Gender-Neutral Language Reform. Necessary Process, or Mere Demand of Hypersensitive Feminists?
Essay from the year 2012 in the subject Women Studies / Gender Studies, grade: 1,3, Free University of Berlin (Institut für englische Philologie), course: Linguistic Theory and the Grammar of English, language: English, abstract: What has been ridiculed by male columnists as feminists' 'pronoun envy', and exaggeratedly depicted as their wish to change words like 'manhole cover' to 'personhole cover', and 'manipulate' to 'personipulate', in fact, is too important and well-grounded a demand to be ridiculed. Emerging in the 1960s / 70s, the issue of sexist language by many is still seen as a persistent problem today. The continuity of this claim shows that feminists in favour of gender-neutral language use are by no means concerned with trivialities, but with core concepts of language. (Cf. Penfield 1987:6) This essay is based on the positive statement of the above quotation that meanings are not fixed, but language responds to new demands posed on it by its speakers. Its aim is to prove that, especially in English with its natural gender system, strong sexist tendencies exist, and therefore language reform is possible and necessary to contribute to the formal and actual equality of women.
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