Gender Bias in College Students’ Texts

Authors: Nuriza Jalani (Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology, The Philippines)
Speakers: Nuriza Jalani
Strand: Language, Gender, Sexuality
Session Type: General Session


Gender bias and sexist language in speech or written discourses has been one of the central issues in the study of gendered language/s or gender and discourse. The masculine form which is used as generic and yields a cognitive male bias is shown to be prevalent in many research studies. But while sexist language is reported to be persistent across many languages, it is reported to be decreasing in the academic writing. Because language and discourse are culturally-related, L1-L2 transfer may be a possibility. However, this transfer may not necessarily be true in the case of the Philippine languages where grammatical gender markings seem to be very few and usually in the form of semantic assignment, not formal assignment. Hence, this study investigated the occurrence of gender grammatical markings on the essay writings of the Filipino college students, and the variations therein between two genders: male and female groups. Using descriptive statistics and Mann-Whitney test, results show that the students explicitly used masculine, feminine, and neuter pronominal gender markings in their written discourse. However, overall findings show that the neuter pronouns were mostly used. While no significant difference was shown on the use of the masculine and feminine pronouns between the two groups, the findings revealed that the female group used more masculine pronouns than the male group. Also, there was a significant difference on the use of possessive neutral pronoun between the two groups in favor of the male group, indicating that the male group is likely to use neutral language as compared with the female group. The male group also showed to have used neutral personal and object pronouns more frequently than the female group. This study may be utilized as a support, firstly, for the claim that sexist language is decreasing in the academic writing, and secondly, for the view about how women traditionally view men as the norm in word level. The result of the study may be used by the language teachers to advocate gender and development in the classroom setting.

Keywords: Grammatical gender markings, Language and gender, Sexism.