Athena Swan

Athena Swan promotes and supports the careers of women in Science, Engineering and Technology (STEM), and aims to address gender inequalities and imbalance in these disciplines and, in particular, the under-representation of women in senior roles.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Double-edged words: The secret meaning of “feisty” (Economist)

WOMEN and men face double-standards. That this should show up in the language is no surprise. Men who put themselves forward at work are “assertive”, women who do the same are more often “pushy” or “bossy”; men are “persistent” whereas women are “nagging”; men are “frustrated”, women “upset”. A man has a lot to say; a woman is “chatty”. A man discusses the doings of his colleagues and rivals; a woman “gossips”.

Readers tempted to doubt can check for themselves. For an impressionistic survey, type “gossip” into Google, click on “images” and see who appears to be doing it; then try the same with “nagging” and “bossy”. For hard data, try Google’s “Ngram” viewer, which shows the frequency of words and phrases among the hundreds of billions of words in the books scanned by Google, spanning centuries. One of the most common words following “gossiping” is “old”. And the most common words to follow “gossiping old” are, in this order: “women”, “woman”, “men”, “lady” and “ladies”.

Read the full article here.

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