The English language is sexist, a University of Michigan professor told Iowa State University students Thursday evening during a guest lecture in The Hawkeye State.
Anne Curzan, an associate dean of humanities and professor of English at Michigan, made her remarks in a talk titled “Politically Correct: Do Our Language Choices Matter?” During the lecture, she reportedly discussed “everything from sexist language to preferred pronouns in order to dispel the stigma against politically correct speaking,” according to the Iowa State Daily.
Aside from teaching, Curzan hosts a show called “That’s What They Say” on Michigan Radio, where her biography states she’s an expert in the English language.
On Thursday, she spent a portion of her lecture explaining deep-seated sexism in the English language.
“The English language is sexist; it has a long history of being sexist,” she said.
From the Iowa State Daily article:
The first half of the lecture focused on modern language and looked at what Curzan called the sexist history of the English language.
Curzan pointed out that it wasn’t until 2009 that Congress recognized that government positions such as the chair head of a committee, formerly referred to as a chairman, should change their titles to encompass all potential candidates.
It is often thought that the suffix “man” is an all-inclusive and general term, but Curzan compared this to using “woman” as a position suffix. For example, “camerawoman” is not viewed as an all-inclusive title.
This is a practice dating back to the 1700s when male superiority was emphasized through saying in congressional documents, “the masculine encompasses the feminine.”
Curzan also suggested during her talk that it’s difficult to get people to change their language in order to be politically correct.
“It’s very hard to get people to change their language, but changing language does have the power to change attitudes,” she said.