GENDER STEREOTYPES IN CONVERSATIONAL ENGLISH
Has it ever occurred to you why one person is called 'a HuMAN being' in conversational English? Why do we say 'He' to speak about one person in a group, in which there are both men and women? Is it really fair?
English seems to have a special attitude to MAN and WOMAN, which is an absolutely reasonable conclusion. A language has certain stereotypes that are typical of only women and only men.
There are a number of stereotypes imposed by our society on men and women. They can be easily observed in the language which reflects the national identity and culture of native speakers. In conversational English these stereotypes are called 'Gender stereotypes'.
Examples of gender stereotypes in English are men-women relationships:
Gender stereotypes are cultural and social views (beliefs, opinions, ideas) about character and behaviour which are peculiar to 'real' men and women. They influence our conscience according to the principle 'right/wrong'. This modifies certain behaviour, the same characteristics are evaluated differently depending on the gender.
By contrast, if we tell a man that he has 'a woman's personality', we will insult him.
Let us give more examples from contemporary English to find out which 'gender' (feminine or masculine) prevails.
We can take a group of synonyms 'humanity' - 'mankind', which obviously excludes 'womankind'. It is common knowledge that these words can by replaced by 'man' in any sentence, but the word 'woman' never does it.
'Man's great achievements'
'Humanity's great achievements'
'Mankind's great achievements'
NEVER 'woman's great achievements'
Thus, a woman seems to be excluded from 'humanity'. In practical English the lack of symmetry is reflected in the fact that 'woman' and 'she' are used more rarely than 'man' and 'he'.
The impact of gender stereotypes is especially noticeable in conversational English if we compare a few pairs of words. Take, for instance, ‘spinster’ – ‘bachelor’. Despite having a similar meaning -'the one who is not married', these words have absolutely different connotations.
'Bachelor' is neutral, meaning a man without commitment who has a wide choice of women, while 'spinster' is used by native speakers to describe a woman who is not popular among men and who is too old to have a partner.
As these examples show, conversational English favours a man's gender behaviour. Anyway, the issue of gender behaviour in the language is still open, since a lot of scholars tend to think that most English words are neutral. That is the reason why there is no category of gender in English.
The following table can prove that English is mainly neutral.
|Mental ability: talent, intelligence|
4. Smart aleck
10. Genii, genius
23. Maven (pazg)
For example, if we tell a woman that she has 'a men's intellect', we will pay her a compliment.