Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department of Psychology
John B. Pryor
Eric D. Wesselmann
Gender-exclusive language is a type of subtly sexist language that makes reference to a single gender group thereby excluding other gender groups (Stout & Dasgupta, 2011). Two studies examined how the use of gender-exclusive language impacts the experiences of women who were elected members of county boards. Specifically, the studies surveyed county board members in the states of Illinois and Wisconsin to determine whether the naturally occurring variation between the use of gender-exclusive language (e.g., using chairman to indicate both men and women) or gender-neutral language (e.g., chair or chairperson) was related to perceptions of ostracism and a sense of empowerment among female board members.
Results indicated a relationship between the masculine generic linguistic biases (e.g., using chairman to refer to the presiding officers instead of chair or chairperson) and the overall representation of general female members as well as female leadership representation on county boards (i.e., boards using gender-exclusive language had fewer general members as well as female leaders). Additional analyses revealed that women who served on county boards that used gender-exclusive language in referring to their presiding officers reported having less power and feeling that their voices were not being heard in comparison to women who served on boards using gender-neutral language; these perceptions were in turn related to women’s feeling ostracized. Those who felt less power and less voice felt more ostracized.
Grzybowski, Michelle Roxanne, "Gender-Exclusive Language: Women’s Perception of Linguistic Ostracism, Voice, and Power in Politics" (2018). Theses and Dissertations. 1045.