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Linguistic sexism and women visibility.


What is linguistic sexism?

Linguistic sexism takes place when, for example, a message results in sex discrimination because of its form.

It is important not to confuse linguistic sexism with social sexism since each of them does not necessarily imply the other.

Women are more intelligent than men / The committee consists of eleven men and three women.

These two sentences represent social sexism. However, they cannot be taken as examples of linguistic sexism.

Many officers did attend, also many women.

This sentence does not represent social linguistic, but it does portray linguistic sexism.


Types of linguistic sexism.



Those words that can be identified in isolation. This includes courtesies, androcentric words, jokes, proverbs, etc.



This kind goes beyond lexicon. It may reveal a more profound establishment of a patriarchal mentality given that it is expressed unconsciously.  There are three forms of syntactic sexism:


  1. Gender stereotype:

The prosecutor turned out to be a woman, quite beautiful, by the way.

If it was a man, the last part of the sentence would not have been added.


  1. Androcentricity:

People only look for their bread, their woman and their party.

The word ‘people’ refers to a group of men.


  1. Semantic leap:


The English prefer tea to coffee. Also, they prefer blondes to brunettes.

The word ‘English’ goes from referring to all people, to a collective of men in the second part of the sentence.


What does the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) say?


The Royal Spanish Academy redacted a document about linguistic sexism and women visibility. It presents four premises considered as real:


  • Discrimination against women does, indeed, exist.
  • There are sexist verbal behaviors.
  • Autonomous, national and international institutions have a responsibility towards this problem.
  • It is necessary to expand social equality and to achieve woman visibility.


This guide stresses that the highest form of linguistic sexism occurs because of the lack of gender unfolding.  In many occasions, this unfolding may be unnecessary or too contrived from a linguistic point of view.

Therefore, the explicit mention of the feminine is justified when it is important within a particular context. If not, the economy principle in language would be lost and repetitions that would lead to difficulties would be performed. This could lead to the absurd and blur the message.


Let’s put it to test.


It is particularly relevant to understand the difference between gender and sex, given that it is usually the basis of confusions.

Let’s play: Is this sentence correct?


They were all women (todas eran varones).


Most likely, the answer is no. However, if integrated into a certain context, the answer will change.


The disease affected eleven victims. They were all women.


Do not forget that Spanish agrees by gender and not by sex. This is why most of what is understood as linguistic sexism has nothing to do with a strictly linguistic problem of the Spanish language, but with a cultural problem within a historically patriarchal context.


Other factors.


Our society has developed and evolved to accommodate all those women previously invisible. Their access to jobs and positions of responsibility commonly associated with men has marked a milestone in the language.

Thus, feminine nouns referring to jobs and occupations have necessarily been developed. Nowadays, it is also necessary to specify through an article if we are talking about a man or a woman. This is how female doctors, firefighters, judges, etc. have accomplished the visibility they deserve given that they are a very important part of today’s society.


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