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HBET1403

FACULTY OF EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SCIENCES (EASS)

SEMESTER 6 / 2019

HBET1403

SOCIOLINGUISTICS IN LANGUAGE TEACHING

MATRICULATION NO: 910421075418001


IDENTITY CARD NO. : 910421075418
TELEPHONE NO. : 0174188339
E-MAIL : vadivoo21@oum.edu.my
LEARNING CENTRE : Pulau Pinang Learning Centre

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SEXIST LANGUAGE IN MALAYSIAN PRINT

MEDIA

VADIVOOKARASSI MAMMARAN
FACULTY OF EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SCIENCES (EASS)
MARCH 2019

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

TABLE OF CONTENTS …………………………………....2


ABSTRACT…………………………………………………..3
1.0 INTRODUCTION…………………………………..4
1.1 DEFINITION OF SEXISM………………………...5
1.2 EXAMPLE OF SEXISM…………………………...6
2.0 SEXIST LANGUAGE IN MALAYSIAN MASS
MEDIA……………………...……………………………..7
2.1 SEXIST LANGUAGE IN BOOKS
2.2 SEXIST LANGUAGE IN NEWSPAPER
3.0 EFFECTS OF SEXIST LANGUAGE IN
MALAYSIAN MASS MEDIA……………………….….10
4.0 WAYS TO REDUCE SEXIST LANGUAGE IN
MALAYSIAN MASS MEDIA...………………………...13
5.0 CONCLUSION…………………………………......14
6.0 REFERENCES…………………………………......17
7.0 APPENDIXES………………………………….......19

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ABSTRACT

The purpose of this research is to look into the usage of sexist language by Malaysian
print media. The research was done by reviewing several literatures in recent years on
sexist languages used in textbooks, Malay proverbs, children fairytales as well as
newspapers. The analysis revealed that there were severe usage of sexist language in print
media as all this literature highlighted a portrayal of women in traditional roles of being
weak, needing to be rescued, being exploited, less important, discriminated with biased
and prejudiced views being enforced in these mediums. The effect of the sexist language
were discussed and found to be quite damaging and several ways were proposed to
ensure that a more gender neutral language can be used to ensure the current and next
generation are still not restricted by their gender.

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1.0 INTRODUCTION

As a constantly evolving society that has gone through millennia of changes and progress
in huge steps, there have been certain elements in our society that has remained slow in
catching up to that level of progressiveness. One of the elements is the automatic
assumption of a role in society based on ones gender. These assumptions start from the
very beginning of a child’s life from their playthings until their reach a point in their life
where their gender defines them rather than their very being. These automatic
assumptions start the ball rolling on sexism in life that is faced by either gender, be it
male or female with females being predominantly affected adversely (Benatar, 2012). For
example the simple roles that boys and girls are given during their childhood playtime
when girls are more often seen to be shown playing the nurturing or feminine role while
boys are given the more masculine and protector role (Tarrayo, 2014) cements the
perception early on and this carries well into their adulthood. Is it not natural then that
children who were raised with this perception and also languages such as “don’t cry like a
girl” or “the bag is too heavy for you, let your brother carry it” or the most damaging one
“you are a girl so you should not be doing or acting like this” eventually become adults
who dicriminate based on gender? It is without a doubt that in Malaysian mass media that
sexism in language is indeed a worrying factor that should be taken more seriously,
especially when ours is such a conservative and more religiously cultural society that
hold on to these notions strictly.

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1.1 DEFINITION OF SEXISM

The discrimination of an individual based on their gender is the definition that most are
familiar with when it comes to sexism (Napikoski, 2019). For years sexism has been
commonly labelled as a form of hostility aimed at women (Glicke & Fiske, 1996). There
is of course another layer that can give us a deeper understanding on sexism. Ambivalent
sexism theory was introduced by Glick and Fiske in 1996 and it theorizes that there are
two forms of common sexism – hostile sexism and benevolent sexism (Glicke & Fiske,
1996). Hostile sexism is the common sexism that we encounter when one gender is
thought to be superior to the other (Glicke & Fiske, 1996). On the other hand benevolent
sexism which is a term that sounds oxymoronic as quoted by Glicke and Fiske in their
research said that there were no other terms that managed to combine connotations of
dominance and the subjectively positive origins of this form of sexism” (Glicke & Fiske,
1996). Benevolent sexism is the sterotyping of woman in their traditional roles that ellicts
a positive feelings in the receiver but in actuality is patronising women and relegating
them to the background. This can also take the form of being protective of the so called
weaker sex while also emphasizing masculine dominance and is extremely damaging as
most don’t realize that it’s a form of sexism.

