still remains in the English language today. Even grammar in the English language can be sexist. Firstly the 3rd person pronoun he or his is often used to refer to

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