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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Issue 8. April 1976]

Even Language Sex Biased

Even Language Sex Biased

This logic pervades reporting down to the linguistic level; notice items in which females and males could feature equally (e.g. road accident reports - assuming no fatality - then the deceased's name takes precedence): the male name appears first, followed by e.g. "his wife -" (relational status).

It's also interesting to notice the logical priority of men's events in the sports pages - almost invariably women's sport appears at the end of the section, reflecting the overall pattern of reporting on women.

The continuous use of the male gender e.g man, mankind, his, chairman etc (when referring generally) subtly reflects the male orientation of society in general. If you substitute "her/his" or "chairperson" it immediately strikes you that there is something different/unusual (it doesn't sound right!) in that sentence. You stop and read it again. The consciousness-raising effect is enormous - to women and men.

A comparison: if you were a black and everything was referred to as being white.... hasty changes would be made so as not to appear racist.

The point is that any step, however 'small' that heads us in the right direction of breaking down patriarchal concepts and thought, is a step worth making.

To return to stereotypes, the "Kapi-Mana" of 11/2/76 makes an unfortunate slip in describing YWCA classes:

"Each year the YWCA offers classes and courses to entice people, from housewives, stay-at-homes, and the handicapped, to those who enjoy meeting people and learning new skills." (Italics mine).

Often more pernicious than such blatant stereotyping of women is subtle manipulation of headlines to distort or add further comment to a report. For example, a report about the rape of a woman by 2 men for whom she sought help after being raped by 3 others, carried the headline: "It just was not her day". Little wonder that rape is regarded as almost being acceptable in our society! (More about "humour" later!).

And an item about women protesting against sexist advertising used by the Capital Club carried a photograph of Muldoon telling one of the women: "Don't be a Naughty Girl" (Evening Post 12/9/75) - by running Muldoon's admonition as a headline, the Post effectively endorsed it.

The headline "Looker Jane's On Top So Far", actually told the tale of "Pretty young Australia" Jane Lock, who took the honours in the second round of the Benson and Hedges Ladies' Golf Classic! Did her attractiveness affect her performance? I've never heard mention of the shape of Arnie Palmer's legs.