Gender-neutral language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gender-neutral language or gender-inclusive language is language that avoids reference towards a particular sex or gender. In English, this includes use of nouns that are not gender-specific to refer to roles or professions,[1] formation of phrases in a coequal manner, and discontinuing the collective use of male or female terms.[2] For example, the words policeman[3][4] and stewardess[5][6] are gender-specific job titles; the corresponding gender-neutral terms are police officer[7][8] and flight attendant.[9][10] Other gender-specific terms, such as actor and actress, may be replaced by the originally male term; for example, actor used regardless of gender.[11][12][13] Some terms, such as chairman,[14][15] that contain the component -man but have traditionally been used to refer to persons regardless of sex are now seen by some as gender-specific.[16] An example of forming phrases in a coequal manner would be using husband and wife instead of man and wife.[17] Examples of discontinuing the collective use of terms in English when referring to those with unknown or indeterminate gender as singular they, and using humans, people, or humankind, instead of man or mankind.[18]

History[edit]

The notion that parts of the English language were sexist was brought to mainstream attention in Western English cultures by feminists in the 1970s.[19] Simultaneously, the link between language and ideologies (including traditional gender ideologies) was becoming apparent in the academic field of linguistics.[20] In 1975, the National Council of Teachers of English published a set of guidelines on the use of "non-sexist" language.[21][22] Backlash ensued, as did the debate on whether gender-neutral language ought to be enforced.[22][19] In Britain, feminist Maija Blaubergs' countered eight commonly used oppositional arguments in 1980.[23] In 1983, New South Wales, Australia required the use of they in place of he and she in subsequent laws.[24] In 1985, the Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion passed a motion for all its ensuing publications to include "non-sexist" language.[25] By 1995, academic institutions in Canada and Britain had implemented "non-sexist" language policies.[26][27] More recently, revisions to the Women's Press publications of The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing and The A–Z of Non-Sexist Language were made to de-radicalize the original works.[27] In 2006, "non-sexist" was challenged: the term refers solely to the absence of sexism.[27] In 2018, the State of New York enacted policy to formally use the gender-neutral terms police officer and firefighter.[24]

Sign with specific suggestions for gender-neutral language use in Spanish at a feminist protest in Madrid, Spain

Terminology and views[edit]

General[edit]

Historically, the use of masculine pronouns in place of generic was regarded as non-sexist, but various forms of gender-neutral language have become a common feature in written and spoken versions of many languages in the late twentieth century. Feminists argue that previously the practice of assigning masculine gender to generic antecedents stemmed from language reflecting "the prejudices of the society in which it evolved, and English evolved through most of its history in a male-centered, patriarchal society."[28] During the 1970s, feminists Casey Miller and Kate Swift created a manual, The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing, on gender neutral language that was set to reform the existing sexist language that was said to exclude and dehumanize women.[29] In 1995, the Women's Press published The A–Z of Non-Sexist Language, by Margaret Doyle.[30] Both publications were written by American authors, originally without the consideration of the British-English dialect.[30] Many feminist efforts were made to reform the androcentric language.[31] It has become common in some academic and governmental settings to rely on gender-neutral language to convey inclusion of all sexes or genders (gender-inclusive language).[32][33]

Various languages employ different means to achieve gender neutrality:

Other particular issues are also discussed:

Gender indication[edit]

There are different approaches in forming a "gender-neutral language":

  • Neutralising any reference to gender or sex, like using "they" as a third-person singular pronoun instead of "he" or "she", and proscribing words like actress (female actor) and prescribing the use of words like actor for persons of any gender. Although it has generally been accepted in the English language, some argue that using "they" as a singular pronoun is considered grammatically incorrect, but acceptable in informal writing.[34]
  • Creating alternative gender-neutral pronouns, such as "hir" or "hen" in Swedish.[35]
  • Indicating the gender by using wordings like "he or she" and "actors and actresses".
  • Avoiding the use of "him/her" or the third-person singular pronoun "they" by using "the" or restructuring the sentence all together to avoid all three.[34]
  • NASA now prefers the use of "crewed" and "uncrewed" instead of "manned" and "unmanned", including when discussing historical spaceflight (except proper nouns).[36]
Examples of gender indication in occupational titles[37]
Gendered title Gender-neutral title
businessman, businesswoman business person/person in business, business people/people in business
chairman, chairwoman chair, chairperson
mailman, mailwoman, postman, postwoman mail carrier, letter carrier, postal worker
policeman, policewoman police officer
salesman, saleswoman salesperson, sales associate, salesclerk, sales executive
steward, stewardess flight attendant
waiter, waitress server, table attendant, waitron
fireman, firewoman firefighter
barman, barwoman bartender

