Language and Women Empowerment


There is a commonly-held belief that women are not treated fairly in our world. It is justified because women are subject to various forms of discrimination in several countries—if not all. Many women are subject to violence and harassment on daily basis; several have to work hard to provide a decent life for their children. Many forms of violence women face are primarily associated to the society's view of women. Throughout the ages, women have often been regarded as of less value than men; this view is clearly reflected in the language we use in our daily life.

According to the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, the language used in our daily life shapes our thoughts and perception of things and communities; like many other languages, this is the case in the Egyptian colloquial. For example, if we look at some idioms, we will find that those associated with men are often positive, while those associated with women are negative. Curiously, women themselves use expressions such as "a man's word" to demonstrate commitment to a promise, while expressions such as "women's talk" reflect gossiping, as a typical female characteristics.

On the other hand, Nancy Henley, a psychologist interested in feminist studies, states that language patterns that demean women contribute to deepening negative traditional perceptions. For example, women are considered indivisible entities from men; the woman is a mans' daughter, sister, or wife. In the Egyptian colloquial language, women are often referred to as "Miss" or "Mrs.", indicating that the most important framework to define women is marriage. Meanwhile, men are often addressed with the title "Mr."; a neutral title that does not indicate marital status.

Women's empowerment has several facets; yet, women's political, economic, and social empowerment demands changing the society's view towards women. Since the language reflects this view, language users may need to change expressions demeaning to women first in order to view them as human beings first and foremost.

Yule, G. (2006). The Study of Language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Weatherall, A. (2002). Gender, Language and Discourse. USA and Canada: Routledge.

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