Is the English language misogynistic?

Right then, Year 12! Following our work on language and sexism, I’d like you to consider to what extent you agree with the following statement:

The English language systematically degrades and devalues women.

Pop your response in a comment on this post. No more than 250 words, please – being succinct is a skill you need to master!

Mr Shovlin

 

 

25 comments

  1. Georgia Leggatt

    I agree with this statement very strongly. The way we use English language degrades women without us even knowing. Everybody uses insulting usages without even thinking about it shows this. Everyone uses words like ‘slut’ and ‘slag’ to describe women for the same actions as describing men as ‘players’. Women are judged and insulted by a different set of standards for most things. Marked and un marked terms, that are less common now than they were, are also very sexist and devalues women. The use of ‘waitress’ and ‘waiter’ are not needed but we still use them. Why must we know the gender of the person who is bringing us our food? Patronising usages are also very common among relationships. Most men call their partners names like ‘love’ and ‘princess’ without thinking about this. This sounds like it makes women their possession and their own property. Tis devalues women so much that we don’t belong to ourselves, we are the property of someone else. Finally, the order that we list names shows that women are second in the relationship. ‘Sir and Madam’ or ‘Man and wife’ show this. If we were to say it the other way, it would sound weird. This is because it is the way that it has always been and we have grown up saying it this way.

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  2. Emily Kenmore

    I agree with the quote that the English language systematically degrades and devalues women. Firstly, women are judged by a different set of standards to men for example, a woman may be labelled a ‘slag’ or ‘slut’ whereas a man may be called a ‘player’ or a ‘lad’ for the same actions. Lexical asymmetry also shows that a woman’s title is dependent upon their relationship with men as they start off being titled ‘Miss’ and then become ‘Mrs’ once they are married. A man’s title remains the same throughout his life and only changes as a result of age. Marked and unmarked terms such as ‘Policeman’ and ‘Policewoman’ also degrade and devalue women as it suggests the audience needs to know the sex of a person in order to judge them. However, this is becoming less common due to inclusive usages such as ‘Police officer’. Men often use patronising usages like ‘dear’ and ‘love’ subconsciously in order to address their partner. This suggests that women are the possession of a man as these names are used predominately towards women. Feminine inanimate is also used such as cars/vehicles being referred to as ‘she’, this also suggests that women are classed as possessions. The order of precedence also shows the inequality between men and women. For example; ‘Boys and Girls’, ‘Mr and Mrs’ or ‘Husband and Wife’. The order of precedence always favors the man which suggests they are superior.

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  3. Abbi Lowden

    I believe that the English Language does devalue women. Firstly, words such as ‘sweetheart’ are often used to describe females. However, there are very few similar words used for males. Although these descriptions have good intentions, the result is patronising and condescending. Women are spoken to like children, suggesting that society treats them as such. Additionally, there is an order of precedence, in which the female almost always follows the male. For example, saying ‘wife and man’ just sounds wrong. We have been bought up to be unquestioning of this and ignorantly reinforce these labels to the next generation. Why is it that females are often presented in a man’s shadow? Many females may question their importance as their male associates take centre stage. Another point is the use of the generic ‘he’. Up to the 1970s, ‘he’ was the term used to describe a person. As a result, women were excluded and made to feel inferior. Currently, the English language has no gender neutral pronoun. Therefore, exclusion cannot be avoided. Finally, lexical asymmetry is common in the English Language. For example, a 40 year old person may be happily single. If they are male, they may be described as a ‘bachelor’ (a word with connotations of parties etc.). However, if they are female, they may be described as a ‘spinster’ (a much more derogatory term). Even though both people are in the same situation, the female is described in much more negatively.

