Gender as a Sociocultural Construct: A Sociolinguistic Perspective
AbstractThis paper describes gender as a sociocultural construct and explores the ways in which this affects mass culture. This is discussed from a sociolinguistic perspective. The first section describes the relationship between language and culture using the Whorfian hypothesis. A link to gender issues is provided. The next section gives the two senses of gender, and a further distinction between gender and sex. This distinction is important because the anti- feminist movement campaigners would usually want to gloss over this or dismiss the gender issue altogether. The third section discusses the relationship between gender, culture and language. Gender is seen as a sociocultural construct, and this is overtly expressed through language. We note that gender is not only about biological and cultural differences, but also about power. This gives rise to salient issues of subjectivity and oppression, and the need for emancipation. Before change can ever be achieved, a critical exposure has to be done of these salient features. This leads to the fourth section, which examines how gender bias is encoded in our everyday language in various ways. All these are analyzed with their implications for language planning, which is the focus of the last section.
(The Journal of Cultural Studies: 2001 3(2): 333-347)