Gender-neutral language, gender-inclusive language, inclusive language, or gender neutrality is linguistic prescriptivism that aims to eliminate (or neutralize) reference to gender in terms that describe people. For example, the words fireman, lesbian, stewardess, and, arguably, chairman, are gender-specific; the corresponding gender-neutral terms.
The need for inclusive language arises because according to widely accepted norms of current usage, masculine pronouns no longer communicate a generic sense of “anyone.” Indeed, many people find such usage not only inaccurate but offensive. As a matter of courtesy, you would be wise to search for alternatives that are inclusive or gender neutral. For example, avoid “man” or “men” when you mean “human being(s),” “humankind,” or “people.”
Gender-neutral language is a style of writing that adheres to certain rules that were first proposed by feminist language reformers in universities during the 1970’s, and which have been accepted as normative in many schools since about 1980. The rules prohibit various common usages which are deemed to be “sexist,” as for example the use of the word “man,” and the generic use of masculine pronouns, in referring to persons of unspecified gender. A number of new words were also recommended, as for example “chairperson,” “spokesperson,” etc., as substitutes for the “sexist” words in common use. Feminists hoped that by means of such reforms in the universities the language of the whole society might gradually be reformed, and that by means of such a reform in the language, the consciousness of people would be rendered more favorable to feminist ideas.
There are no simple formulas for inclusive language, but a basic rule of thumb says it is wise to avoid distracting readers with either a gender specific term that may be offensive or an awkward inclusive phrases such as “him or her” or “she/he.”
Since its debut in 1978, the New International Version — known as the NIV — has been the Bible of choice for evangelicals, selling more copies than any other version. But a 2005 gender-inclusive edition bombed after being condemned as too liberal.
The publicity brochure of the New Revised Standard Version sounds so sensible. At last, we are told, misleading, masculine-oriented language has been removed from the Bible. Jesus no longer says, "and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (RSV), but instead, "And I...will draw all people to myself" (John 12:32, NRSV).
This is an improvement: the word men isn't specified by the Greek text, and all people is a faithful rendering of the Greek pronoun pas. Changes like this use "gender-neutral" language without sacrificing accuracy in translation. In addition, the NRSV has not gone as far as some people wanted, because it still calls God "Father" (not "Parent"), for example, and calls Jesus the "Son of God" (not "Child of God")--probably in large measure due to the conservative influence of the chairman of the NRSV translation committee, evangelical New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger.
Gender-neutral language is less about sexism than it is about doing what writers have always had to do: concentrate on writing clearly, accurately, and unambiguously.
Writing in gender-neutral
Up until the 16th century, the word girl meant a young boy or girl. Just as we don't use girl to mean boy any more, we can't use he where she may be just as applicable. This can cause ambiguity, and
Most of the advice on gender-neutral writing is directed at lawyers and law students, emphasizing that this technique is part of good advocacy and effective communication with the reader – usually a judge. It can be hard, however, to convince both new and experienced legal writers that the heightened consciousness and extra editing required to achieve gender neutrality is worth the effort when a similar effort is not reflected in their models – the appellate court opinions they read. Thus, the advice should apply equally to judges.
Masculine based words reinforce the idea that men are more powerful and have higher priority over women. A women’s femininity becomes invisible when they accept being categorized by male gender-biased terms. It also means that women are only being recognized when classified in a masculine group. However can women truly be included or accepted as an equal to men?
A Congressman from Virginia introduced a bill last week that seeks to require all government documents describing parents to identify the parents as either “mother” or “father,” when describing parents.
The bill, HR 635, was introduced February 10 and referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government. It has no co-sponsors. The text of the bill, made available Tuesday, states that it would require the government “shall use the words `mother’ and `father’ when describing parents, and not the words `parent 1′ or `parent 2′