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Does androcentrism perpetuate gender roles?
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Androcentric language shows men and masculine speech as the norm

Men being most often referenced first in conjoined terms such as men and women or kings and queens designates them as the norm. Additionally, masculine speech is viewed as the standard.

The Argument

“Picture a room full of female and male executives at a business conference. There are six speakers on the stage. Each is about to talk about her or his successes to the assembled crowd of top businesswomen and men. Are you able to visualize the scene? Or do you feel slightly uneasy because the previous two sentences didn’t flow in quite the same way as they normally would?”.[1] This great example is found by Professor Selin Kesebir. The word choice order of conjoined terms relating to men and women is the subject of her research. Professor Kesebir has found that most conjoined phrases that people use cast women in a secondary position to men, such as “men and women”, “kings and queens”, “actors and actresses”. Kesebir also found that the word choice order mattered. In one of her studies, she asked participants to write a story about either “a businesswoman and a businessman” or “a businessman and a businesswoman”. When the businesswoman was put first, the woman was featured more centrally in the story.[1] Additional analysis of news articles found that one area where women are more likely to be placed first is in family contexts. These studies provide further evidence that the more relevant gender is placed first in conjoined words.[1] This means the overall use of male first conjoined terms in most other contexts supports that men are viewed as the more relevant (the norm). Another example to support this is the use of diminutivization, which is where suffixes are added to female titles or names such as actress or suffragette.[2] This indicates that the male form of the word such as actor is the norm which is why a suffix is added to the female version. The androcentric language also shows masculine speech as the norm. It has been found that women use more hedges and qualifiers than men. Feminine speech has been viewed as more tentative and has been deemed powerless speech. However, this is based on the view that masculine speech is the standard. If we used the feminine speech as the standard, then the use of hedges and qualifiers could be viewed as the desire to keep conversations open and inclusive instead of as powerlessness.[3]

Counter arguments

Claiming that word choice order designates men as the norm is reading too much into something that is simply based on conventions that have stuck around out of habit. The claim could be made that this depicts the androcentrism that was present when these terms (such as saying kings and queens) became the norm. However, now there have been huge increases in gender equality, and word order and suffixes have stuck around merely out of habit. It is not indicative of current androcentrism. To focus our attention to try to change these things would be taking political correctness too far. There are far more pressing issues to focus on - both in terms of gender relations and the world as a whole.



[P1] Men are referenced first in most conjoined terms. [P2] Women are typically only referenced first in family contexts. [P3] Being referenced first causes people to put more relevance on that person (which is most often the male). [P4] Diminutivisation also reinforces that the male form of the word is the norm and the female form is the exception. [P5] Masculine speech is also viewed as the standard.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P3] Being referenced first is only indicative that this is a conventional habit. People are not indicating relevance by repeating the convention.


This page was last edited on Friday, 28 Aug 2020 at 07:27 UTC

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