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Abstract

The Spanish language is becoming more flexible in creating feminine forms for occupational names that correspond with the already existing masculine terms. However, there has been some resistance among Spaniards with regard to using feminine forms like física to refer to a physicist who is a woman. Similarly, there have been objections to química (chemist, chemistry), música (musician, music), and others because, some say, such terms are ambiguous and confusing with regard to the professions. Do words and the way they are used significantly affect their meaning? The author discusses this question by highlighting linguistic discrimination in Spanish that is sometimes unconscious. However, such usage negatively affects perceptions about women and their role in society. Increasing the awareness of students about the pervasive nature of sexism in language would help to promote equitable treatment of the sexes in both oral and written communication. The author gives examples of sexism in the use of language, and explains specific ways in which society uses language at the most basic level to relegate women to an inferior status. Lastly, the author suggests ways in which professors of Spanish (and English) can address sex-bias in language communication while still remaining faithful to fundamental language structures.

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