Here’s a riddle: a father and son are in a car crash. The dad is killed. The son is rushed to the hospital, but as he’s about to go into surgery, the surgeon says, “I can’t operate—that boy is my son!”. How can this be? When asked to explain the riddle only 15% of people surveyed came up with the response that the surgeon was the boy’s mom. The stereotype of doctors being male is so ingrained that the majority of people could not think of the answer that the surgeon was a woman (the boy’s mom). Research has found that these stereotypes are formed at an early age. By age six, kids start eliminating careers that contrast with their concept of gender. Studies have found that girls understand women to be less successful in stereotypical male careers when the teachers used male generic language to describe them. The androcentric language that we use shapes gender stereotypes. The androcentric language also perpetuates stereotypes through common colloquialisms. There are many expressions that equate being a man with being tough and being a woman with being weak. Examples include people saying man up when they mean toughen up, have some balls when they mean to have some courage, or you throw like a girl when they mean that the throw is weak. These stereotypes don’t just hurt women, they also reinforce the stereotype that men shouldn’t be vulnerable. Additionally, another way that stereotypes are reinforced is through the androcentric practice of spotlighting. This is when a person’s gender is highlighted such as referring to someone as a woman lawyer or male nurse. This defines the specific career being held by a certain gender as an exception which reinforces traditional gender roles.
Androcentric language cannot be blamed for gender stereotypes. One source cannot be used to explain such a complicated and pervasive issue. Additionally, people understand that common colloquialisms do not represent actual viewpoints. When people say “it’s raining cats and dogs” people know that it isn’t actually raining animals; this is simply an idiom. Similarly, when someone says, “man up” they mean "be tough", not "be tough like only a man can be". To need to explain this or change our common sayings is taking political correctness too far.
[P1] Gender stereotypes are formed at an early age by what kids hear. [P2] Common colloquialisms perpetuate gender stereotypes. [P3] Spotlighting reinforces traditional gender roles.
Rejecting the premises
[Rejecting P2] Common colloquialisms do not perpetuate gender stereotypes because people know that they are expressions that are not meant to be taken so literally.
Research articles on androcentric language: https://doi.org/10.1177/0261927X04266810 https://doi.org/10.1177/0261927X01020004004