Tips for avoiding discriminatory language when writing about women

The neutralization of the rhetoric language to become more balanced and less discriminatory against women requires the following:

  • Focus on the substance instead of the appearance. Media reports on women in politics tend to focus on details like her supposed moods, diet, wardrobe and other aspects relevant to her appearance.
  • Avoid the use of descriptions compatible with the traditional stereotype image of women such as saying a mother of six children or the wife of someone, unless it is justified by the context, or any descriptions that belittle or underestimate women, even indirectly such as saying a male nurse and female doctor.
  • Avoid asking women the frequently repeated question of how she keeps a balance between her domestic tasks while occupying a public position. It is a way in which journalists remind women that they need to meet the expectations of their society as wives, mothers and family caretakers. Standards differ for men as they are not asked about parenting or family responsibilities. Instead women should be presented as independent citizens, not through their affiliation to a family or their marital status.
  • Avoid portrayal of authority/power using male personal characteristics as the constant reference to the masculine features of authority will limit the prospects of female employment at this level. This implies that, in order to be a decision-maker, a woman must reflect behaviours associated with masculine traits, as if this were the only way to participate in or exercise authority.
  • Question the prevalent media rhetoric. Most stereotype images and traditional practices are casual and not intended, but this is deeply rooted in the cultural and popular heritage of traditions and customs. Nevertheless, these practices should be questioned.

Discrimination against women in the media



Try the following game: count the number of times the names of female officials appear on the front page of local newspapers and compare these to the number of men’s names, or count how many times journalists pay attention to the opinion of women when preparing their reports.

What did you find? Who is given the floor most often in the media?

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This article was updated on January 20th 2020.