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GENDER STEREOTYPES IN CONVERSATIONAL ENGLISH

2010.05.27
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.

 

Masculine Neutral Feminine
Mental ability: talent, intelligence
1. Cocky
2. Hotshot
3. Pundit
4. Smart aleck
5. Whig
1. Adept
2. All-rounder
3. Bookworm
4. Brain
5. Brainiak
6. Dabster
7. Dig
8. Erudite
9. Expert
8. Fancier
9. Generalist
10. Genii, genius
11. Grinder
12. Highbrow
13. Intellect
14. Intelligence
15. Judge
16. Know-all
17. Latitudinarian
18. Literate
19. Longhair
20. Mage
21. Mastermind
22. Master
23. Maven (pazg)
24. Maverick
25. Moralist
26. Mug
27. Muz(z)
28. Natural
29. Nerd
30. Philosopher
31. Polyglot
32. Polymath
33. Prodigy
34. Sadhu
35. Scholar
36. Shark
37. Sharp
38. Smarty
39. Solomon
40. Special
41. Speculator
42. Sponge
43. Swot
44. Talent
45. Thinker
46. Virtuoso
47. Watcher
48. Whiz-kid
49. Wiseacre
1. Starlet
2. Bluestocking

 

To get more information about English, order a trial lesson with a Skype-language.com teacher!

 

 

For example, if we tell a woman that she has 'a men's intellect', we will pay her a compliment.

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