The notion of sex in French :
a natural attribute or a mark of the appropriate sexual class ?
Langage et Société n° 106, December 2003, p. 63-80
Based on materialist analyses of the intrinsic mental effects of the social relations of sex, this article breaks with the naturalist point of view underlying the semantic representation of gender, widely held even by most critical feminist works. The analysis of linguistic discourses on gender, from the 1920s to the 1970s, shows, in addition to being the expression of a sexist ideology, a contradiction between, on one hand, the description of morphological, syntactic and semantic dissymmetries, and on the other hand, the supposed symmetry of the semantic representation of both genders. Linking these observations to those of previous research on anthropological discourses, I suggest that the distinction /male human/ /human’s female/ should represent the semantic opposition of gender. This representation, consistent with the mental effect produced by the social relations of sex, leads to question the anti-sexist results of the linguistic politics of the so-called « feminization » of language.
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