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The Aspects Of Feminism In Language

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The issues of oppression of women have been a burning problem since time immemorial. The constant struggle of women to change the concept that they are the “weaker” sex is prevalent in world history. This concept works through the intertwining of ideas about the physiological nature, ascribed social roles and the psychic structure. There is some overlapping in the roles to females and males, but in all societies sex status is the major determinant. The gender divide enforces women’s role in reproduction and support activities and limits their autonomy. It also limits their participation in decision making and highly-rewarded roles. Of all the socially created divisions, the gender division is the most basic and it is most resistant to social change. The biological role of women in reproduction and the socially and culturally defined roles as mothers, bearers and nurturers of children provides the basis for their subordination. The great feminist critic Luce Irigaray talks about how the language construction keeps women in the position of subordination compared to men because language was constructed under a patriarchal system. This causes the very utterance of words have less impact because the words used by the undesired sex have been made to favour the desired sex. Irigaray believes that a woman takes on the roles that are prescribed for her by the male-dominated, philosophical framework. As long as a women deals with “ideas” created by masculine language, she will remain as the suppressed “other”. Feminists believe that language typically excludes women from an active subject position.

Language is a means of communication that reflects both the individual characteristics of a person, as well as the beliefs and practices of his or her community. When we use language, we communicate our individual thoughts, as well as the cultural beliefs and practices of the communities of which we are a part: our families, social groups, and other associations. The attitude of a person is designed by culture and language, and language undeniably reflects culture. Language is bound up with culture in multiple and complex ways. Gender expectations, behaviours, and cultural norms, are determined through language. Sexist language is acknowledged as a powerful tool of social deprivation, undermining women’s status in society. The concept of linguistic sexism was verbalized by international women’s movement in 1910s.

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Men and women have bodies with different physical make-ups and possess fundamentally different qualities and virtues. In every aspects of life, a woman is identified in terms of the men she is related to. The ideas of gender difference were derived from classical thought, Christian ideology, and even from contemporary science and medicine. Feminists have developed more complex views about gender. Gender is socially constructed and is now understood to be a social status, a personal identity, and a set of relationships between women and men, and among women and men. Gender inequality is built into the organization of marriage and families, work and economy, politics, religions, arts and other cultural productions, and the very language we speak.

Generally a dictionary is not considered a genre of literature but one cannot write anything without consulting a dictionary. A piece of literature is written with words that are present in the dictionary of the language chosen for particular writing. A dictionary is a store house of words without which literature and language are incomplete and even impossible. It implies that a dictionary is the confluence of both language and literature. There is a relationship between the acquisition of subjectivity through language and recognition of the social nature of female identity. Therefore we find it important to analyze the meanings of women related words of a few reputed and popular dictionaries compiled at different points of time to know how far a dictionary can reflect the status of women in their pages. This study is an attempt to provide evidences from the words in English language to show the type of gender inequality that has been claimed to exist in both the societies and between the roles of men and women. This analysis will be completely literary and there will be no linguistic or grammatical analysis. The descriptive meaning of the women-related words will be examined with the help of few selected dictionaries compiled at different points of time.

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The Aspects Of Feminism In Language. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from
“The Aspects Of Feminism In Language.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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