Which one is sexist?

Posted: June 3, 2016 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

In the article I used the following utterance as an example: “OMG!! The exam was soooo hard, my head literally exploded!” I used it as an example for how we sometimes use words (in this case ‘literally’) to convey the exact opposite of these words’ literal or conventional meaning. I added that “while most of us will rightly infer that the speaker is an overly dramatic teenage girl, and interpret the sentence accordingly, an interpreter who adheres only to the conventional meaning of ‘literally’ will be very surprised and even worried by such an exclamation.”

The reviewer had some legitimate reservations about this example, but I was struck by their prefatory remark that “these cutesy examples should be eliminated in academic papers, I think. The example is borderline sexist…”

While I did treat the example humorously, and attributing the utterance to a teenage girl is admittedly stereotypical, I was surprised by how it was received, because I was actually trying to diversify the range of examples traditionally used in philosophy of language, and imply that the ways teenage girls (again, stereotypically) talk are equally legitimate, and deserve academic consideration. I think it is sexist to call the example cutesy, implying that it has less theoretical weight, so my immediate reaction was to attribute the comment to the reviewer being an OWM. But perhaps this example and the way it is presented do backfire, which I would of course like to avoid. What do you say?

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