We all are aware of the idiom, “add insult to injury.” Simply, it means to make a bad situation even worse for someone by doing something else to upset them. Sometimes, we say hurtful things on purpose and a lot of the time we say hurtful things then immediately want to shove our fist into our mouth. However, what if your person dictionary contained words or phrases that were sexist and extremely offensive, but you had no idea? There is such a thing called sexist language and there is a way to not use it.
Our society has come a long way when it comes to women’s rights; however, the battle is far from over. There are still plenty of obvious obstacles to overcome in the battle of gender inequality, but one obstacle that a lot of people do not sit and think about is language inequality. I am not referring to derogatory comments or words such as the too popular insults such as, “bitch”, “hoe”, “slut”, etc., but words that Sherryl Kleinman refer to as “male (so-called) generics.” (Kleinman, 2007). She goes on to explain this coined term. Male (so-called) generics can be found everywhere such as job positions, general expressions, generic descriptions, and very popular adjectives that we all use every day. Some examples that Kleinman pointed out were: postman, chairman, freshman, congressman, fireman, mankind, he, manpower, manmade , "Oh, man, where did I leave my keys?" , There's "manning" the tables in a country where children learn that "all men are created equal,” and the most popular expression "you guys." (Kleinman, 2007).
What is the reason for this imbalance? One logical reason could be in the study of language. If you were to look up the word “man” in the etymology dictionary, this would be one of your results:
O.E. man, mann "human being, person," from P.Gmc. *manwaz (cf. O.S., O.H.G. man, Ger. Mann, O.N. maðr, Goth. manna "man"), from PIE base *man- (cf. Skt. manuh, Avestan manu-,...