Sex Differences and Sex Discrimination

Essay by xinchenF, June 2005

download word file, 3 pages 3.0

Downloaded 44 times

Key words: standard, female speech, sex differences, sex discrimination

Abstract: Sex differences exist nearly in every aspect of human life, it can also be called as sex discrimination, which is the consequence of society.

Many studies have shown that women generally use forms differently from men. Approximately, their forms are more close to those of the standard language than do men of the same social background, age, and so on. There are many reasons for this phenomenon.

Firstly, males and females are born differently with linguistic ability. Females seem to have a more stable genetic equipment for language, with this biological foundation, they learn to talk earlier and easier, and they are almost never dyslexic.

Secondly, since females don't play a significant role in society, their social statuses are very low. In order to change this phenomenon and elevate their statuses, one way to surmount this is to change their style of language speaking.

Just like the famous actress Audrey Hepburn in the movie Fairy Lady, also she was born in low class of society, but since she spoke a standard language of high society, and then elevated her social status.

Thirdly, there is a traditional norm in the human society that females should pay attention to their behaviors, they are expected to behave better than males. They must use elegant, standard language, otherwise, they are indelicate. It is alright when males speak obscene language, but females should tend to avoid "rough" language, if they speak rudely, they must be outrageous.

And then, there was always a prejudice existing in the society before feminist movement that females' statuses should be lower than men. They are restricted to the circle of family and neighborhood friends, which made women psychologically restrain themselves to match the traditional norm that they were required.

Last but not the least, men and women's social task are different, so their interests and personalities would be influenced by that, and then would be reflected in their language speaking. Women are more likely to stay at home, they have to take care of their husbands and children. They do more talking in their lifetime than men do because they ate the main transmitter of speech to infants and that they have greater need to detect the emotional overtones of vocal messages. And even nowadays, they tend to work in service industries where a high standard of communication is particularly important.

In the following of this paper I'll focus on the characteristics of female speech and some features of sex discrimination exist in English.

I. One characteristic of female speech is the higher pitch of their voice, due to the biological factor that women have shorter vocal tracts. What is not biological is that women's speech is abundant on utterances which are not syntactically questions, such as "Should we do some grocery shopping?" and "Did you see this in the paper?"

Another characteristic is that women tend to use language of politeness. They seldom impose their thoughts, opinions or requirements on others. In their communications, they are more likely to use polite words and sentences, such as "please", "Thank you", "You are so kind." They also like to use embedded imperative sentences, like "Will you please close the door?" or "Won't you close the door?"

Then comes the characteristic that women have a high frequency of using hedge, in order to avoid direct expressions. Hedge refers to words or phrases like 'sort of", "I guess", "I know", etc.

II. The sex discrimination exists in many aspects of human life. One aspect is the human dignity. Linguists found there were nearly 220 words about sexually promiscuous women, such as prostitute, harlot, streetwalker and so on. However, there are only 22 this kind of words about men, like goar, whorer and lecher. When a same word describes the former is usually in commendatory, neutral sense, or in just a little derogatory sense. But when describes the latter, it is seldom in commendatory sense. This feature can be exemplified below.

Andrew is loose. Monica is loose.

Tommy is easy. Barbara is easy.

Edward is fast. Maria is fast.

Another aspect is politics. As early as 1850, the parliament of British has released a law that "he" stood for both men and women in political circles. As a tool of politics, there is also sex discrimination in news. If a woman won a Nobel Prize or did a successful work, the headline of the news would be "Grandmother wins Nobel Prize". And if a woman enters into a parliament election, the headline would be "Housewife to Run for Congress".

The sex discrimination also exists in religions. Sometimes when I watch movies, I found on the christen weddings, the pastor of the church would announce: "I now pronounce you man and wife." After marrying, man still is a man, but woman becomes wife. And "God of fathers" is widely used in "Gates of prayer" which is a prayer book of Jewish.

Sex differences in speech are an objective phenomenon of society. Like race differences, it accounts for the fact that it is the use of language rather than language itself that may be good or evil. Only when true equality in society is realized can the prejudice or bias be eliminated from language.