The Fault in Our Vocabulary- A paradigm.

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Well, “COVID-19 virus transfers from man to man.”  “We need more manpower to deal with the crisis.”  “The chairman of the company made an important announcement about the cuts in employees’ salary”. These are some of the common sentences we hear day-to-day. What we often fail to realise is the inherent fault in our vocabulary.

Let’s go a bit deeper into the problem. We have learned similar terms at school and at home since the very beginning. No one ever tells us that instead of man to man, it should be human to human. We should replace manpower and chairman with terms like human-power and chairperson. While retaining the actual meaning of the sentence, these terms tend to make sentences inclusive and less discriminatory.

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Patriarchy and sexism have deep roots in our society and culture. This happens to be a mere reflection of the same in one’s vocabulary. We have deep-seated assumptions in our subconscious memory like only men can help in the workforce and can hold positions of responsibility. It undermines the female potential and enforces the myth that women are made for household chores.

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We need to adopt a more gender-neutral vocabulary while conversing, speaking, and writing. A few examples can be a business person, police officer, sales executive, firefighter, humankind. The language we commonly use is gender binary. By unlearning such sexist terms, we would create a more expressive space for all the genders. Moreover, it would allow non-binary people to express themselves more freely. After all, gender is a spectrum.

However, the problem doesn’t end here. Go through the dialogue below:

Person A – I’ve got an appointment with the doctor today evening. I am sorry, won’t be able to make it to your party.

Person B – Alas, I’d have loved it if you could show up. Anyway, why are you visiting him? Is everything alright?

Many of us probably won’t even realise the mistake here. But what if the doctor we’re talking about is a female? In addition, it is quite a possibility. Thus, it becomes important to mend our vocabulary.

However, the scope of the problem stretches beyond this. It’s a common observation for women to use either Ms or Mrs. The purpose is to indicate one’s marital status. Whereas, for men, it is only Mr. Why? Because we lay more emphasis on a woman’s status than her individual identity. Thus, this questions our ideals of seeing women in society. Instead of respecting her as an individual, we have always been more concerned about her relations.

Besides, it is a very common practice to ask for one’s Father’s Name, in say a form or document, etc. It is a rare occasion to ask for Mother’s Name. The answer is Patriarchy. While filling in Guardian’s Name, we are always asked to put the name of our father. Why not mother? We hardly recognise women as independent beings. Their identity is limited to being someone’s mother, wife, daughter, sister, partner. It’s high time that we see her as an individual.

To bring a change, we have to start from the very basic. And this practice needs to change. We are the ones to bring the change. In words of Dowd, “Some people may argue that such concerns are unimportant. But if you consider that language is the primary filter through which we perceive the world, it’s obvious that it affects how we relate to and make judgments about one another.”

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