Language for all
There has been a certain amount of fuss about the dropping of “Ladies and Gentlemen” by Transport for London. Language, as we all know, constantly evolves and changes. Thirty years ago feminists campaigned for words like chairman, fireman, policeman to be more inclusive, and now firefighter, chair, police officer, are a normal part of our vocabulary. This matters because when people see themselves included in the everyday language around them they feel a part of society. Gender neutral language is not new, and has been accepted in many parts of daily life.
It is also the case that changes such as TFL have made improves accessibility for a whole host of groups. The Plain English Campaign suggests that simplicity is the best way to ensure you are understood, meaning those with learning disabilities, neurodivergent people and those with English as a second language can be fuller participants in society.
A lot of unnecessarily gendered language does exclude those who are non binary, or otherwise do not fit within the binary categories of man/woman. Microagressions, which can be compared to the drip of water on a stone, may seem small, but build up, often wearing someone down. This is a serious subject when only 2 weeks ago we reported on how many trans young people had struggled with suicidal thoughts and feelings. Changes which may feel small to some may make the difference between feeling excluded and isolated to others.
It takes only a few seconds to use more inclusive language, and can be very simple. Here are some suggestions of terms you could use;
Gendered term Inclusive Term Gendered term Inclusive Term
Boys and Girls — Children/Pupils/Students Brothers and Sister — Siblings
Ladies and Gentlemen— Folks/Everyone Mums and Dads — Parents/rents
Boy/Girl Friend — Partner Guys — Folks/Everyone
Mankind — People/Humanity/Humankind Fireman — Firefighter.
This is a very brief list, as you can see most of the terms are common, in fact you are probably already using them, and can think of a lot more. Just as we decided in the past to use language which was more inclusive of women, so now we can decide to use language which is more inclusive of everyone in our society. The first question to ask yourself is “Does this need to be a gendered term?” If the answer is no, there is probably a gender neutral replacement that you already know, and use.
To find out more about our training packages, including language audits of all documentation and workplaces contact: firstname.lastname@example.org