Our View: Grammatically Screwed

Words can be powerful weapons we humans wield against each other. Derogatory terms are a part of our global language. However, the structure of language also reveals much about a culture and makes us question the representation of gender.

In English, sentence structure follows a subject-verb-object order. What implications does this have on society, however, when it comes to discussing sex? The way we talk about sex subliminally establishes what is normal.


Words can be powerful weapons we humans wield against each other. Derogatory terms are a part of our global language. However, the structure of language also reveals much about a culture and makes us question the representation of gender.

In English, sentence structure follows a subject-verb-object order. What implications does this have on society, however, when it comes to discussing sex? The way we talk about sex subliminally establishes what is normal.

Man Fucks Woman. Language makes this statement and shapes what we have come to believe is normal; Man is in the position of power, the subject of the sentence and the acting agent, while Woman is the object that is acted upon, inactive herself and without any power to act within the sentence. There should be nothing normal about objectifying a human being. Today, our language allows males to objectify women without even conscious intention.

To evaluate and reform gender inequalities, we must first realize that from the time we learn to speak, there are established social roles for men and women, whether we are aware of it or not. Woman is placed in a passive role, while Man fulfills an active role.

We use language every day, constantly and in various forms. If we aren’t actively speaking, we are emailing, texting or tweeting. Ours is an era of language, in all its forms. Therefore, regardless of an overt awareness, or a lack thereof, how our language is structured reinforces inequalities.  

English is technically not a gendered language in the way that, for example, French and Spanish are. Nouns are not regularly and arbitrarily assigned a masculine or feminine article, but gender does creep into the way that we refer to objects, namely cars, ships, countries or guns — things which historically, and still today, are controlled by men. Why, in our society, is it considered perfectly normal for men to refer to these objects in a gendered way, to on occasion even fetishize them?

The types of things that are conceptualized as having a female gender are often powerful objects — when capable men control them. It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to find the fault in that.

While changing the structure of language is clearly out of reach, at least for now, being consciously aware of the inequalities ingrained in it is imperative. Consider challenging its influence on you. And work to not objectify anyone around you or yourself.