Women in language

I would like to share one of my experiences:


Before a business meeting one man of the board of management, and the management as well as the participants of the meeting were male only, except from me, asked me the following quesitons:


1. "Are you one of these feminists? I hope not, we already have enought of those here."


2. "What is wrong, if the woman is in the living room?" "The chain from the kitchen is too long."


Does that little scene need a lot of explanation? I do not think so. The reader may make up her own mind about it.


Women are degraded in language
Women in language

Although the last scene is something quite rare, we can still detect this attitude in our society pretty much every day. I had a very nice chat with a quite nice and positive colleague, when he asked me about my day yesterday:


"How was your day? Nice having a day off, isn't it?"


"Well, thanks for asking. Quite productive. I got some work done at home. "


"Oh, yea sure. Cleaning and washing isn't that hard at least, is it?"


I had to explain, that I actually had to work on the organisation of my company, which had involved the disign of a newsletter, update of the homepage and some things like that, whan I just received a weird look and smile, which consisted of one part of his lip moving upwards together with the eye brow of the same side. He did not want to hear more about it and it was quite clear, that he did not take my work seriously.


Now it is still possible to argue, that he is an exception, had grown up at the countryside and time travelled from the last century. But let's watch out and pay a little attention to the language out there in movies, uploads, blog posts.




Women are constantly degraded in movies, when they are made small, by being referred to as girls. Have you ever come across a young man, let's say a man in his mid-twenties, being called a boy? Does that not sound somewhat unusual? In a movie from the year 2011 ("drive") I came across another expression, which you hear again and again: "Your little one." The gangsters in the movie referred to the female partner of another character. Let's try to imagine a young man being called "the little one", if referred to him as the male partner of a woman. Even the expression boy friends seems more wrong for grown-ups, than the word girl friend for a grown up man.




Using female expressions for degradation is a common thing:


A few days ago I was witness of such a degradation. A manager would carry a tray with glasses and drinks on it, which would normally never happen, as this is a task, which he delegates. His boss saw him and asked him the following:


"Are you the woman now?"


As he is the boss, nobody would react. The participants of a meeting, which was being prepared, were males only.


In the very same company, calling itself an international company, you can find a board of the most important brains of the company, consisting of portraits of men. They are obviously old portraits, as none of the men is still known. The management doing the managing job, consists of some women, as they are the result of cost reducing measures, as women take less money for the same job.


gender gap
Gender gap

When I came home and told my partner, a CEO himself, about the meeting, his response was, that such expressions were a normal thing amongst males in meetings.




Younger people and the internet are considered to be more sensitive about equality topics. An example for degradation could also be found in a facebook ad: A young business man gives an example in a webinar here, for how you are doing bad business on social media, emphasizing it by using the female version: "... just one of these ladies posting herself on instagram, ... ."






My impulse was to immediately close this video, in which he wanted to sell something. But than, from a linguistic, professional and scientific viewpoint, the whole thing became interesting. Therefore I analysed his languagage even more. It turned out to be contradictive, full of stereotypes and insulting; in a subtle way, sometimes very hidden, but it was there. Many women might not even consciously have noticed, but I am sure, he could have more women as customers, when including them in his language.




Our private life amongst very open-minded and tolerant people is also not free from the opinion of women being inferior to men. Even the youngest somehow pick that idea up. During a visit, a 5 year old was wondering about the glasses of my partner. She concluded, that normally only women would wear glasses. After we had asked her, why she thought so, she explained, that women simply were more stupid than men. As a very young girl, she could already pick up facts about her future role in society, although she could not interpret it like that consciously.




As these examples show, the language of  our (male) society is not ready for equality. It shows the inner and real attitude about women and their role in our society. Even if women should be seen as customers, they are simply expected to quietly stick to their role. But do we not actually stick to it? Aren't we quiet about it, because we are afraid to lose our job? Don't we also participate in that game? Aren't women the ones racing their sons? These quesitons clearly can't be answered easily, but by watching our language and being aware of what power language has, we can already contribute to a fairer life.




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