Are some languages more sexist than others?

Which language is more macho? Spanish v English

Women can’t get away from men. Even the word woman contains a man! There is a trend now in English to eliminate job names that differentiate men from women. Women are now called actors, not actresses. You had air hostesses and air stewards (sounds more important) on planes serving you, now they are both know by the neutral cabin attendants (auxiliar de vuelo)

However, in Spain, the general opinion is that women should have job names that distinguish them from the traditional male position. In the UK, a judge wouldn’t want to be called a judgess, this would be seen as discrimination and a step backwards. A lady judge would be preferable in any case. In Spain, una jueza is seen as a step towards equality, and preferable to un juez.

Why do these two opposite trends exist between the UK and Spain? Perhaps it’s because job words can never be ‘neutral’ in Spanish, as most of them are labelled explicitly with -o or -a but not juez for example.

In the English language in general, many feminine equivalent words have a negative connotation.

She’s a blonde, and therefore an airhead (cabeza hueca) or bimbo (that’s why Bimbo can’t sell its bread in the UK under that name).  Bimboy exists, but if he’s a blond, he’s probably attractive, but not stupid, although, come to think of it …(ahora que lo pienso).

If you’re a single man, you’re a bachelor. This has the positive connotation of a young free man. The only feminine equivalent in English is spinster, which generally refers to an older woman who is condemned to being permanently left on the shelf (se queda para vestir santos), similar to the equally pejorative solterona. Solterón sounds more positive, doesn’t it?

Many linguists state that the terminology comes from even more patriarchal times, and has simply remained in current usage, although as we’ve seen, this is beginning to change.

Which language is more sexist? Did English really have to borrow macho from Spanish, after all, it already had male chauvinist, from French!

There are so many examples I could cite that this article would soon turn into a small book. Whatever the case, at the very least, this article should raise awareness about covert sexism in the workplace and the languages we speak in general.       What do you think?

Happy International Women’s day!

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