Linguistik online 21, 4/04

Undoing Gender Stereotypes in Hindi

Anjali Pande (New Delhi)

 

Abstract

The basic prerequisite for using any language is the willingness of the speaker to follow the rules of the game. Socially defined norms of language use then tend to set the limits within which one can express oneself using this language. Whether these norms set the speaker free or whether they act as constraints in a free expression of Self, is a question that will be raised in this article. Using examples from Hindi, the paper highlights the role of such norms of language use in perpetuating gender stereotypes. Gender stereotypes get constructed as part of a broader process of social differentiation but the site of this construction is to a large extent the normal everyday discourse. A normal classroom discussion amongst university students in New Delhi thus shows how deep rooted such stereotypes are and how effectively they get perpetuated through language and linguistic norms in Indian society. The basic premise in this paper is that meanings are context-specific, they are not fixed and they get created in discourse. But since language use is one thread in social fabric, it serves as an instrument to construct and perpetuate gender stereotypes. The paper is more of an essay on issues that became obvious about gender stereotypes during two classroom discussions. It should not therefore be taken as a study into the deeper aspects of gender representation in Hindi.


 

full text