This question is only partly related to the Chinese language, so if it is off-topic please feel free to remove.

Since the 1980s, there has been a movement in the English-speaking world to replace gendered nouns such as fireman, policeman and so on with non-gendered forms: firefighter, police officer, etc. Among the reasons for this is that the older names make it hard or harder to imagine women filling these roles, creating psychological barriers and resulting in various kinds of prejudices and gender imbalances.

Chinese has never had this particular linguistic feature: nouns for police officers, firefighters, soldiers, fisher-people, wait staff, etc, don't imply the gender of the person. Even genres like 才子佳人, where traditionally the 才子 might be expected to be male and the 佳人 to be female, don't convey that expectation linguistically.

There are exceptions like 美女 but generally Chinese terms are neutral. So effectively, Chinese is already where the language reformers believe English should be.

Is there any published research which compares English-speaking societies to Chinese-speaking societies, and quantifies whether this linguistic difference has led to a corresponding difference in expectations for gender roles, or whether it has made social change in this area easier or more rapid than it otherwise would have been?

Edit: 才子 actually does convey a gender.

1 Answer 1


It is not a linguistic difference but a cultural difference

generally Chinese terms are neutral. So effectively, Chinese is already where the language reformers believe English should be.

Many Chinese terms are gender specific like English


英雄/ 英豪 = hero (male)

英雌 = Heroine (female)

俊男/ 美男 = handsome man/ beautiful man (male)

美女 = Beauty (female)

才子 = Talented man (male)

才女 = Talented woman (female)

農夫 = Farmer (male)

農婦 = Peasant woman (female)

妓(prostitute) is always a female in Chinese (娼妓/妓女); a male prostitute has to be specified as 男妓

嫁 means a woman married to (goes to) a man - (出嫁 married out)

娶 means a man married to (take in) a woman - (迎娶 married home)

  • It seems I was incorrect about 才子, and yes gendered terms do exist, but where they are the rule in English (at least historically, for occupations) they seem to be exceptions in Chinese. Commented Mar 12 at 3:25
  • Au contraire, my impression is that they're very common. But I'm not a native speaker, just a student. Commented Mar 12 at 9:19
  • I hadn't heard of 英雌 before so I looked it up. It seems to be a neologism created specifically because 英雄 was thought to not be inclusive of women. But searching on 花木兰 I see many hits describing her as a 民族英雄、古代英雄 etc. Commented Mar 12 at 23:31

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