Marginalization of Women through Language: A Case Study

Chapter 1


Languages are not purely linguistic entities. They serve social functions. In order to define a language, it is important to look to its social and political functions, as well as its linguistic features (Holmes, 1992). This means that the function of language is not only confined to academics or to one individual, it has its influence in the entire society and its institutions. Owing to this, language is highly instrumental in constructing gender stereotypes in the society.

Gender stereotyping is characterized by assigning individuals some specific attributes, roles, and expectations because of the ascribed roles in the society. This is done in order to make them understand from which group they belong to in the society. To divide people into social groups according to the social structure, individuals are ascribed different roles as per their gender, which in turn is socially constructed. To understand this point, consider the colour of clothes that men and women wear. Men are always expected to choose plain colours, whereas women are expected to choose bright colours. If one dares to do the opposite, one might be looked at as unconventional. This whole phenomenon is called gender stereotyping.

By the dint of language, institutionalization of behavioural patterns takes place. As
discussed previously, men and women are expected to make different choices as per their
gender. To name a few, man are expected to be aggressive, strong, and indifferent. Women are expected to behave on the contrary. Women are expected to be submissive, emotional, and expressive. No, who asks them to behave in this fashion? Society wants them to behave in this fashion indirectly by providing precedents in the form of their elders. Individuals see their elders’ behavior, both males and females, and psychodynamically get conditioned to it. In all this phenomenon, language is the tool which conveys all these messages. It tells individuals how to behave while children see their parents communicating with each other, seeing their mothers to be passive and fathers to be aggressive.

As a result of the rise of women’s movements in Pakistan, feminist linguists and activist are substantially vociferous regarding gender stereotyping and norms setting. Women make up 52% of Pakistan’s population, yet even in the 21st century many of them are treated as second class citizens. The struggle for women in Pakistan is well underway in the country (Shah, 2019). Thus, women rights activists are rendering their valuable contributions in alleviating the plight of women in Pakistan.

Statement of the Problem

It is commonly held by people in Pakistan that owing to the unequal access to power, women are cornered in Pakistan. Men are the ones who are at the forefront of literally everything. They considered themselves socially and economically reliant on men in every walk of life. The clichés and popular remarks too endorses the fact that men and women are not equals in Pakistani society. A fleeting look at the society and its institutions, such as political, economic, etc. corroborates that there is a great deal of discrimination between men and women. Although a good deal of work exists regarding women’s plight as regards unequal distribution of opportunities, yet little work is available which addresses the force of language in perpetuating prejudice against women. Hence, it is highly significant to explore the role of language in positioning genders in the society and leading to varying access to opportunities and resources. Along with this, it is also highly necessary to verify what people think regarding gender neutral language in Pakistan.

Gender neutral language means speaking and writing in a way that does not discriminate against a particular sex, social gender, or gender identity, and does not perpetuate gender stereotypes (gender-inclusive-language., 2017). It is also called gender inclusive language. Gender neutral language essentially accommodates all types of genders in a society and shuns any sort discrimination based solely on one’s gender.

Objectives of the Research

Following are the objectives of the research:

  1. To what extent language plays a role in marginalization of women in Pakistan.
  2. To explore the importance of gender neutral language in amelioration of women’s plight in Pakistan.

Research Questions

Following are the research questions:

  • What role does language play in marginalizing women in Pakistan?
  • Will gender neutral language do anything to ameliorate the women’s plight in Pakistan?

Theoretical Framework

For the sake of approaching the subject, the researcher employed Muted Group Theory. Muted Group theory deals with how certain groups in a society are marginalized by dint of language. In the West, this paradigm mostly deals with the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community, as they have been fairly successful, though much needs to be done, in defeating inequality between men and women. In Pakistan, even today it seems that people are living in the 20th century with the same regressive and conservative mindset. Such an insular mindset that still holds that men are superior to women and that women require men to live in peace. It might sound bitterly exaggerated but the research will unfold a few shocking facts regarding Pakistani society.

According to Kramarae and other feminist theorists, women’s words are discounted in our society; women’s thoughts are devalued. When women try to overcome this inequity, the masculine control of communication places them at a tremendous disadvantage. Man-made language “aids in defining, depreciating and excluding women.”2 Women are thus a muted group. Kramarae began her research career in 1974 when she conducted a systematic study of the way women were portrayed in cartoons. She found that women were notable mostly by their absence. According to Kramarae, this type of male dominance is just one of the many ways that women are rendered inarticulate in our society. For the last 35 years Kramarae has been a leader in the effort to explain and alter the muted status of women and other marginalized groups (Griffen, 1991).


The subject under study is a vast field of study that requires a great deal of time. Owing to the shortage of time and resources, the researcher limited the research study only to Edwardes College, situated in Peshawar Pakistan. A few groups were selected from the college.

Significance of the Study

The current study is highly significant because it is the first attempt by a researcher on the relation of language and marginalization of women in Pakistan. Some research work does exist, but they incorporate other paradigms too such as Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). Along with this, the researcher has based his study on the recent events of violence against women in Pakistan, particularly the recent spree of rape cases and some of the statements by high officials on them that sparked off controversy in the country. Thus, this research is made interesting and significant because of its novelty and relation with current events.

Limitation of the Study

The research explores only the feministic aspects of the event, and how linguistic features of the local languages of Pakistan helped in normalizing and institutionalizing women predicament in the name of culture.


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