Gender-neutral Language or Gender-inclusive Language.

Using gender-inclusive language means speaking and writing in a way that does not discriminate against a particular sex, social gender or gender identity, and does not perpetuate gender stereotypes.  Given the important role of language in shaping cultural and social attitudes, using gender-inclusive language is a powerful way to promote gender equality and eradicate gender bias.  Gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language is more than a matter of political correctness. Language powerfully reflects and influences attitudes, behavior and perceptions.

In 2008, the European Parliament was one of the first international organizations to adopt multilingual guidelines on gender-neutral language. In addition, over the last decade, numerous guidelines have been implemented along different organizations worldwide such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, the European Parliament and the European Commission. Professional associations, universities, major news agencies and publications have adopted guidelines for gender-inclusive language.

As the public becomes increasingly aware of gender identities, we are encountering an important issue: Most languages were created under the gender binary concept.For example, grammatical gender is found in many Indo-European languages (including French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, German and Hindi) but is not found in English for example.  Grammatical gender is a noun classification system that is found in many languages throughout the world. It divides all nouns, including inanimate ones, into gendered categories.

Although grammatical gender is not found in English, the use of the generic masculine form to refer to both genders is commonly used and creates a gender bias.  And the gendered nouns “Man” and words ending in “-man” are still very common as well as gendered titles and names.

Here are some tips to use more gender-inclusive language in our everyday life:

  1. Avoid the use of gendered nouns like “man” and words ending in “-man” and replace them with more neutral language.
  2. Always use the title “Ms.” when addressing a woman as it does not indicate marital status
  3. In situations where a pronoun needs to refer to a person whose gender isn’t known use, he or she” or “he/she” (or even “s/he”), “her/him,” etc.
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