Being Gender Neutral
Hemangi Gurjar, [2nd year BA LLB student at NMIMS Kirit P Mehta School of Law]
As the social needle continues to move in the direction of inclusivity and acceptance of a range of gender and sexual identities, internet titans such as Google are taking a statement, and we applaud them for doing so. Google said earlier in 2021 that it would encourage individuals to adopt more gender inclusive terminology on the popular Google Docs platform, and that it would go even farther in its initiative to promote a gender inclusive vocabulary in general. Phrases such as "chairperson," "police officer," "mankind," "man hours," "mailman," and other sexist ones will be replaced with terms that are less sexist, such as "chairperson," "police officer," "humankind," "person hours," "mail carrier," and other such terms. A year ago, Google's internal style guide was updated to encourage developers to refrain from using "unnecessarily gendered language" when documenting their programmes. For example, instead of referring to "man hours," a coder might discuss the "person hours" involved in a project, according to the company's internal style guide. "All of mankind" could be substituted with "all of humanity," and so on and so forth.
While the objective has progressed past the so-called gender masculine, it is not entirely clear what the best course of action is going ahead. Having said that, recognizing and understanding the problem is half the battle fought, and people have definitely begun to question this prejudice in language, particularly among younger generations. Using a viral video to ask her mother about the blatant sexism that exists in school textbooks, Teresa Manimala called out those who used masculine terms to refer to the general population, and she questioned why it is called "man-made" and not "people/human-made," "because aren't women building the Eiffel tower or something?" she asked. Additionally, she questioned why Abraham Lincoln used the term "men" in his famous remark, "all men are created equal," and went on to ask, "Aren't women made equal as well?" Where did he state that all persons are created equal?" you might wonder. A six-year-old asking such pointed questions is amazing, and it demonstrates how the generation to come will not accept the notion that one gender is supposed to be subordinate to the other, as is currently held.
Historically, men have worked outside the home while women have stayed at home, and as a result, in social spaces as well as everywhere else, it has become normal to use masculine terms to refer to the crowd in general, which is predominantly made up of men. This has then translated into language, and men have subsequently dominated in language as a result of their dominance in the workplace. This is definitely not the situation now, and things must be changed.
It is a sad state of affairs that many languages are constructed on the basis of male and female pronouns, with nouns being given to either of the genders. LGBT activists and linguists throughout the world have been working hard in recent years to develop more inclusive language, both by coining wholly new non-binary concepts and by reusing already existing words and grammar structures. However, there are times when people become bored or afraid of explaining why there is a need for a more inclusive language, and as a result, everyone should be aware of and familiar with the terminology that is gender inclusive. There are numerous examples in Arabic, French, Hebrew, and other languages, but understanding the dialect is required. For example, in English, the word 'They' can be used as a singular and gender-neutral pronoun, in Spanish, alternative inclusive case endings such as 'x' or '@' and 'e' can be used to form "Latinx" or "Latin@," instead of the binary of Latino (male) or Latina (female), and there are There have been occasions when individuals have expressed outrage at how their language is being manipulated, but there have also been situations where people have shown encouragement.
To look on the bright side of things, and because any initiative should be applauded, the Merriam-Webster dictionary added the word "they" to its list of acceptable pronouns for "a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary." In 2017, the Associated Press Stylebook, which serves as a type of gold standard for journalists, included the word "they" as a gender-neutral pronoun for the first time. Meanwhile, in 2015, The Washington Post implemented a style guide update in its internal system. Air Canada began calling its passengers as "everyone" rather than just "ladies and gentlemen" as of January 1, 2013. In 2008, the European Parliament became one of the first international organisations to adopt multilingual gender-neutral language guidelines, making it one of the first institutions in the world to do so. Another minor note, but one that is incredibly inventive in its execution, Google Sheets just implemented a feature in their excel sheet that, if the word "pride" is spelt in five consecutive cells, the entire sheet is transformed into a rainbow-colored spread. These are all examples of individuals, organisations, political bodies, and other entities working together to promote inclusiveness and acceptance, which is exactly what the world needs right now.
Even though there has been progress in the area of gender equality, the fight for equal recognition is far from over. While the rights are unquestionably in place, nothing will change unless and until the mindset of society changes, recognises the rights set forth for equality, and recognises progress. We live in a world where patriarchy is so deeply embedded that no one dares to criticise it, and it has now reached a systemic level. Due to the fact that many people do not identify the flaws in these remarks, sexist remarks are frequently overlooked. It is becoming more difficult to improve the situation by simply educating people; rather, it is becoming more commonplace to recognise that addressing a woman in the room first is not a matter of privilege, that saying "people-made" should not be distinguished from saying "all of mankind," that saying "gay" should not be something to be whispered about, and that saying "proud pride" should be something to be celebrated rather than asking for equal basic rights. Anything even vaguely sexist must strike the wrong chord with everybody and everyone who hears it, causing them to become furious at such thought processes, and this must be changed.
We must be the blazing generation that will not submit to the notion that one gender is meant to be subordinate to another or that another gender is superior. Language has an impact on the way we think, and our thinking must adapt to the new normal. The use of gender stereotyping in one's mannerisms must be avoided at all costs, and this should not be imposed but rather something that emerges from within the individual. After all, it is the fundamental human right of every individual that is in question here. It is under our control. Let us all strive to be outstanding controllers.
1. Gender-neutral language in the European parliament, European parliament, 2018.
2. Miriam Berger, A guide to how gender-neutral language is developing around the world, World, The Washington Post, Dec. 15, 2019 at 4:30 p.m. GMT+5:30. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/12/15/guide-how-gender-neutral-language-is-developing-around-world/
3. Johnson, Google will nudge users to adopt gender-neutral language, Books & Arts, The Economist, Jun 5th 2021. https://www.economist.com/books-and-arts/2021/06/05/google-will-nudge-users-to-adopt-gender-neutral-language