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  4. Niamh Sygrove

    I believe that the English language does in fact degrade and devalue women as a whole, and the main problem that lies with us as a community nowadays is most certainly the fact that most of us don’t actually realize that we’re using sexist remarks through lexis, terminology and phraseology on a daily basis, whether it’s to ourselves or when we’re talking to others. I believe this all to be occurring because we’re so used to hearing certain kinds of words from multiple individuals that can most certainly be interpreted as being misogynistic, or just by simply seeing them become spread through various sources within the media due to their extreme embedded nature within the language that a large majority of the world speaks, making it seem like they’re 100% acceptable to say just because they’ve become mainstream to the public. It’s hard to escape this troubling issue as to this very day it is still a large issue thanks to the increasing popularity of certain media platforms, especially when we have proven facts like labels right in front of us. For example, a man may be called a “lad” if he sleeps around, whereas a woman might be called a “whore” for the same purpose, degrading her to an extended degree. There’s also things like marked and unmarked terms like “waiter” and “waitress”, dividing males and females as if they have to be judged differently for their occupation just because of their gender differences.

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  5. Rachel Fisher

    I agree with this statement very strongly. Our language has always devalued women, just because of their gender. It degrades us, because men were seen to be the dominant sex. This may have been the belief at the time, but times have changed. We do not need separated within our jobs because we are different genders. We do not need to be segregated and defined by our job titles. Why does a woman’s title be controlled entirely by her relationship status? It’s not needed. Yes, there is a difference between equality and superiority, so changing words to have female personal pronouns is not really necessary. But something does need to change. Women are portrayed as objects- belongings of men, and this needs to stop. Our language makes women sound inexperienced and incompetent compared to men. As well as this, women are slated by the never ending list of insulting usages. “Tramp”. “Slut”. The list could go on and on, and yet, the male equivalent is so short and involves the word “man” before the insult that follows. “Manslut”. Women are judged by different standards, and the words used to describe us are derogatory. This is unfair and cruel, and something needs to change.

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  6. Kirsty Savage

    I agree with the statement that the English language degrades and devalues women, because men are always favoured. For example, order of precedence puts men first: ‘man and wife’, ‘boys and girls’ and so on. The only exception is ‘bride and groom’, which conforms to the stereotypes of women being most concerned with marriage, reinforcing the idea that it isn’t right for a woman to be unmarried. Furthermore, insulting usages show that women are judged by a different set of standards, because if a man sleeps around, he would be labelled as a ‘Lad’, which has positive associations. However, a woman would be labelled as a ‘slag’, which has negative associations.

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  7. Jack

    English does degrade and devalue women as the lexical asymmetry we use shows. for example, when we refer to our teacher: if the teacher is male we call them ‘Sir’ this is used to address a male autoreactive figure whereas when we address a female teacher we say ‘Mrs’ which is used to address a woman who is married. This dramatic change in authority show how degrading and devaluing our language is.
    The way we order of precedence when referring to people shows the same. When referring to people we say “men and women”, when referring to siblings we say” brother and sister” and when we refer to married couples we say” husband and wife”. This order of precedence suggests that we place our men first in the hierarchy above women. These familiarities show that women are devalued as they are considered lower than men.
    Women are also degraded and devalued as in the English language we insult women using words like: “Slut”, “slag”, “prostitute” and many others whereas when insulting men, the use words like: “man-whore” and “man-slag” as you can see the insults for men are derived from women’s insults and insults for women are a lot easier to fabricate then for men. This shows the devaluing of women.

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  8. edie murray

    I one hundred percent think that the English Language is misogynistic and therefore degrades and devalues women. Marked terms in the English language give women different words for their profession eg. actress, princess and waitress however this term is one of the least misogynistic. The amount of patronising words to describe and (probably unintentionally) degrade women is huge compared to the amount of patronising words to describe men – in fact, men are referred to as a ‘girl’ or ‘pussy’ when being degraded which already flags up that women in the English language aren’t as good as men. Lexical symmetry is another factor in the misogyny: Miss, Mrs, Ms and Madam are all used as a title for a woman whereas men only have Mr, Sir and Master (which has connotations with power). Women are also seen more negatively in the English language eg. Spinster vs Bachelor along with insulting usages to someone who sleeps around such as whore, slut, slag, bitch against lad, fuckboy and player which have more positive connotations. I do think that the generic use of ‘he’ in the English language is used with ignorance to the feelings and existence of women and I personally would prefer for everyone to use the third person personal pronoun ‘they’ as well as ‘them’ but without the push from society, the gender neutral pronoun won’t be used as much as he and she or (s)he (which I can deal with) because the gendered pronouns are too common to change.

