He? She? Zhe? | An introduction to gender neutral language

March 8th is International Women’s Day. This day was first observed in the early 1900s and become a day for celebrating advances in women’s rights and a way of highlighting gender inequalities which still persist. Over the last 100 years, many women have struggled for greater equality in politics, in the workplace and in society at large. And the campaign for women’s rights and equality has even turned its attention to language. Many have pointed out ways in which sexist attitudes are reflected in language and have proposed changes to reflect women’s equality with men.

In a society based on gender equality, a person’s gender should be irrelevant. It is not necessary to indicate whether someone is male or female in their job title, so ‘chairman’ or ‘chairwoman’ is now avoided in favour of ‘chair’ or ‘chairperson’, ‘air hostess’ becomes ‘flight attendant’ and ‘policeman’ and ‘policewoman’ are replaced by ‘police officer’. There is no need for ‘actress’, ‘male nurse’ and ‘lady doctor’ when you can simply use the neutral forms of ‘actor’, ‘nurse’ and ‘doctor’.

Women’s rights campaigners also pointed out the inequality in titles for men and women. Why didn’t women have an equivalent for ‘Mr’; a title that can be used by everyone, without specifying if they are married or not. In the 1970s, ‘Ms’ was proposed as an alternative, and though derided at first, has steadily grown in use and popularity.


Another aspect of the English language that came…

Read more | termcoord.eu

Image credit | aauw.org/2012/03/07/international-womens-day-2012/

Posted on June 10, 2014 in English language

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