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1.2 EXAMPLES OF SEXISM

Sexism was a word that became well-known during the 1960s with the immergence of
the Women’s Liberation Movement and since then have been more commonly used to
coin the gender bias that are perpetuated against women by men (Napikoski, 2019).
Certain forms of sexism are more blatant in their nature while some are more subtle.
According to a survey done by Smart Company in Australia through the Male Champions
of Change (MCC) initiative, there are six forms of sexism that are typically seen in
workplace such as insults masquerading as jokes, devaluing women’s views or voice, role
stereotyping, preoccupation with physical appearance, assumptions that caring and
careers do not mix and unmerited gender labelling (Male Champions of Change, 2017).
In most of the above examples, it is the language used and its appropriateness that has
created the discriminatory feeling that most women these days face. In Malaysia, there
have even been comments by parliamentarians, the leaders of our country that were sexist
in nature and yet no actions were taken by any authority against such remark and were
even responded with laughter by the male audience (Kosai, 2017). This kind of remark
sends a wrong message to the masses and worsens the situation.

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2.0 SEXIST LANGUAGE IN MALAYSIAN PRINT MEDIA

If sexism is defined as the attitudes and behaviors that exalts one gender while degrading
the other then is not sexist language a form of verbal and written communication that
reinforces those similar sentiments (Graddol & Swann, 1989)? The Saphir-Whorf
hypothesis brought into question the influences of our language in our thoughts and
outlook. In short what they hypothesized was that when we acquire a new language, we
inadvertently also acquire a different way of thinking that happens subconsciously
because it happens subtly and naturally without us putting much thought into it (Goddard
& Patterson, 2001). Sexist language has some common traits in that it disregards or
condemns women, treats them as weak or even in their suggestion men and women are
syymetrical (Abdullah, 2016). Hence it is important to note that sexist language being
used by the mass media influences the thoughts of children and contributes to the lack of
sensitivity when it comes to sexism. Even as an adult we are guilty of sometimes using
gender stereotype when we make comments as we are influenced not only by our society
but also by the language the media uses as well. One of the most common one that we
unconsciously use is when we try to comfort a small boy from crying is that “you are a
brave boy, you shouldn’t be crying like a girl” because media and society has deeply
entrenched the knowledge into our subconscious mind that girls are weak so they cry
more which is extremely sexist but not realized by many Malaysians. We watch movies
or read princess stories that enforces the mindset that males are superior to females and
need saving. Children these days are more exposed to media than ever with the
availability of technology at our fingertips so it is not exaggeration when we say that
language and images portrayed by mass media plays one of the biggest influences in the
shaping of their minds and characters – on either being a gender neutral person or a sexist
person who believes in their superiority and the other believing in their subservient role.

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2.1 SEXIST LANGUAGE IN BOOKS

Women have slowly began to join in fields that were previously male dominated yet this
has not been without hardship such as discriminatory remarks, lower wages, the lack of a
supportive environment or network, being thought of as incompetent, unfairness in roles
assigned and lacking of space to voice their concerns (Gaines, 2019). Why does this
persist when so many campaigns, studies, movements and so on are continuously
highlighting these issues? Did we not teach our children in a proper manner that they
have grown up to be adults like this? This is probably a good question that we should
start asking ourselves especially when in many Malaysian households regardless of race
sexism is perpetuated against children and women in the family. Moreover these notions
are continously reinforced in schools when the books they use are full of these benevolent
form of sexism that is hard for children to understand yet are accepted by them as norm
as they feel it is not possible for school teachings to be wrong. According to Nair (2017) a
simple test carried out in by asking students to name a female who fights fire leaves them
confunded as English which has long been known as a gender biased language (Goddard
& Patterson, 2001) has a term that is gender neutral for that particular word but is so
rarely used in literature or texts that children are not particularly aware of it. Nair (2017)
also pointed out how children fairytales jumpstart the beginning of sexist language and
image by pointing out several well known fairtales from the West such as Cinderella,
Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and so on that is named after the female character yet who
play passive roles and need a Prince Charming to save them. Furthermore, Nair (Nair,
2017) brought into light the emphasis placed upon the physical appreances as the word
was repeated commonly in the most fairytales and also the fact that female lead are
passive onlookers whose life and destiny is decided by a man whereupon marriage
between them resulted in the happily ever after. All these are quite common themes not
just in English literature but also the Malay language. Abdullah (2016) in her research
has highlighted how male or maleness is regarded as the norm of a language and has led

