Protective, dependable, charming and strong. What comes to your mind, when you hear these words? A male protagonist straight out of Mills and Boons? Or a man in your life who ticks all those boxes? But a man nonetheless. How come such adjectives are never associated with women? Women raise children, run a household, work in offices as well as homes, but our minds are so trained from years of reading and from conversations, that words become associated with a certain sex.
This androcentric approach, of using words associated with power, technology or skill in reference to only men, has made it difficult to abolish the sexism in language. Words like geek, scholar, maverick, gamer do not come with a ‘men only’ tag attached to them. Yet, we seldom hear these words in reference to women.
Despite the fact that a 2017 statistic shows that women form 42 percent of the gaming population in the U.S. Another report states that women amount for an equal audience as men, for superhero-based TV shows.
This stereotyping works both ways. There are many words which are always used to describe women, whether in books, media or in real life. Every time words like sensitive, bossy, emotional, hysterical, feisty and vivacious are used to describe a woman, you feel like throwing a thesaurus at the writer.
We have been using these words for specific genders since so long, that now they have assumed the said gender’s character. No wonder why a female actor is now addressed as an actress. The latest to join this band wagon of atrocious gender-specific descriptions for a profession, is "authoress". A word which can make Jane Austen and Virginia Wolf turn in their graves, and gives all living female authors a headache.
This gender stereotyping in language, has its roots in the eighteenth century sexist notions which still rule our minds. It's too convenient for us to stick to them, than to break the circle and label all such adjectives as unisex.
The next generation is trying to get off this band wagon. With increasing focus on gender identity and preferences, things are slowly changing. Men now don’t find it offensive if we call them emotional, sensitive or cute. As a society we are in a transition from being conservative, to modern, and ultramodern. We don’t want to associate specific things and adjectives with a specific gender, as we are moving away from notions like ‘men drink beer and women drink wine’ or ‘boys wear blue and girls wear pink.’
We want to be free from these stereotypes, and broaden our interpretation of a person, irrespective of the gender. And as our mentality changes, hopefully the use of androcentric words will also diminish from our language.