Controversy[edit]

Argentina[edit]

Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires, implemented a policy in June 2022 that forbade public educational institutions from using gender-neutral language on the basis that gender-neutral language is grammatically incorrect and causes developmental learning issues for students.[38] In the Spanish language nouns are either feminine (usually ending in "a") or masculine (usually ending in "o"), but in recent years gender-neutral endings like "x" and "e" have gained popularity; for example, "Latinx" or "Latine" have become the gender-neutral options for the previously binary "Latino" or "Latina."[39] Buenos Aires' objection to gender-neutral language in the classroom stems from concerns about linguistic correctness and preservation of the Spanish language.[38] Those who support the development of gender-neutral language have expressed frustration with the male-dominance of the Spanish language: a group of students who are all female is "compañeras," but if one male student enters the group, the grammatically correct term for the students becomes "compañeros" with the masculine "o" ending.[39]

Canada[edit]

University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson uploaded a video to YouTube expressing his opposition to Bill C-16 – An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, a bill introduced by Justin Trudeau's government, in October 2016.[40] The proposed piece of legislation was to add the terms "gender identity" and "gender expression" to the Canadian Human Rights Act and to the Criminal Code's hate crimes provisions.[40] In the video, Peterson argued that legal protection of gender pronouns results in "compelled speech", which would violate the right to freedom of expression outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.[40] In the view of Peterson, legal pronoun protections would force an individual to say something that one opposes. The bill passed in the House of Commons and in the Senate, becoming law once it received Royal Assent on 19 June 2017.[41] In response to the passing of the bill, Peterson has stated he will not use gender-neutral pronouns if asked in the classroom by a student.[40]

France[edit]

In 2021, controversy spiked in France when the dictionary Petit Robert included the gender neutral term iel – composed of il ('he') and elle ('she'). The dictionary's director, Charles Bimbenet, stated it was added as researchers noted "an increasing usage" of the neutral pronoun in "a large body of texts drawn from various sources."[42] However, a number of French politicians have opposed the new addition.

Jean-Michel Blanquer, the French Minister of Education, publicly tweeted: "inclusive writing is not the future of the French language."[43] Similarly, François Jolivet, a French politician, accused the dictionary of pushing a "woke" ideology that "undermines [their] common language and its influence", in a letter addressed to the Académie Française.[44] The controversy weighs into the ongoing debate regarding masculine dominance in the French language.

Italy[edit]

The Italian language contains grammatical gender where nouns are either masculine or feminine with corresponding gendered pronouns, which differs from English in that nouns do not encode grammatical gender.[45] For example, "tavola" (in English table) in Italian is feminine. Developing a gender-neutral option in Italian is linguistically challenging because the Italian language marks only the masculine and feminine grammatical genders: "friends" in Italian is either "amici" or "amiche" where the masculine "-i" pluralized ending is used as an all-encompassing term, and "amiche" with the feminine "-e" pluralized ending refers specifically to a group of female friends.[45] Italian linguistically derived from Latin, which does contain a third "neuter" or neutral option.[45]

The use of a schwa <ə> has been suggested to create an Italian gender-neutral language option.[46] Some Italian linguists have signed a petition opposing the use of the schwa on the basis it is not linguistically correct.[47] Other solutions proposed are the asterisk <*>, the <x>, the at sign <@>, the <u> and omitting gender-specific suffixes altogether.[48]

United States[edit]

The American English language contains gendered connotations that make it challenging for gender-neutral language to achieve the desired linguistic equality. "Male default" is especially prominent in the United States and often when gender-neutral language is used around traditionally male institutions, the neutrality does not prevent people from automatically translating "they" to the default "he."[49]

See also[edit]

In specific languages[edit]