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  9. Annie Hoar

    I agree with this statement very strongly. The English language degrades and devalues women without us even knowing. Women are judged to a higher degree than men are and when asked what you thought about a person who is known for ‘sleeping around’ it was clear that there are more insulting words to describe a woman, like ‘whore’ and ‘slut’ yet men are congratulated and seen as a ‘player’ and a ‘lad’, the only insulting words being ‘man-whore’ and ‘man-slag’.
    Another way in which woman are devalued is through the use of words like ‘man-made’ and ‘man-kind’, these words date back to when the English language first started evolving but it brings up the question of why we don’t just say human? People may argue that it doesn’t sound right to say ‘human-kind’ or ‘human-made’ but maybe that is because society has gotten used to saying ’man’.
    It is common in the English language for women to be called things like ‘babe’ and ‘sweetheart’ and some men say it without thinking of how it degrades women. These words suggest that women are something to keep safe and look after when in turn it devalues their power and strength. Feminine inanimate is also used when referring to objects such as car and boats, the use of ‘she’ implies that woman are seen as a possession.

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  10. Leah Fairgrieve

    I agree with the statement that the English language systematically degrades and devalues women. This is because women are often referred to with insulting usages. The English language shows how women are judged to a different standard than men, as often the more negative usages are aimed at women. An example of this is calling a women a ‘slag’ in contrast to calling a man a ‘player’ when they have done exactly the same thing. This shows how women are viewed more negatively by society. Furthermore, Lexical Asymmetry is apparent in the English language. For example an older single woman would be referred to as a ‘spinster’. This has negative connotations of being alone and is very degrading. Whereas, an older single male would be called a ‘bachelor’, this is much more positive and suggests they are unrestricted. Which demonstrates the devaluing of women. In addition, up until the 1970s the generic term ‘he’ was mainly used to describe a person. This excludes women and suggests that men are the most important gender. Even now, the English language doesn’t contain a gender neutral pronoun but there are a few alternatives. Lastly, the term ‘man and wife’ and ‘Mr and Mrs’ are terms often used when referring to a couple. This shows how women follow men in the order of precedence and this favours the male. This suggests women are inferior to men and is very degrading to women.

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  11. Hannah Franks

    With our society still standing in the favour of men, our world is conditioned to judge women to a completely different standard compared to men. From insulting usages to the generic ‘he’, the male gender is always connoted in a positive light, with women being left in the shadows. Sexually promiscuous women are instantly degraded to the term ‘slag’ and ‘slut’, whereas men are stated as ‘geezers’ or said to be the typical ‘lad’. Is that equality? From the origins of language it has always been highlighted that men have the hierarchical dominance over women through the term ‘mankind’, however with the great progress women have made over the years with women’s rights and female political power, shouldn’t the line read “one small step for humans, one big leap for humankind?” Or is that too much for the generic male ego? If this wasn’t enough, the lexical asymmetry between the sexes is extremely unbalanced; ‘miss’ is the shortened version of the term ‘mistress’ which connotes the idea of being 2nd to the man, although ‘master’ indicates supremacy and ownership. This isn’t right. If true equality was to ever be assumed, multiple alterations would need to the current language situation. However, many would argue in the grand scheme of our flaccid attempt to try and fix our ‘man made’ problems, this isn’t exactly our top priority. So my answer to this question is yes, the English language is misogynistic, however shouldn’t the real question read when will it ever not be?

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  12. Lottie Hargrave

    Firstly, I agree with this statement to a degree as the English language creates double standards between promiscuous men and women as women can be judged to a harsher extent. This is suggested as it is significantly easier to think of insults for promiscuous women than men for example women are labelled as ‘slags’ and ‘hoes’ whereas men gain status and are called ‘lads’ and ‘bachelors’. Therefore, this does devalue women as they are not judged in the same way as men however it can be argued that attitudes in society are now changing for example on the popular T.V program ‘Geordie Shore’ there are oversexed women and men who are judged in the same way.

