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Chapter 24. Don't Go There: Words and Ex... > Sexist Language: Political Roadkill - Pg. 241

Don't Go There: Words and Expressions to Avoid 241 Sexist language assigns qualities to people on the basis of their gender. It reflects prejudiced atti- tudes and stereotypical thinking about the roles of the two sexes and traits of both men and women. As a result, sexist language discriminates against people by limiting what they can do. And if that's not bad enough, sexist language also ... · · · · Lies. Annoys and alienates readers. Can cause legal problems. Perpetuates sexist attitudes. You Could Look It Up Sexist language assigns qualities to people on the basis of their gender. It reflects prejudiced attitudes and stereotypical thinking about the sex roles and traits of both men and women. On Thin Ice Let's look at each of these problems in detail. Sexist Language Lies More than half of all Americans are of the female persuasion. If you write he and him, you're ignoring half the people in the country. If you talk about a doctor as he, you're giving the cold shoulder to female medical doctors--more than one-third of all physicians graduating today. In a similar way, don't refer to an unknown nurse as she, because there are some excellent nurses of the male persuasion. So what do we say to sexist language? Liar, liar, pants on fire. Sexist Language Annoys and Alienates Readers According to the latest edition of the World Almanac , we've come a long way, baby. Here's proof: · Of the 103 million women age 16 and over in America, 61 million are working. · Women accounted for 59 percent of labor-force growth between 1985 and 1995. · Women have made substantial progress in obtaining jobs in virtually all managerial and profes- sional specialty occupations. · Of the approximately 69 million families in the United States, 12 million (18 percent) are main- tained by women. In black families, it's 46 percent; in Hispanic families, 24 percent. Because more than half the women in the United States are in the workforce, women are an eco- nomic and political power that can't be ignored. Modern women get angry at writers and speakers who stereotype and patronize them with sexist language. Ditto for stay-at-home fathers and men in nontraditional jobs. Sexist Language Causes Legal Problems The law is increasingly intolerant of biased documents and hostile work environments. Because federal law forbids discrimination on the basis of gender, people writing policy statements, grant proposals, or any other official documents must be very careful not to use any language that could be considered discriminatory. Otherwise, they're just looking for a lawsuit.