Related topics[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fowler, H.W. (2015). Butterfield, Jeremy (ed.). Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-966135-0.
  2. ^ Sarrasin, Oriane; Gabriel, Ute; Gygax, Pascal (2012-01-01). "Sexism and Attitudes Toward Gender-Neutral Language". Swiss Journal of Psychology. 71 (3): 113–4. doi:10.1024/1421-0185/a000078. ISSN 1421-0185.
  3. ^ "policeman - Definition and pronunciation - Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  4. ^ "policeman definition, meaning - what is policeman in the British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionaries Online". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  5. ^ "stewardess - Definition and pronunciation - Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  6. ^ "steward definition, meaning - what is steward in the British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionaries Online". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  7. ^ "police officer - Definition and pronunciation - Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  8. ^ "police officer definition, meaning - what is police officer in the British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionaries Online". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  9. ^ "flight attendant - Definition and pronunciation - Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  10. ^ "flight attendant definition, meaning - what is flight attendant in the British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionaries Online". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  11. ^ "actor - Definition and pronunciation - Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  12. ^ "actress - Definition and pronunciation - Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  13. ^ "actor definition, meaning - what is actor in the British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionaries Online". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  14. ^ "chairman - Definition and pronunciation - Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  15. ^ "chairman definition, meaning - what is chairman in the British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionaries Online". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  16. ^ Lowry, Howard. "Tone: A Matter of Attitude". Grammar.ccc.commnet.edu. Archived from the original on 2015-06-27. Retrieved 2015-01-28.
  17. ^ Sarrasin, Oriane; Gabriel, Ute; Gygax, Pascal (2012-01-01). "Sexism and Attitudes Toward Gender-Neutral Language". Swiss Journal of Psychology. 71 (3): 113. doi:10.1024/1421-0185/a000078. ISSN 1421-0185.
  18. ^ Sarrasin, Oriane; Gabriel, Ute; Gygax, Pascal (2012-01-01). "Sexism and Attitudes Toward Gender-Neutral Language". Swiss Journal of Psychology. 71 (3): 114. doi:10.1024/1421-0185/a000078. ISSN 1421-0185.
  19. ^ a b Blaubergs, Maija S. (1980-01-01). "An analysis of classic arguments against changing sexist language". Women's Studies International Quarterly. The voices and words of women and men. 3 (2): 135–147. doi:10.1016/S0148-0685(80)92071-0. ISSN 0148-0685.
  20. ^ Mills, Sarah; Mullany, Louise (2011). Language, gender and feminism : theory, methodology and practice. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p. 135. ISBN 978-0-415-48595-1. OCLC 500783823.
  21. ^ "Statement on Gender and Language". NCTE. 25 October 2018. Retrieved 2021-01-30.
  22. ^ a b Alter, Lance; Rutherford, Millicent (1976). "Forum: Do the NCTE Guidelines on Non-Sexist Use of Language Serve a Positive Purpose?". The English Journal. 65 (9): 10–13. doi:10.2307/815740. ISSN 0013-8274. JSTOR 815740.
  23. ^ Blaubergs, Maija S. (1980-01-01). "An analysis of classic arguments against changing sexist language". Women's Studies International Quarterly. The voices and words of women and men. 3 (2): 138. doi:10.1016/S0148-0685(80)92071-0. ISSN 0148-0685.
  24. ^ a b Newman, Benjamin J.; DeMora, Stephanie L.; Reny, Tyler T. (2020). "Female Empowerment and the Politics of Language: Evidence Using Gender-Neutral Amendments to Subnational Constitutions". British Journal of Political Science. 51 (4): 1761–1772. doi:10.1017/S0007123420000332. ISSN 0007-1234. S2CID 225425815.
  25. ^ Milne, Pamela J. (2016-06-25). "Women and words: The use of non-sexist, inclusive language in the Academy". Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses. 18 (1): 25–35. doi:10.1177/000842988901800103. S2CID 152272667.
