Sunday, June 21, 2009
It is possible that sexist attitudes are perpetuated through language. Since humans use language to speak of consciousness and culture, this medium can articulate and send cultural meanings and values, underpinned assumptions and prejudices included such as devaluation of members of one sex. For instance, the seemingly harmless, all-encompassing use of the male pronoun reference, i.e. man, he, and other masculine-related permutations already discriminates against women by making them invisible or subordinating them while simultaneously reproducing ideas of male dominance. While in the Philippine context, the third person pronoun references “siya” and “sila” appear to be exempt from the abovementioned promotion of gender inequality, the derogatory “putang ina” oppresses women not only by associating them to a socially-perceived low occupation but also by specifying the position to women only.
Changes may be instituted in order to make for less gender-biased language. One way is by choosing to use a more neutral gender reference than the singular masculine pronoun, say using the third person references “one” or “they.” Another way is by substituting gender-neutral terms for terms ending in man. Yet another way is by avoiding the use of the generic masculine in order not to make men the universal representation of humanity, while other-ing the women at the same time. Also, feminine suffixes like -ess, -ette, -trix and -enne must be prevented as these tend to render the female occupants of such positions inferior or insignificant. Furthermore, sex-linked modifiers like “lady,” “women,” “girl,” “mother,” “wife” and “female” must be neutralized in order not to imply that certain occupations are specifically feminine. Finally, terms that bring attention to a person’s sex in assigning roles and the like must be prohibited, such as houseboy, governess, or the pejorative “putang ina.”