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to the disapperance of ‘women’ in language. Abdullah (2016) stated that women are
commonly attributed with language that carries a negative connotation compared to the
ones that are used to describe men. In the Malay language a number of proverbs are noted
to have sexist elements such as the proverb “ Beban sudah di pintu” with the literal
translation meaning a burden has arrived at the door which has the meaning of a daughter
who has reached marriageable age (Abdullah, 2016). Appendix A is a partial list
compiled by Abdullah (2016) of the proverbs that uses language to demean, degrade or
throw a negative light on women. A corpus research by Joharry & Abdul Rahim (2014)
has also brought into light the issue of gender representation and inequality based on
action verbs for males and females in secondary textbooks. Another study by A.Bakar,
Othman, Abdul Hamid, & Hashim (2015) has found that the images used in English
textbooks for year 2 are using less images of female and have found that female are
relegated to being lesser being by depicting images such as males are the ones putting up
their hands when trying to answer questions and they getting the answer correctly while
the female are often wrong. Another image that has strong representational of sexism is
when in most textbooks women are the ones carrying the food for the male counterpart
(A.Bakar, Othman, Abdul Hamid, & Hashim, 2015). All these literature, proverbs, text
and images reinforce the argument that sexism in Malaysia is very much relevant.

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2.2 SEXIST LANGUAGE IN NEWSPAPERS

A study done by Jamal (2015) has looked into the language used by The Star paper in its
reporting of female athletes during the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The study by Jamal
(2015) shows us that the lexical items connoting weakness were used to potray female
athletes as weak and helpless by using words such as - “Half empty stands for women’s
games at the Beijing Games in a country most obsessed with table tennise reinforce
concerns that the sports needs a makeover to shed its fusty image”; “Johnson, bothered
by a headache before the competition nailed her routine that was full of difficult tricks,
earning a 16.225”; “And she paid a heavy price for her folly”. The words “ fusty”,
“difficult” and “folly” gives the reader the impression that female atheletes are generally
weak and their capability for emotions are inferior to that of a man’s when it comes to
sports and so this indirectly affects their competence (Jamal, 2015). Jamal (2015) also
noted that the sexualization of female atheletes are extreme in nature in their reportings.
Some of the examples are: “At the Japanese national chanpionship last year, she played in
a daring ensemble of her own design – knee socks, a pleated mini-skirt and a shirt that
left one shoulder bare”; “Table tennis is desperate to attract more viewers and some in the
sport believe a simple enough solution exists – get the women to wear skirt and shirts
with curves”; “I try to smile because that’s how I wish to feel after I’ve lifted said the
slender blonde”; World and Olympic champion Cao Lei and 2006 Commenwealth Games
gold medalist Michaela Breeze have spoken up for their fellow women lifters, often
dimissed as freaks with V-shaped torsos, bull necks and thunder thighs”. The usage of
phrases such as “knee socks, a pleated mini-skirt and a shirt that left one shoulder bare”
gives us a glimpse of how much attention is paid to a women who is not adhering to the
prescribed notion of a female athlete. This also makes us question whether the reporting
would have been similar if it had been a male athlete. Other words and phrases are also
sexualizing women in newspaper when there is sports reporting by either insinuating that
they are famous dur to their body parts or that they should or should not have dressed this

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way (Jamal, 2015). All these examples showcase a rampant usage of sexist language in
print media such as books and newspapers.

3.0 EFFECTS OF SEXIST LANGUAGE IN MALAYSIAN PRINT MEDIA

Some might question the very necessity of making this into an issue and say that it is an
issue that will work itself out eventually but if we see the progress that equality has made
over the years since women’s gender equality movement became a “thing” the World
Economic Forum Gender Gap Report calculated that globally the average distance to
parity is only at 68.0% in 2018 (World Economic Forum , 2018). The chart below gives a
breakdown on areas that were studied and their percentage of parity around the globe.

