In the history of mankind, differentforms of communication systems were developed for people to connect with eachother.
Language in particular, is the most common communication system inventeddominantly by males. However, language is much more than a communication system.Language is a representational system that “uses graphics, signs, organizedinto languages of different kinds, to communicate meaningfully with others.
“(Hall18) Language not only serves as the bond that connects us together but also playsa crucial role in everyone’s life as we use it to exchange ideas, knowledge andemotions. It is also the primary means of constructing and maintaining asociety. Yet the so-called language that we take so much pride in possesses aconnotation for our genders that is clearly sexist in a way that we trivialize women andrendering them invisible. Discrimination against women exists and can beeasily observed in language.
What Lakoff means by “We use language asmuch as language uses us,” is that humans use language to express theirthoughts and ideas but at the same time language dictates our thoughts and howwe interpret reality. Without words it’s extremely hard to express our thoughtsand the different form of expressions that come out “can be synonymous in theirdenotative sense”. (Lakoff) We tend to believe that we are in control oflanguage, but the inability to find a word that resembles the meaning that thespeaker desires clearly shows that language controls us. Malesand females are taught different linguistic practices at a young age.
Littlegirls are taught to talk in a more polite and soft way than boys to avoidstrong expressions in their sentences. Communicative behaviors that are totallyacceptable for boys may be completely inappropriate for girls. For example, “ifa little girl talks rough like a boy, she will by ostracized, scolded, or madefun of and be treated as less than a human.(Lakoff 47). Likewise, the way thatwomen use language draws a distinct line between male and females. While muchhas changed over the course of a few decades but our society still has thetendency to imply that maleness is the normal gender. The difference incommunicative behaviors reveals that “women experience linguisticdiscrimination in two ways: in the way they are taught to use language, and inthe way general language usage treats them.(Lakoff 47) As a result, to reflecttheir role in the society women use tag questions, meaningless, and fillers tosoften their tone.
Gender inequality is a long-term struggle between males andfemales on the acceptance of women as people. I strongly side with Lakoff’sidea that gender inequality is still a controversial issue and it’s somethingthat women are incapable of changing by themselves. In Lakoff’s essay we can see that communicative practices reflect notions about gender inequality. Similarly, we can see the same concept being picked up by another author. Spigel Lynn addresses gender inequality in the sense of TV scripts by arguing over the fact that TV programs are stirring up a controversy between gender inequalities. Advertisement for air foam furniture cushions is a great example. It shows a husband comfortably relaxing in his new air foam cushions while the wife clears away his TV snacks.
(Spigel 94) This depicts a female body that finds no value in its own but instead functions to assist the comfort of others; Which suggests the inferiority of women to men. The author also points out another aspect of gender inequality through the example of Hollywood films. Spigel shows how the film industry is organized around fetishistic scenarios in which women are the object of male desire.(Spigel 94) In such scheme, it only makes women more self conscious of themselves and how they are perceived in men’s eyes.
John Bergerfurthers the idea of the objectification of women. In Berger’s “Ways ofseeing”, he argues that women are shown or treated as objects by men whoexamine and assert their power over them. He stated “Men look at women…Thus sheturns herself into an object, and most particularly an object of vision.”(Berger18) Berger provides an example of objectification of women with female nudityin paintings. He explains how women in paintings are becoming objectified uponwhom power is asserted by men to express their desires, masculinity andfantasies.
The consequence of women being represented as an object is thatwomen become extremely self-conscious and divide their self into two, a surveyorand a surveyed. Women constantly have to survey themselves to always be certainthat they are reflecting a good image of themselves and that image ispresentable to men, who are surveying them. This powerlessness of women has totie back to Lakoff’s idea of language discrimination. Where “women’s use oflanguage has restricted their identity and restricted their ability to expresstheir voices strongly.”(Lakoff 5) And thetriviality and uncertainty in women’s speech caused men to dominate over them andto be treated less than a man.
To further theexplanation on language discrimination, both Bourdieu and Lippi green are worthmentioning. In Bourdieu’s article, he focused mostly on the production oflanguage but from time to time he mentioned how words associated to females areaffecting women. As he stated “women are more disposed to adopt the legitimatelanguage since they are inclined toward docility.”(Bourdieu 51) His use of theword docility suggests women’s lack of power to resist but to be easily handledby the power asserted by men, Which ties back to some of the adjectives Lakoffused to describe women such as powerless, marginality, and inequivalent. Similarly, Lippitook the same stance as Bourdieu on language. Even though Lippi did not focuson gender but her arguments on language offers a strong correlation betweengender and language. Lippi asserted, “when speakers of devalued or stigmatizedvarieties of English language ideology, they become complicit in itspropagation against themselves, their own interests and identities.
” (Lippi 3)Suggesting that people who do not and cannot speak the “standard” Englishlanguage accept their inferior to those who do. The same concept can be seen ongender where Male could speak the language without any restriction while womencannot, if women speak like men “they will be ridiculed and subjected tocriticism as unfeminine.”(Lakoff 47)Genderinequality is an issue that could be traced all the way back to the productionof language yet it still resonates to people nowadays. It is indeed true thatmen and women are different in many aspects, variations, and biologicaldifferences.
But that simply does not excuse men from discriminating women. Thephysical and emotional impact on women cannot and should not be ignored. Infact we should all seek for ways to minimize it.
Hopefully in the near futurewe could see a society where inequality has diminished and all the language”would cease to be non-parallel.”(Lakoff 78)