Are you being gender neutral?

Do you use words like 'mankind', 'air hostess', 'policeman', 'male nurse' and 'girly'? Have you ever thought that such words might be considered sexist…?

Well, people in England, especially journalists, writers, media professionals, politicians and just your average person (NOTE: Not 'average man') are trying to be more gender INCLUSIVE in their use of English. The United Nations even have strict guidelines for their staff, so as to avoid the use of what is being called 'sexist' language by some people these days.
Гендерный язык
"Oh no! Am I saying the wrong thing? I don't want to be sexist!", I hear you say.

Well, don't worry, this article is written to help you understand which words you can use to be gender inclusive in your writing and conversation. Of course, not everybody uses 'gender neutral' language, including myself. I often start my lessons saying 'Hi, guys! How are you doing?' I use the word 'guys' (ребята) to address any group of people, be that men and women, boys or girls. But some people would criticise me for using a masculine word to address a mixed audience.

I could say 'ladies and gentlemen', but that is too formal. So, a more 'gender neutral' approach, would be to simply say, 'Hi, everyone!'

Perhaps the world is going mad, but that is for you to decide. There certainly is some logic in the madness, I think.


Firstly, professions. There are many stereotypes surrounding different jobs.

  • A stereotype is a simple idea that many people believe about a large group of people that is not true for everyone in that group.
Gender neutral language in this sphere is actually very important, because it acknowledges that there are men and women in all spheres of work now, even spheres that were traditionally considered to be 'male' or 'female'.

Check out the modern alternatives to these traditional job titles:
гендерные слова
Being a nurse in an all-male-doctor family, isn't an easy task for Greg in 'Meet the Parents'

Гендерный язык

Taken from the UN website, here are some examples of discriminatory language:

  • "She throws/runs/fights like a girl."
  • "In a manly way."
  • "Oh, that's women's work."
  • "Thank you to the ladies for making the room more beautiful."
  • "Men just don't understand."
Some other words include:
'sissy' (a boy who behaves like a pathetic girl, weakly, timidly) – He's such a sissy!

'butch' (used of men and women, aggressively masculine in behaviour) – She's quite butch.

'mannish' (used negatively of a woman) – Look at her mannish haircut!

гендерные слова
This photo was used to advertise a fashion company. Their slogan was 'Stop being a style sissy' — i.e. make more 'manly', 'confident' choices in your wardrobe…

Often, we use masculine pronouns to talk about men or women. This is not only quite old-fashioned, but also another example of 'sexism' in language – why say 'he' when it could be a lady?

☹ Someone phoned, but he didn't leave his number

:/ Someone phoned, but he or she* didn't leave his or her number

???? Someone phoned, but they didn't leave their number

???? Someone phoned, but didn't leave a number

Also notice 'he and she' – Some people actually write 'she and he', or say 'girls and boys' (unlike I did at the beginning of this article), but I would argue against this, as it interrupts the flow of the sentence as you speak or read, and alphabetically, it's not in order: 'h' comes before 's'.
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It's a lot to remember, and you might now be afraid of speaking, but don't be! Just be sensitive to those around you. But if you want to be sure that you're being inclusive, the United Nations website suggests you follow this checklist to discern whether or not you are using gender biased language…

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have you used "man" or "men" or words containing them to refer to people who may not be men?
  2. Have you used "he," "him," "his," or "himself" to refer to people who may not be men?
  3. If you have mentioned someone's sex or gender, was it necessary to do so?
  4. Do you use any occupational (or other) stereotypes?
  5. Do you provide the same kinds of information and descriptions when writing about people of different genders? E.g. She's a female nurse…
So, now you know! Are you being gender neutral? Should we try to adapt our language? Or has humankind officially gone crazy? What do you think…?

английские слова
31 января / 2020