    Moreover, because attitudes are now changing this implies that language is no longer devaluing women but separating men and women, as we are ultimately different, on an equal basis. Thus this is why marked and unmarked terms exist for example actor and actress because men and women are biologically different so deserve recognition in their own right. Plus, it is also argued that the order of precedence systematically devalues women due to collocations favoring men for example ‘Mr and Mrs’/ ‘Man and ‘Wife’. However this argument appears to ignore other collocations such as ‘Mum and Dad’/ ‘Auntie and Uncle’. Consequently this shows that the English language does not devalue women or favor men and to help solve the debate of supposed misogynistic language the gender neutral pronoun ‘they’ is now an accepted singular pronoun.

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  13. Katie Tebbutt

    I agree with this statement that the English language does degrade and devalue women. This is shown through the order of precedence. We constantly refer to two people that are married as ‘man and wife’ or ‘Mr and Mrs’ and is seemed abnormal if said the opposite way around. With the male always coming first, it reiterates the way that our language is degrading women and shows them to be superior by always favouring them. The contrast in insulting usages for both women and men also show this. For a woman, degrading words such as ‘slut’ and ‘slag’ could be used to describe her, however a man under similar circumstances would be congratulated and considered a ‘player’ and ‘bachelor’. This again emphasises the way in which language degrades women and how our society easily judges women to a different standard to men.
    However this could be shown to be changing. For example the generic use of the word ‘he’ is still used to describe any person as the English language does not have an obvious singular gender neutral pronoun. However ‘they’ is now being accepted as a singular pronoun to no longer use ‘he’ which excludes women.

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  14. Emma McGuigan

    I do agree that the English Language does systematically degrade and devalue women. One reason for this is insulting usages which regards the different labels for men and women who have the same number of sexual partners. A woman who has slept with fifty people could be labelled as a ‘slut or a ‘whore’ which have negative connotations. However a man who likewise has had fifty sexual partners would be labelled as a ‘bachelor’ or a ‘lad’. This example shows that society judges men and women to different standards and suggests that men have been biologically evolved to be more promiscuous than women. Another cause for this is patronising usages; women are often referred to as ‘darling’ or ‘babe’ and this infers feminine inanimate which means that they are classed as gendered objects. Similarly another example of why the English Language degrades women is lexical asymmetry. This is due to titles being unbalanced because they change when couples get married; ‘miss’ becomes ‘mrs’ and they usually lose their name when they are given away by their father to their husband on the wedding day. However, the man’s title remains the same and so does their surname. If a woman is still known as a ‘miss’ or a ‘ms’ at a certain age then they will most likely be classed as a spinster, but if a man is still single at the same age then they are a bachelor. Overall, I do agree with this statement but there are some exceptions.

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  15. Jack Goodman

    I agree with the statement that the English language is misogynistic as it continuously devalues the female sex as a whole. Through insulting usages such as sexually active women being labelled as ‘slags’, whereas males are given the typical ‘lad’ label. This showing how women are judged purely by a different set of standards. Also, the order of precedence shows the misogynistic features of the English language as couples are referred to as ‘man and wife’ or ‘boys and girls’ showing the male dominance due to the male being named first in every situation. Patronising usages are also used commonly in the English language as some males tend to call females ‘treacle’ or ‘love’ advertising them as property of the males. Additionally, the generic ‘he’ supports the statement as up until the 1970s, whether the gender was male or female they would be referred to as he. This was because there was no gender neutral pronoun that people could use when talking to a specific gender. To avoid misogynistic language, society has created inclusive usages. These are to relate to both gender rather than just one. For example, chairperson not chairman. To conclude, the statement in my opinion is true. The English language is misogynistic, although society is used to this so will it ever change?

