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Gender, language and prejudice: Implicit sexism in the discourse of Boris Johnson

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/08/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Open Linguistics
Issue number1
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)323-333
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date27/07/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English


While linguistic prejudice is commonly understood to concern individuals or social groups because of the way they speak, we can also see it as damaging language used about individuals or social groups. In this article, I start by looking at the traditional sociolinguistic understanding of linguistic prejudice, then go on to look rather widely at various forms of prejudicial/sexist language about women. In doing so, I identify various lexical asymmetries and associated "lexical gaps". The main part of the article takes this further by exploring how certain insults to men draw on an understood prejudice again women. I illustrate this with a "telling case": three naturally occurring examples of prejudicial, sexist language recently used by British prime minister Boris Johnson: big girl's blouse, man up and girly swot. For all three to work, they draw on what we might call a discourse of "Women as ineffectual". I conclude with a discussion of intentionality as regards this sort of prejudicial language use, what it is intended to achieve and how it can be resisted. © 2020 Jane Sunderland, published by De Gruyter 2020.