Gender-neutral language can play a critical role in how we perceive ourselves and others. While there are many forms of exclusionary and derogatory language that need attention, the most widespread are the use of masculine referents (“he”, “mankind”, etc.) to refer to people in general and the use of “girls” to refer to adult women. Researchers have repeatedly demonstrated the negative impact of gendered language on self-esteem and group relations.
Gendered language has been so pervasive that conscious strategies are necessary to reverse its impact. Various professional associations and government departments have now issued guidelines for gender-neutral writing. One of the ways in which the use of gendered language is perpetuated is through the use of quotations from older writings that used gendered referents so there has been a movement to change the referents to gender-neutral ones in some contexts. For those wishing to become more familiar with these issues, see the discussion on Gender-neutral language.
Here is a reference in relation to some aspects of gender-neutral language:
and a relevant article by Dr. Riddle:
- “Language and Unity” (Sharing, 1974, 10-11)