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  16. Jessica Smith

    The English language is without a doubt misogynistic with few exeptions. Firstly insulting usages and patronising. There are considerbly more degrading insults for women when compared with men, many of which are objectifying them with connotations of sweet and innocent things that require protection ( babe, chick, honey, sweetie, bird , cow, snake , bitch/dog ) .When asked people can list more insults to call women who have an active sex life ( slut, whore, sket, slag ) lets compare these to words associated with men who have an active sex life ( bachelar, geeza, man slag, man whore) none of these examples are in sted of the womens insults. This degree of misogyny doesn’t end there , in lexical asymmetry, a woman in her mid fourties would be called a spinster whereas a male would be called a bachelor. When adressing a male teacher we would say ” sir ” and when adressing a female teacher we would say ” miss”, why should women be seen as the less authoritive figure, their names being changed so their last names are the same as the husbands, essentially belonging to them. Men dont alter their name in the slightest when they get married, however a woman does for the start and end of her name. On all formal documents the women would be “Mrs”, where as a male would be “Mr”, thus drawing no conclusions of being married. As previously stated there are exeptions of order of presedence, such as on a wedding day ” Bride and Groom” however a wedding day is typically all about the bride and her special day, where she is given to her husband by her father ( or other male figure in her life) like property. Even prior to the wedding day the Hen night and batchelor night.The word ” hen” in itself has connotations of vulnrability and possesion where as a “bachelor” essentialy means single man.Luckily we are a generation that hasnt been brain washed with the generic ” he ” ( meaning person) which blatantly excludes women. The English language needs to discard traditions and adapt to the 21st century where men and women should be seen as equals ( even though women are paid less than men).

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  17. Bethan Fletcher

    I certainly agree with the fact that the English language systematically degrades and devalues women, and we see it happen every day of our lives. Insulting usages congratulate men for behaviours that women would constantly be degraded for. For example, a male and a female could have the same number of sexual partners at the same age yet the female would be degraded using labels such as ‘slag’ and ‘whore’, whereas the male a ‘lad’ or ‘bachelor’. Men often use patronising usages such as ‘sweetheart’ and ‘darling’ when talking to women, and it is also common to see gendered pronouns, often using ‘she’ when referring to cars/vehicles, both of which show a level of possession from the male figure, and both degrades and devalues women. This is again shown through the order of precedence. We see collocations when talking about relationships for example ‘Mr and Mrs’, ‘man and wife’ and ‘brother and sister’. However we almost always see the male figure coming first, and it can often be seen or thought as abnormal to hear these with the women coming first. Although women are still degraded and devalued, this could slowly be beginning to change. Up to the 1970s the generic ‘he’ was used to refer to both genders, and although the English language still has no obvious singular gender neutral pronoun, ‘they’ is becoming more increasing accepted as a singular pronoun. We also see inclusive usages when referring to professions such as ‘police officer’ and ‘principal’ more commonly being used.

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  18. Elliot

    I think that English Language is embedded with misoyginistic language, women in comparison to men are de valued, and de humanised within the vocabulary which we use to refer to the two genders. Men are described using words like ‘player’ and ‘lad’, these suggests positive connotations, where as women are called a ‘slag and ‘whore’ which give negative connotations. Women are also symbolised as animals with words like ‘bird’ and ‘cow’, this could suggest this is lower in rank of society. This language is constantly accepted in today society meaning that a majority of us are accepting it or not even realising the difference. There is no fairness within this causing women to suffer as a result, I believe more people need to consider the representation of the two genders and treat both as equal.

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  19. Hannah Yates

    I strongly agree with this statement. I feel the English Language degrades and devalues women extremely. For example, men are known to class the women as ‘housewives’ and are expected to complete activities such as cleaning and cooking. This portrays the women to be inferior to the men henceforth showing misogyny. A Man could potentially sleep with several women and be classed as a ‘lad’ or a ‘bachelor’ where as if a woman were to sleep with several men then there would be no positive connotations linked to the woman. They would be referred to as a ‘slut’ or a ‘slag’ which show the women to be belittled by men as a whole. Patronising phrases such as ‘darling’ or ‘love’ could be argued to show that women are possessions of men therefore objectifying the entire gender. The order of gender can be argued to be misogynistic; for example at weddings when the registrar marries the couple, the phrase ‘I now pronounce you man and wife’. Why is man the leading gender? Why is it not ‘I now pronounce you wife and man?’ This can be argued to be misogynistic because women are shown to be not as important as men. At the minute, the English language has no gender neutral pronoun so there is always going to be misogyny. Exclusion cannot be avoided. Lexical asymmetry is common in the English Language.

