The English Language Limits Gendered Language

wordsPhoto: Courtesy of Amazon.
It's commonplace to throw "man" at the end of "I don't know," just as is referring to anyone (regardless of his or her sex) as "dude." When it comes down to the politics of how we speak, the genders of words often goes unconsidered. This isn't necessarily our fault, though — in fact, the english language is extremely limited when it comes down to gendered speak. Unlike French or Spanish, there is no proper way to address a group of people. We can fight our way around it with "y'all," but often a group is inherently addressed as male; "guys," "freshmen class," and "actors" rather than "actors and actresses."
Julie Mastrine wrote a thought piece yesterday for Thought Catalog expressing her frustration when it comes to our day-to-day wordplay. She dives into the way derogatory words have become commonplace, and the "internalized misogyny" many contain. Yes, referring to something as being "gay" as in "stupid" harps back to homophobia, which in turn leads to an inherent degradation of femininity. The historical context of words can't be erased. Mastrine goes into great detail about this, and a major takeaway is the importance of being aware.
This awareness should not stop with the past. It must extend into our everyday lives. Thinking critically about the words we use, whether it be applauding a fantastic group of actors in a film or beginning an e-mail with "Hey guys," is the key. Mastrine calls for ditching the whole "they’re just words" mentality. The intentions behind this are honorable, but the plausibility is shaky. Until the day Merriam-Webster pulls one on us and creates gender-neutral conjugation for the english language, knowing our audience, and, more importantly, knowing we have the potential to offend someone is the most important thing we can do. As elementary as it sounds, a conscious effort to think before we speak might be exactly what's necessary to affect change. (Thought Catalog)

More from Politics

R29 Original Series