Words Matter The Most!

Shruti Rai

New Delhi: When men are viewed as the human default and the human ideal, even compliments are not gender-neutral. The failure of language to keep up with changing society and politics is still evident. On Thursday with Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s reference to President DroupadiMurmu as “rashtrapatni” which he later blamed it on his unfamiliarity with Hindi and has apologized to the President show on how gendered language and linguistic imagination remain.

That Chowdhury’s comment didn’t go unremarked upon indeed, it led to much uproar in Parliament. A door has been prised open to a long overdue conversation, direly needed in India’s highly masculinized public-political space. The language a society uses matters because it both reflects and creates inequalities. Only an overhauling of the imagination, which has been schooled by centuries of gender inequality, can help create new, more inclusive defaults and ideal types.

Language is not a static entity: It can and should evolve in step with the times, and the use of words that draw attention to gender where it has no role to play must be questioned. The question isn’t what word can be used to describe awoman president. It should be: How can we re-imagine our common usages, words and meanings so that they may contain all the diversity that exists? Progress is not only about enabling women and men to assume responsibilities and seize opportunities that have historically been denied to them. It also consists of creating conditions and language that make gender irrelevant to access and opportunity.

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