Have you ever paused and considered how much of the English language is male centric? By “male centric,” I’m talking about words that are based around and associated with men/male qualities. Examples that come to mind first are words like: “freshMAN,” “policeMAN,” and “MANkind.” When looking back, we can see pretty clearly that women have historically been considered second-class citizens. To think that we still regularly use language that reflects times like that is eye-opening. This is a topic that I have recently had conversations about with people in my inner circle. It’s honestly pretty wild to realize how much of our society relies on gendered terminology.
I happened to come across a blog post written by Rukky Otive-Igbuzor that perfectly explained this often-overlooked concept and gave readers tools to adopt language that is more gender-inclusive. Not only does she give an example of her own experience of how the subconscious is rooted in this kind of biased language. I also found the examples she gave for alternative terminology to be so helpful to visualize the process. For example, instead of saying something is “manmade” say “artificial.” Or instead of using “chairperson” rather than “chairman.” Rukky’s post really highlighted that it’s the seemingly small things that we notice and how we react and change them that helps to retrain what has been instilled in us.
Reading Rukky’s post also talked about how we have been conditioned use words in this way. It made me think about how to make this change on a greater scale. I’m a big believer that education has the power to make an invaluable impact on students. With this said, much of what we learn about our language is gendered. It seems as if the only reason that it remains this way is simply because it’s what has been taught for decades. How can we try to reframe this kind of gendered thinking in the education system? It’s no small task, but definitely something to think about.
Gender-inclusive language does not only function within the bounds of male and female when it comes to gender. Gender is a *construct*! To use language that can be applicable to ALL people, no matter their gender identity, is imperative in creating a more understanding society that values inclusion and diversity.
Let’s try to challenge ourselves and our subconscious more by becoming aware of these kinds of patterns in our day to day life. It’s the small changes and shifts that can ultimately alter the future.