Sexism in language

To kill time in the evening, I had gone to the playground yesterday, and I heard people throwing curse words at each other there. Later, I found out that it was about the football match they were playing. I was not startled by what they spoke.

Why would I be? I have been hearing such words ever since I was a child.

I have never heard any curse words that depict the male. The empowerment and literacy rate of women have improved compared to what they were ten years back. But sexual harassment, domestic violence and family abuses continue to impact women even today, despite the advancement in the perception of individuals and society. This is why our society has the tag of being a ‘male-dominated’ society.

The patriarchal society not only dominates women but also tries to lessen the value of women. While fighting with one’s peers or having a discussion over controversial matters, men exchange a set of curse words that imply women in some way.

During verbal exchanges, always a female is targeted even when women have nothing to do with the quarrel. If two men are fighting or having an exchange of words, they end up labelling the other’s daughter or wife as a “slut”. Knowingly or unknowingly, men don’t pause to give a thought to the words that go against women. Such swear words have been disseminated since times immemorial and are still prevailing.

From the widely-spoken Nepali language to Maithali in the Tarai and other languages used in Nepal, there are specific curse words that relate to women.

Most of the words start with “Ma”, which means mother. The patriarchy has been rooted in such a way that men don’t hesitate to blurt out such words even if they don’t know what they mean. Had the curse words been about males, they would have fought against them. But males don’t even think twice to utter such offensive words about women.

Why do people abuse others? It is either to disgrace others or for self-satisfaction. By the roadside, or at home, you’ll see idle people sitting, abusing others for no reason. Their objective is to use these cuss words about the fair gender, to get pleasure from them or to show a man’s power before other men. Some men on purpose use such cuss words about women to overpower women’s position and status.

But there is a fact, too. A woman for a man is a matter of honour and respect in a family-centred society of the subcontinent.

Whether it is a mother or a daughter, females are protected by the male members of the family. So, to provoke the second person, or to disgrace him, people use abusive words that target women.