Table 1: Global Gender Gap Index 2018 (World Economic Forum , 2018)

As we can see from the report, political empowerment as well as economic participation
and opportunity still has a long way to go before equality can be achieved as these are the
areas that has long been seen a male dominated field and is not going to change unless
sexist language being used on all media cease to exist. As it is WEF predicts that it will
take 202 years before equality can be achieved with only a 3.6% improvement in overall
index percentage since the report was introduced 12 years ago (World Economic Forum ,
2018). According to Jamal (2015) women athletes are often times thrown onto roles in a
very sexist and discriminatory way especially with the usage of lexical structures that

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gives the impression women and sports don’t gel together and women are largely failures
in that field with their looks and body parts even being sexually exploited . Jamal (2015)
has also said that as a national newspaper The Star has only strengthened the prejudiced
and biased way women are being discriminated against. This indirectly will impact the
future generation who will be conditioned to think that women are not good enough for
sports and reduction in number of female athletes will reduce, Furthermore, Nair (2017)
has also claimed in his study that language has the potential to spread the ideology of
sexism through the portrayal of women in traditional roles such as in fairytales where
women are often saved by men and need a man to achieve happily ever after in life. The
subtlety (Nair, 2017) in which this happens makes it harder for children to actualy realise
the conditioning that goes on and this eventually becomes their view on life and in the
end we do end up raising a generation of individuals who are sexist and discriminatory
towards the other gender while the other gender feels that there is nothing wrong with it
as that is their role in life. This notion was reinforced by the study conducted by A.Bakar,
Othman, Abdul Hamid, & Hashim (2015) that textbook images used are still adhering to
the traditional gender roles and this will only bring about a generation tied to a traditional
view of males and females in society.

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4.0 WAYS TO REDUCE SEXIST LANGUAGE IN MALAYSIAN PRINT MEDIA

There are a number of ways that we can reduce the sexist language used in Malaysian
print media. A.Bakar, Othman, Abdul Hamid, & Hashim (2015) has suggested the
increased female portrayal in instituitional and political activities or to even use images
of women warriors and athletes in increased ratio so that females are observed to be
moving away from traditional sexist role and have more visibility as well as equal
importance in the textbook. We need to remember that image is a powerful language that
crosses the language barrier and has the bigger impact on an adolescent’s mind and this
impact will bolster the thought of gender equality. Another effective way of reinforcing
gender equality could be done through ESL lessons in school whereby children should be
allowed to reimagine classic fairytales with more equal gender potrayals as Nair (2017)
did with his class with several good outcomes with students reimagining the princess in
stronger roles as well as removing the happily ever after upon meeting the prince whom
they rescued rather than the other way around. These activities will encourage children to
leave behind the traditional roles assigned to genders. Furthermore, the usage of sexist
language in reportings should be condemned and objected rather than just accepted by the
public who reads them as this will just allow media to use any language with no
consequences. Textbooks should be written using languages that are gender neutral such
as the word “firefighter” being used rather than “fireman” and the government should
place more emphasis on this rather than just encouraging the learning and usage of the
language without checking for its appropriateness especially on the sexist language that
are used.

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5.0 CONCLUSION

In conclusion it can be seen that ambivalent sexist language is being widely used in
Malaysian mass media and that the language used is reinforcing the sexist idea that the
traditional roles held by women is normal and should be accepted. A look into languages
used in Malaysian print media such as Malay proverbs, children fairy tales, textbooks and
even newspapers revealed terms and phrases that degrade, demean and discriminate
against women and pushing them deeply into their subservient traditional role of being
weak and needing a man to be fulfilled in life. The effect of these languages are far
reaching and can be quite damaging as these notions are reinforced at home, school and
also by media with young minds being influenced by what they see and hear. These need
to change in order for the future generation to be more gender neutral comparatively and
the ways to go about is simply scrutinizing more the language used in print media with
government and society working together to object sexist language and going towards a
more gender equal society that has no room for sexism.

