In the history of mankind, different
forms of communication systems were developed for people to connect with each
other. Language in particular, is the most common communication system invented
dominantly by males. However, language is much more than a communication system.

Language is a representational system that “uses graphics, signs, organized
into languages of different kinds, to communicate meaningfully with others.”(Hall
18) Language not only serves as the bond that connects us together but also plays
a crucial role in everyone’s life as we use it to exchange ideas, knowledge and
emotions. It is also the primary means of constructing and maintaining a
society. Yet the so-called language that we take so much pride in possesses a
connotation for our genders that is clearly sexist in a way that we trivialize women and
rendering them invisible. Discrimination against women exists and can be
easily observed in language.

What Lakoff means by “We use language as
much as language uses us,” is that humans use language to express their
thoughts and ideas but at the same time language dictates our thoughts and how
we interpret reality. Without words it’s extremely hard to express our thoughts
and the different form of expressions that come out “can be synonymous in their
denotative sense”. (Lakoff) We tend to believe that we are in control of
language, but the inability to find a word that resembles the meaning that the
speaker desires clearly shows that language controls us.

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               Males
and females are taught different linguistic practices at a young age. Little
girls are taught to talk in a more polite and soft way than boys to avoid
strong expressions in their sentences. Communicative behaviors that are totally
acceptable for boys may be completely inappropriate for girls. For example, “if
a little girl talks rough like a boy, she will by ostracized, scolded, or made
fun of and be treated as less than a human.(Lakoff 47). Likewise, the way that
women use language draws a distinct line between male and females. While much
has changed over the course of a few decades but our society still has the
tendency to imply that maleness is the normal gender. The difference in
communicative behaviors reveals that “women experience linguistic
discrimination in two ways: in the way they are taught to use language, and in
the way general language usage treats them.(Lakoff 47) As a result, to reflect
their role in the society women use tag questions, meaningless, and fillers to
soften their tone. Gender inequality is a long-term struggle between males and
females on the acceptance of women as people. I strongly side with Lakoff’s
idea that gender inequality is still a controversial issue and it’s something
that women are incapable of changing by themselves.

               In Lakoff’s essay we can see that communicative practices reflect notions about gender inequality. Similarly, we can see the same concept being picked up by another author. Spigel Lynn addresses gender inequality in the sense of TV scripts by arguing over the fact that TV programs are stirring up a controversy between gender inequalities. Advertisement for air foam furniture cushions is a great example. It shows a husband comfortably relaxing in his new air foam cushions while the wife clears away his TV snacks.(Spigel 94) This depicts a female body that finds no value in its own but instead functions to assist the comfort of others; Which suggests the inferiority of women to men. The author also points out another aspect of gender inequality through the example of Hollywood films. Spigel shows how the film industry is organized around fetishistic scenarios in which women are the object of male desire.(Spigel 94) In such scheme, it only makes women more self conscious of themselves and how they are perceived in men’s eyes.

John Berger
furthers the idea of the objectification of women. In Berger’s “Ways of
seeing”, he argues that women are shown or treated as objects by men who
examine and assert their power over them. He stated “Men look at women…Thus she
turns herself into an object, and most particularly an object of vision.”(Berger
18) Berger provides an example of objectification of women with female nudity
in paintings. He explains how women in paintings are becoming objectified upon
whom power is asserted by men to express their desires, masculinity and
fantasies. The consequence of women being represented as an object is that
women become extremely self-conscious and divide their self into two, a surveyor
and a surveyed. Women constantly have to survey themselves to always be certain
that they are reflecting a good image of themselves and that image is
presentable to men, who are surveying them. This powerlessness of women has to
tie back to Lakoff’s idea of language discrimination. Where “women’s use of
language has restricted their identity and restricted their ability to express
their voices strongly.”(Lakoff 5)  And the
triviality and uncertainty in women’s speech caused men to dominate over them and
to be treated less than a man.

To further the
explanation on language discrimination, both Bourdieu and Lippi green are worth
mentioning. In Bourdieu’s article, he focused mostly on the production of
language but from time to time he mentioned how words associated to females are
affecting women. As he stated “women are more disposed to adopt the legitimate
language since they are inclined toward docility.”(Bourdieu 51) His use of the
word docility suggests women’s lack of power to resist but to be easily handled
by the power asserted by men, Which ties back to some of the adjectives Lakoff
used to describe women such as powerless, marginality, and inequivalent.

Similarly, Lippi
took the same stance as Bourdieu on language. Even though Lippi did not focus
on gender but her arguments on language offers a strong correlation between
gender and language. Lippi asserted, “when speakers of devalued or stigmatized
varieties of English language ideology, they become complicit in its
propagation against themselves, their own interests and identities.” (Lippi 3)
Suggesting that people who do not and cannot speak the “standard” English
language accept their inferior to those who do. The same concept can be seen on
gender where Male could speak the language without any restriction while women
cannot, if women speak like men “they will be ridiculed and subjected to
criticism as unfeminine.”(Lakoff 47)

Gender
inequality is an issue that could be traced all the way back to the production
of language yet it still resonates to people nowadays. It is indeed true that
men and women are different in many aspects, variations, and biological
differences. But that simply does not excuse men from discriminating women. The
physical and emotional impact on women cannot and should not be ignored. In
fact we should all seek for ways to minimize it. Hopefully in the near future
we could see a society where inequality has diminished and all the language
“would cease to be non-parallel.”(Lakoff 78) 

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