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  20. Ben 'Rathbone' Spiers

    I think that a lot of the English language backs up the statement that it is misogynistic and suggestive of a superiority and dominance regarding males.There is a consistent theme of men being prioritised in particular scenarios, an example would be the tendency to refer to a woman who is sexually active with no specific partner as a ‘slut’ or a ‘slag’. In contrast, if a man was to have multiple sex partners he may be labelled a ‘lad’ which has positive connotations. As society has developed and roles within the workplace have changed, male favouritism in the English language stands out and appears outdated. The terms Master and Sir are often associated with positions of power whereas Madam, Mrs and Miss are used to describe most women regardless of their role and authority. Another way that we use language that degrades women may be subconsciously, when we decide the order of precedence when referring to a man and a woman simultaneously. For example we would often the use terms such as ‘brother and sister’ which shows how we value men above women. There are only certain circumstances wherein the female comes first and these tend to be special events such as on a wedding day with ‘bride and groom’. Overall I believe that the English language is systematically misogynistic. However with the use of third person pronouns we can begin to eradicate it.

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  21. Abigail Holyland

    I partially agree with this statement for reasons such as women are expected to take the surname of their husbands after marriage and it is considered unusual if they choose not to do this. However, often it is the English Language which degrades and devalues women but the women themselves. For example, if an ex boyfriend of a women gets a new girlfriend she may be referred to as a ‘bitch’ by the women and her friends in an attempt to help her feel better. Or, if a girl cheats on her boyfriend, his female friends are probably the most likely to refer to her as ‘slut’ or ‘slag’. On the other hand, this is likely due to expectations of women in society they have come from men as often men expect women to act as inanimate objects. This is shown by the fact men use female pronouns when referring to inanimate objects like cars. Also, when talking about occupations, one is much more likely to say policeman than even consider it might be a policewoman. Of course, the politically correct term would be ‘police officer’, however it is likely it will take a long time before they becomes more usual.

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  22. Rowan Young

    I concur. The English language does degrade and devalue women and in addition to that; has always done this. This has been displayed throughout history with words such as ‘harpy’, ‘slut’ and ‘boob’ which are used as insults towards women and have been for a long time. None of these are applicable to men and this could show how men are perceived as better through English language, which supports the statement of ‘The English language systematically degrades and devalues women’. This concludes my agreeing statement and reasoning to my agreement of the topic.

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  23. Megan Wright

    I agree with this statement to an extent. This is because society does seem to judge women to a different standard than men. For example with insulting usages. It is much easier to think of insults for a promiscuous woman, eg slut and whore, than a promiscuous man who gets referred as a bachelor or a lad. I also agree with the statement due to feminine inanimate, as gendered pronouns such as ‘she’ are used to refer to objects, for example calling your car a she.
    However I disagree with this statement because although the order of precedence tends to favour men with collocations such as Mr and Mrs or man and wife, we completely ignore the collocations where women are put first, for example in mum and dad or auntie and uncle. As well as this with marked and unmarked terms, people disagree with the names actor and actress as they think they should all be called the same. However I do not think this as there are clear biological differences between a man and a woman so they should have their own different recognitions. The English language has changed overtime as ‘they’ has now been accepted as a singular pronoun, which shows that our language has developed and became less gender bias.

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  24. Nathan Macgilbert

    Personally, I do believe that the English language systematically degrades and devalues women due to the origins of our language coming from a time in which women were inferior to Men. I think that our language does degrade women however providing that people’s views do not emulate the language, I do not see a problem with it. In order to make our language not systematically degrade women, we would have to recreate the majority of our language. However, inclusive usages such as Firefighter opposed to Firemen are a huge step in the right direction. It is clear that a problem still exists due to insulting usages; we have a different set of standards for Men and Women. This is shown through terms like “Slut” and “Whore” whereas the male equivalent would be “lad” or “player”. The male equivalents have positive connotations as in society it is saw as a good thing if a male sleeps with lots of women, the female terms have negative connotations which could be viewed as unfair.

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  25. Aidan Gardner

    I think the English language is mysoginistic as there are a lot of words that degrade women like slag but there aren’t these same words for men, however I think the real issue is gender equality being applied to actual situations and that our language having more derogatory terms for women and not men is a lesser issue

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