3103 words

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6.0 REFERENCES

A.Bakar, K., Othman, Z., Abdul Hamid, B., & Hashim, F. (2015). Making
Representational Meanings of Gender Images in Malaysian School Textbooks:
The Corpus Way. Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Vol 6 No.4, 77-89.
Abdullah, R. B. (2016). Gender Bias in Malay Language. International Journal of Social
Sciences and Humanities Vol 6, No 6, 456-461.
Benatar, D. (2012). The Second Sexism: Dicrimination Against Men and Boys. West
Sussex: John Wiley & Sons.
Gaines, J. (14. March 2019). Woman in Male-Dominated Careers Cornell University
Review. Von Cornell University Review: http://www.cornellhrreview.org/women-
in-male-dominated-careers/ abgerufen
Glicke, P., & Fiske, S. T. (1996). The Ambivalent Sexism Inventory: Differentiating
Hostile and Benevolent Sexism . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology ,
491-512.
Goddard, A., & Patterson, L. M. (2001). Language and Gender. London : Routledge.
Graddol, D., & Swann, J. (1989). Gender Voices. Oxford: B.Blackwell.
Jamal, M. (2015). The Inspection of Gendered Language in the Reporting of Olympic
Games in The Star. Creative Practices in Language Learning and Teaching
(CPLT), 62-91.
Joharry, S. A., & Abdul Rahim, H. (2014). Corpus Research in Malaysia: A Bibliographic
Analysis. Kajian Malaysia Vol 32, 17-43.
Kosai, A. (29. July 2017). CNN Asia: Solving Malaysia's Serious Problem with Misogyny
in Its Legislature. Abgerufen am 14. March 2019 von CNN Asia:
https://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/29/asia/malaysia-women-misogyny-
legislature/index.html
Male Champions of Change. (24. October 2017). We Set The Tone: Eliminating Everyday
Sexism. Abgerufen am 14. March 2019 von Male Champions of Change:
https://malechampionsofchange.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/We-Set-The-
Tone_Eliminating-Everyday-Sexism.pdf
Nair, R. (2017). Recognising Sexist Language Through Children's Literature. The
English Teacher Vol.XXXIV, 51-59.
Napikoski, L. (12. March 2019). What Is Sexism? Defining a Key Feminist Term. .
Abgerufen am 13. March 2019 von ThoughtCo.:
https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-sexism-3529186
Strumska-Cylwik, L., & Ibrahim, F. (2014). Gender Relationship and Media Language: A
Comparative Study of Print Media in Poland and Malaysia. International Journal
of Arts & Sciences, 647-682.
Tarrayo, V. N. (2014). Gendered Word (or World): Sexism in Philippine. I-manager's
Journal on English Language, 25-32.

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World Economic Forum . (2018). The Global Gender Gap Report . Geneva: World
Economic Forum.

7.0 APPENDIX

Appendix A: List of Malay proverbs that has negative connotations to women (Abdullah,
2016)
Proverb in Malay Literal Translation Meaning
Hendak memakan Desiring to eat or enjoy Desiring to marry a divorcee
kecundang orang something which has been / “used” women
bitten or used by other
Bagai biawak mengulangi Like an iguana going back Men jostling towards a
bangkai to a caracass house of a woman of ill
repute
Bagai emak mandul baru Like a barren women who A state of boundless joy and
beranak has at length has just given happiness
birth
Bagai cacing gila Like a worm gone mad A woman who likes going
out
Bagai harimau beranak Like a tigress conceiving at A women who is overly
muda a tender age fierce
Jangan berebut-rebut Do not scramble for broken Do not fight over a bad
tembikar pecah porcelain women who cannot change
her ways and who is not fit
to be made one’s wife
Meriba puan kosong To hold a worthless woman To marry a single woman
on the lap who unbeknownst to others
has lost her virginity
Permata cact A flawed gemstone A young single woman who
has been deflowered
Dicecah orang bagai garam Being dipped like salt A woman who is married for
a very short period and then
gets a divorce
Bagai kena sentung pelalai To be cast under a spell A young girl who does not
which makes a woman want to get married
unable to get suitors
Keli dua selubang Two catfish in one hole A woman has two lovers
Bomoh mencari orang sakit A faith healer seeking A woman in search of a
patients husband
Terjerit-jerit bagaiii kucing Shrieking like a lascivious A woman who does not
biang cat restrain herself nor her
expressions

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Ulam mencari sambal Salad that goes searching for Forward girls who seek a
condiments male partner
Jangan berkemudi di haluan Do not steer the ship from Do not be subjugated by
the bow orders of your wives or
women

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