  26. ^ Milne, Pamela J. (2016-06-25). "Women and words: The use of non-sexist, inclusive language in the Academy". Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses. 18 (1): 33–4. doi:10.1177/000842988901800103. S2CID 152272667.
  27. ^ a b c Cameron, Deborah (2006). On Language and Sexual Politics. London and New York: Routledge. p. 20. ISBN 9780203715369.
  28. ^ Carolyn Jacobson. "Some Notes on Gender-Neutral Language". Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
  29. ^ "Gender neutral language - Nonbinary.org". nonbinary.org. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  30. ^ a b Cameron, Deborah (2006). On Language and Sexual Politics. London and New York: Routledge. p. 21. ISBN 9780203715369.
  31. ^ Flanagan, J. (March 1, 2013). "The Use and Evolution of Gender Neutral Language in an Intentional Community". Women & Gender.
  32. ^ "Leitfaden der Gleichstellungsbeauftragten zur geschlechtersensiblen und inklusiven Sprache" (in German). Gleichstellungsbeauftragte an der Universität zu Köln. 21 January 2014. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 9 August 2015.
  33. ^ "Tips for Using Inclusive, Gender Neutral Language". Marquette University. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
  34. ^ a b "Gender Neutral Language in Writing". www.skillsyouneed.com. Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  35. ^ Gustafsson Sendén, Marie; Bäck, Emma A.; Lindqvist, Anna (2015). "Introducing a gender-neutral pronoun in a natural gender language: the influence of time on attitudes and behavior". Frontiers in Psychology. 6: 893. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00893. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 4486751. PMID 26191016.
  36. ^ "Style Guide for NASA History Authors and Editors". Retrieved 2019-11-02.
  37. ^ Government of Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada. "Guidelines for gender-neutral language - Language articles - Language Portal of Canada". www.noslangues-ourlanguages.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. Retrieved 2015-11-03.
  38. ^ a b Lankes, Ana (2022-07-20). "In Argentina, One of the World's First Bans on Gender-Neutral Language". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-10-13.
  39. ^ a b "A New Effort In Argentina Seeks To Make Spanish Nouns Gender Neutral". NPR.org. Retrieved 2022-11-25.
  40. ^ a b c d Airton, Lee (2018-08-18). "The de/politicization of pronouns: implications of the No Big Deal Campaign for gender-expansive educational policy and practice". Gender and Education. 30 (6): 790–810. doi:10.1080/09540253.2018.1483489. ISSN 0954-0253. S2CID 149592656.
  41. ^ Kirkup, Kyle; Airton, Lee; McMillan, Allison; DesRochers, Jacob (August 2020). "The Aftermath of Human Rights Protections: Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and the Socio-Legal Regulation of School Boards". Canadian Journal of Law and Society / Revue Canadienne Droit et Société. 35 (2): 245–268. doi:10.1017/cls.2020.7. ISSN 0829-3201. S2CID 225303461.
  42. ^ "A French dictionary added a gender-neutral pronoun. Opponents say it's too 'woke.'". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2023-04-27.
  43. ^ Wagener, Albin (8 December 2021). "No need to 'iel': why France is so angry about a gender-neutral pronoun". The Conversation. Retrieved 2023-04-27.
  44. ^ "New word "iel", a combination of he and she, added to French dictionary ignites fierce debate". www.9news.com.au. 20 November 2021. Retrieved 2023-04-27.
  45. ^ a b c "Language, gender and sexism: an overview on English and Italian languages". thesis.unipd.it. Retrieved 2022-10-26.
  46. ^ "Un asterisco sul genere - Consulenza Linguistica - Accademia della Crusca". accademiadellacrusca.it. Retrieved 2022-10-26.
  47. ^ Catarinella, P., Malek, M. R. A., Kram, S., & Ridzuan, M. U. M. (2022). "The "Schwa" and its Impact on Italian Language and Society" (PDF). International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences. 12 (10): 1978–1997.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  48. ^ Kenda, Jana (Dec 23, 2022). "Inclusive Grammar in Italian: Linguistic Alternatives and Public Opinion". Linguistica (62): 214. doi:10.4312/linguistica.62.1-2.205-222. S2CID 256169781.
  49. ^ Atir, Stav (2022-08-01). "Girlboss? Highlighting versus downplaying gender through language". Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 26 (8): 623–625. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2022.05.001. ISSN 1364-6613. PMID 35697650. S2CID 249537087.

Further reading[edit]