It is biologically impossible for a woman to be a sperm donor or for a man to be pregnant. It may be culturally unusual for a man to be a secretary or for a woman to be a miner, but it is not biologically impossible. To say automatically "the secretary...she" and "the miner...he" assumes all secretaries are women and all miners are men, which is sexist because the basis is gender, not sex. Gender is a subjective cultural attitude. Sex is an objective biological fact. Gender concepts vary according to the culture. Sex is, with few exceptions, a constant.
The difference between sex and gender is important because much sexist language arises from cultural determinations of what a female or male "ought" to be. When a society believes, for example, that being a man means to hide one's emotions, bring home a paycheck, and be able to discuss football standings whereas being a woman means to be soft-spoken, "never have anything to wear," and love shopping, babies, and recipes, much of the population becomes a contradiction in terms -- unmanly men and unwomanly women. Crying, nagging, gossiping, and shrieking are assumed to be women's lot; rough-housing, beer drinking, telling dirty jokes, and being unable to find one's socks and keys are laid at men's collective door. Lists of stereotypes appear silly because very few people fit them. The best way to ensure unbiased writing and speaking is to describe people as individuals, not as members of a set.
Sexism in Language
Sexism in language takes many forms, though these may be reduced to three types: language ignores, it defines, and it deprecates women. As a result, women and girls are hurt both psychologically and materially by it. In addition, such usages as the "generic" masculine do not serve their intended linguistic function and are often ambiguous.
Language and usage reflect and help maintain women's secondary status by defining them and their "place." Whereas men are often referred to in occupational terms, women are more often referred to in relational terms, for example as wife or mother, or by titles which denote the presence or absence of an authorized relation to a male (Miss, Mrs. ). Neutral occupational terms take on feminine modifiers- lady judge, woman doctor -which remind us that prestige occupations are male-identified.
And finally, the male power to define through naming is seen in the tradition of a woman's losing her own name upon marriage, having thrust upon her the man's name, and giving birth to children that will have the man's name. The terms lady and girl are euphemisms for woman which define her by denying woman's sexuality, maturity, and capability.
Sexism in language can be defined in a variety of different ways. It can be defined as "sexist language is language that unnecessarily identifies gender" http://www.ualr.edu/owl/avoidsexistlanguage.htm.
It can also be defined as a statement which contributes to, encourages or causes or results in the oppression of women. This is perhaps too limited a definition in that it restricts sexism to language about women. It can also be defined as a statement which use constitutes, promotes or exploits an unfair or irrelevant or impertinent distinction between the sexes.
When considering these issues, it is necessary to ask to what extent our perception of the