Help me understand the importance of gender neutral language

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SilentDawning
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Help me understand the importance of gender neutral language

Post by SilentDawning » 22 Dec 2018, 06:08

I hope I don't get beat up over this question, but this seems like the safest place on earth for me to ask a question like this. And I've wanted to ask it many times, but never had the guts.

Let me start by saying that I am pro-women in the workplace, have found the women to whom I've reported to be better leaders than the men, and so on. I never hire, or offer privileges based on gender, and would love to see more equality for women in the church. I support elevating the status of women in our church too.

But I've never understood why there is such emphasis on gender neutrality in speech. For example, why we can't call a female person who chairs a committee a chairwoman and a male person who does the same a chairman. So, while I think both genders should have an equal shot at the role of chairing "the committee", I don't understand the goal of erasing any language that specifies the gender of the person. In most cases, you can't hide the fact that a person is a man or women. The church accidentally missed this issue when they chose the term "president" for anyone who leads an organization, and counselors, for their assistants, so that's good, but in society at large, it appears to be a big issue.

In fact, when I lived in Canada, there was a lot of social disciplining from others regarding our use of language in this regard.

So, without chastising me for not getting it, or inferring that I'm somehow unsupportive of the cause of women in society, I was wondering if someone would enlighten me on why gender neutral language is important to proponents of equality for women. My hope is that I'll come away with a deeper understanding and I can stop wondering about it. I won't be posing any counter arguments, believe me, as I simply want to hear others' perspective so I can understand it better. I'm simply seeking understanding.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

Cnsl1
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Re: Help me understand the importance of gender neutral language

Post by Cnsl1 » 22 Dec 2018, 08:07

The short answer is that gender is no longer considered binary.

There may be a biological female who does not identify strictly feminine and may be uncomfortable with being called a chairwoman. Or vice versa. It's not just a woman thing.

Gender is related to much more than penises and vaginas. Gender is considered more of the state of masculine and feminine, and relates to social and cultural, sex and personality factors.

I think this is why standard questions on forms and whatnot no longer ask for "gender" but rather "sex". In some circles, especially church, we don't like to say the word "sex" so we soften it by saying "gender", yet have no idea that the concept is not what we think it is, or refuse to budge from our paradigm.

Most of us probably used to consider sex and gender as synonymous terms. Obviously, many people still do, and this issue has become a social and political brouhaha. In my opinion, we all just need to have some patience and understanding, with a willingness to adapt our paradigms as new data becomes available.

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Help me understand the importance of gender neutral language

Post by Curt Sunshine » 22 Dec 2018, 09:26

Cnsl1 did a good job explaining the issue. I will use a specific example.

I know a transgender woman in the Church who has not had reassignment surgery yet. Biologically, she still is male, but she dresses, presents, and sees herself as female. With gendered language, her only options would be unacceptable to someone.

Calling her a chairman, because of her natal sex, would be unacceptable to her - but the Church won't call her a chairwoman, because she still is biologically male. The only option is chair or chairperson - and neither of these options should be offensive to anyone, so they are better than sex-specific terms.

The only people who will be offended are the people who don't understand what we now know about the intricacy of sex and gender, and we have education for that. Ignorance shouldn't keep new knowledge from impacting what we do and say any more than it absolutely has to do so.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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SilentDawning
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Re: Help me understand the importance of gender neutral language

Post by SilentDawning » 22 Dec 2018, 09:47

I like terms that are titles that don't reflect gender/sexual orientation etcetera at all then. Flight Attendant, Administrative Assistant, Professor, Chair, Dean, Mayor, President -- those all seem to work. I wonder what you would call the First Lady?
Last edited by SilentDawning on 23 Dec 2018, 08:12, edited 1 time in total.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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SamBee
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Re: Help me understand the importance of gender neutral language

Post by SamBee » 22 Dec 2018, 14:39

Ostensibly to create an egalitarian culture, but in practise to create an ever changing vocabulary for the in crowd which allows people to determine who is part of their élite.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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hawkgrrrl
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Re: Help me understand the importance of gender neutral language

Post by hawkgrrrl » 22 Dec 2018, 15:31

I agree that it's because of the issue of non-binary gender primarily, but adding "man" or "woman" also changes the flavor of the word. At Amex, we mostly just dropped the "man" or "woman." For example, someone wasn't a "chairperson," but a "chair." Someone wasn't a "workperson," but a "worker."

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SamBee
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Re: Help me understand the importance of gender neutral language

Post by SamBee » 22 Dec 2018, 18:01

hawkgrrrl wrote:
22 Dec 2018, 15:31
I agree that it's because of the issue of non-binary gender primarily, but adding "man" or "woman" also changes the flavor of the word. At Amex, we mostly just dropped the "man" or "woman." For example, someone wasn't a "chairperson," but a "chair." Someone wasn't a "workperson," but a "worker."
As in the famous "Will the chair table the motion?" :lol:
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

Roy
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Re: Help me understand the importance of gender neutral language

Post by Roy » 24 Dec 2018, 12:07

I do know that words matter.
I am thinking of the name changes of Actress to Actor and Stewardess to Flight attendant.
What important information is revealed by coding the woman's gender in her job description?
What assumptions might we make about this job that might not be accurate? What wording better conveys a position of professional competance and recognized authority in their field? If we call woman by a gendered job title are we freezing them out from gaining the full title and respect of the male counterpart?
I understand that male nurses also face stereotyping and discrimination for their chosen profession. In this case there is nothing inherent in the word nurse that means female - but people have been conditioned to picture nurses as female and doctors as male. Because of those stereotypes things may be more difficult for a male nurse or a female doctor than they would be for their counterparts of the stereotypical gender.

On a somewhat related note. I have taken training on person first language. This is where individuals with disabilities are described as people first and then disabled later. i.e. "The man who is blind" rather than "the blind man" or "the girl with autism" rather than "the autistic girl". This is a small nuance but by decribing an individual as the person first and the disability after it attempts to emphasize the person hood of the individual rather than to emphasize the disability which may serve to dehumanize the person.

In both these scenarios, I believe that sometimes people use words to intentionally hurt and marginalize. That is bad. Sometimes people use these hurtful words because they do not know any better but they do not personally mean to cause offense. That is still bad but better. Sometimes there are words that were never meant to cause offense but imply assumptions that are no longer appropriate. That to me is not bad in a personal morality sense but can have negative consequnces mostly for marginalized groups. Changing our vocabulary in order to minimize the damage caused to these groups and maximize opportunities for all to achieve is the better option.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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SamBee
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Re: Help me understand the importance of gender neutral language

Post by SamBee » 24 Dec 2018, 14:00

Roy wrote:
24 Dec 2018, 12:07
I do know that words matter.
I am thinking of the name changes of Actress to Actor and Stewardess to Flight attendant.
What important information is revealed by coding the woman's gender in her job description?
What assumptions might we make about this job that might not be accurate?
Yet in the examples you give, they are encoded as male. Actor is the masculine form, not a neutral one. What does that say?
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Help me understand the importance of gender neutral language

Post by Curt Sunshine » 24 Dec 2018, 18:54

It says there wasn't a gender-neutral alternative that was common enough to be accepted and understood generally, so they systematized into the one without an obvious negative bias.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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