It’s not easy changing habits, however in some cases it can lead to a better society. The way we talk and communicate can have a huge impact on the subconscious perceptions people have about races, lifestyles, and sexes. Take, for instance, gender references in language. Historically, the masculine form of words have been used to convey meaning through communication. However, that language is quickly changing due to the improvement of society. We’re now understanding that it’s not morally acceptable to single out and stereotype people based on things they have no control over. So, here are five ways that you can start using more gender-neutral language when writing and speaking.
1. Say Humankind instead of Mankind.
This one should be the simplest on the list. Man or mankind is generally used to talk about the human race as a whole. Still, adding two letters to that word can make your language absolutely sure to encompass every human in the world. Come to think of it, I wonder what we’ll do when human is considered sexist. Oh well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
2. Say You All instead of You Guys.
This is where the south’s “y’all” might have gotten one right. And that’s saying something considering the south is widely considered to be the most racist part of America. The word guy implies a male, but the very definition of “you all” needs no explanation.
3. Say Firefighter/Weather Reporter/Salesperson instead of Fireman/Weatherman/Salesman.
These job titles are from back when using the masculine form of words was not considered sexist. Still, there’s a very simple fix. Replace “man” with “person.” Alternately, use their formal job title.
4. Say Server/Actor instead of Waitress/Actress.
Sometimes the original masculine form is okay, especially if they don’t make any direct reference to gender. People tend to get offended by the delineation between sexes in the words. English seems to be headed towards a truly gender neutral language. Actor, for example, is perfectly acceptable because it makes sense. Sometimes, new words need to be created altogether, like with server.
5. Say He or She instead of He for unknown gender.
…or you could use the singular “they.” Still, that’s not exactly grammatically correct, so it’s probably best to just use “he or she.” Really, this is just a sign of the much bigger pronoun problem we have in English. We need a new singular, gender neutral, pronoun. I propose the word “fi,” pronounced fee.
BEFORE: The author wrote the blog post in ten minutes. He or she should be proud of his or herself.
AFTER: The author wrote the blog post in ten minutes. Fi should be proud of fiself.
Just run the things you are saying through your head before speaking. Ask yourself who you may be affecting or what you may be promoting with your language. And it’s okay if you mess up a lot, these are slow gradual changes that take time to become part of natural conversation.