Sexist English Language Essay

659 Words May 24th, 2006 3 Pages
ENGLISH PLAIN AND SIMPLE A couple of days ago, a newspaper featured a big photo of a woman rearranging a stack of fruits in a market stall. The caption of the photo had this lead sentence: "A fruit vendor mans her stall in Saddle, Kibungan in Benguet."
That sentence looks and sounds peculiar. There's really nothing grammatically wrong with it, but its use of the verb "man" gives it a masculine sense that strongly contradicts the fact that the person in the photo is a woman. English verbs don't have gender, of course, but the verb "man," which means "to serve in some entity or oversee an operation," has an obvious built-in male bias, and English happens not to have a feminine equivalent for it. A woman can't woman a fruit stall, but
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Today, it is no longer uncommon for writers to use "chairperson" "or "chair" for "chairman," "police officer" for "policeman," "firefighter" for "fireman," and "postal worker" for "postman." Old habits die hard, though, so it will perhaps take several more years for English-language users to fully accept and comfortably use these gender-neutral words.
On the other hand, current English usage still looks at the major professions as essentially male preserves. When the gender is not specified, a "doctor," "engineer," "architect," "accountant," "dentist," "nutritionist," "biologist," or "scientist" is presumed to be male, and the gender bias invariably shows up in male-specific sentence constructions such as this one: "A good doctor is always true to his noble calling." We can see that it doesn't help that English happens not to have a gender-neutral, singular pronoun for people in general. Still, such sentences can usually be made gender-neutral by simply making the noun plural—a process that also conveniently does away with the pesky male pronoun "his": "Good doctors are always true to their noble calling."
There will be times, though, when the noun in a gender-biased sentence cannot be changed to its plural form without

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