All the fault of the language?

In one of the best known dictionaries of the Italian language, under the item "woman" you can read: 


"Adult female of the man / woman of the house, who loves domestic life, who knows how to govern a house / wife, a beloved woman, my woman / honorary appellation that is pressed to the names of South Tyrol Lord, for example. To the wife of the President of the Republic / Mrs., Mistress / Our woman, the Madonna / Woman of home service ... / Woman cannon: very fatty woman, attraction number in fairs / figure of the cards: woman of spades ".


It will not be surprised to you if in this article we will talk about gender and linguistic discrimination


After all, the difference with the voice "man" it's obvious: 


"A great man / a man of the world / a new man, a humble person who has made himself / a businessman, manager / a man of law, jurist, lawyer / man of the day, who in A given time or period imposes itself on the attention for the activity he carries out, for his merits / a man of letters ... "


We often take it for granted, but linguistic discrimination between man and woman can have a significant impact on the perception and treatment of genres in society And it can also contribute to maintaining and perpetuating social and economic inequalities. 


Words, just words?


Although in recent years many editorial realities are committed to overthrowing the paradigm that sees the predominant male gender between the pages of the dictionary, the finish line to reach equality between the genres is still far away.


This is because historically the male gender was conventionally considered "neutral genre". Over the centuries, this idea also spread in other European languages, where the male gender became the predominant genre in many areas, including that of the writing of the dictionaries: nand Italian dictionaries published to date, Most of the women do not appear at all or at most they are joined with the reference to the male term (for example: "Beautiful, women's singular female"). All this was also influenced by the fact that many activities and professions were historically carried out mainly by men and therefore the terms associated with these activities were often male.

Gender issues


To strengthen linguistic discrimination there are also the intention and meaning that are often attributed by those who speak (intentionally or not) to many female terms.


Cardinal example is that for decades (and often still today) the use of the term "men" To indicate human beings in general instead of the inclusive term "people".


Here are many others that are part of our daily language: 


  • "Businessman"/"home woman", imply that a certain genre is more suitable for certain roles or professions than the other.


  • "Guys" or "members" To describe a group of people, who implicitly excludes women.


  • Male pronouns like "He" or "His" To refer to a person whose genre is unknown, who implies that the interlocutor is male for default.


  • Names and adjectives that imply that a certain behavior or trait of personality is exclusively male or female. For example, "Maschiaccio" or "Effemmented" These are terms that suggest that certain behaviors or interests are suitable only for one of the two genres.


  • Expressions that categorically exclude female as "Just for real men".


  • Terms referring to exclusively male sexual attributes to define a characteristic characteristic with meaning of strength and/or courage "You have the balls".


  • The use of expressions that suggest that women's sexuality is a primary aspect of their identity, while that of men does not like "Easy woman".


  • Terms that minimize or deny the existence of problems or inequalities that concern women such as "Extreme feminism".


  • Denigrating or offensive terms to refer to women, such as "whore" or "slut", which imply women are lower or sexual objects.


  • The use of the male to refer to a mixed group, for example "the students" Instead of "students and students".

As if this were not enough, there are also:


  • Body language: In certain circumstances, women are imposed a use of the language more submissive than men, for example avoiding looking in the eyes.


  • Ambiguous language: Women was taught to use a softer or more ambiguous language, for example when it comes to communicating an opinion or giving indications.


  • Value judgment: Women are pointed out the way he speaking. For example, if they use too high or too low tone, if they are too assertive or too shy.


  • Conversation interruption and monopoly: Men often have more opportunities to stop women or monopolize the conversation without being resumed for this attitude (unlike women).


  • Use of titles: Women are often identified by their marriage status, for example "lady" instead of "young lady", while men are identified only by their name (like the sadly common: "Damiano dei Maneskin's girlfriend" to indicate Giorgia Soleri)


  • The difference in tone and language: for example, words like "strong" and "assertive" To describe a man, but "aggressive" and "dominant" To describe a woman who has the same characteristics.


And the swear words? 

We women boast an enviable sequence of vulgar epithets refer to us, but to tell them I leave the floor to the extraordinary Paola Cortellesi who says a monologue inspired by a text by Stefano Bartezzaghi on Sexist uses of the Italian language



by Emilia Bano

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