Biases in the Language. What it is and Why to Use Inclusive Language in English.
Whats happens when we assume the gender of the person in front of us? What happens when we say “the policeman”, “the chairman”, or “salesman”, but actually, it’s a person that doesn’t identify as a man?
There are many people who wouldn’t feel identified with these words. The time for change has arrived. We have the opportunity to use a different type of language, that allows us to live in a world without discrimination against those who do not identify as a man or woman specifically.
Language is one of the main ways our interpretation of the world in which we live is transmitted, and it is also a social tool that allows us to interact daily with people¹. Language may have cultural biases that have discriminatory connotations.
Historically in the English-speaking world, language has been dominated by masculine words. Starting from the basis of the country, the U.S. Declaration of Independence states “all men are created equal.” In this context, the word “men” has been taught to generations of Americans, that could be read as including both men and women.
Also, words ending in “-man” are the most commonly used gendered nouns in English, as I mentioned in the beginning: policeman, congressman, chairman, mankind, mailman², and many others.
One of the solutions offered has been developing for a few years, but usually, we reject what we don’t understand. It is one defense mechanism that many of us share. However, as a problem of society, we cannot solve it if we have our head in the sand. There are millions of people who are invisible, who do not feel like they belong, nor can they, because of other people who exercise power, consciously or unconsciously, over others.
The way to start to change is the use and development of Gender-neutral language, also known as inclusive language. It is a language that is without words or phrases that could be prejudiced against a particular person or group³.
The use of genderless language is an important way to reflect the diversity of society. It avoids false assumptions about people and helps to promote respectful relationships. A commitment to inclusive language is an important attribute of a modern and inclusive society. Inclusive language enables everyone to feel that they are being reflected in what is being said.
When people are not named or misnamed, discrimination is being exercised against them, and such action contributes to the deterioration of the social fabric by excluding and minimizing others.
That is why language must reflect conceptions of equality, inclusion, and respect, in order to move towards balanced societies, that is, to include ourselves in these social changes through language.
When we do this, we are changing the way we perceive ourselves and how we see each other. Language must evolve along with society, and it should be a faithful reflection of it: the words, idioms, and realities that are incorporated must represent it. Inclusive language is not about a simple change of words. It is not a teenage fad. Seeking respect in the way we want to call ourselves could never be a fad. This disruption that bothers many implies a change in perception. In short, that is also language: a way of perceiving our reality, and that is also changing.
What may seem like a utopia at times, is already happening in many places. And they show us a clear example of how to approach the change in language.
On July 18, 2019, in Berkeley, California, the city government voted to purge gender from its law books⁴. It’s a big step to recognize diversity. They plan to remove all instances of “he” and “she” from their municipal code and replace them with gender-neutral pronouns. Also, all the male-centric words will be deleted. For example, “manhole” will be replaced with “maintenance hole.” “Firemen” will become “firefighters,” “manmade” will become “artificial,” and all instances of “men” and “women” will be replaced by “people.” And the pronouns “he” or “she” will be “they,” even if referring to one person.
Already, a number of cities in recent years have adopted laws on gender-related speech, such as in the state of Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Alaska⁵.
As we could see throughout this article, implementing these changes in our language is one more step to respect the gender identity of each person, and to close more and more the gap between how we speak and how people identify themselves.
Will you join the movement?
 Sczesny S, Formanowicz M, Moser F. Can Gender-Fair Language Reduce Gender Stereotyping and Discrimination?. Feb 2, 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4735429/
 The Writing Center at The University of North Carolina. “Gender-Inclusive Language” https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/gender-inclusive-language/
 Fowler, H.W. Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage. 2015. Oxford University Press
 Epstein, Kayla. “Berkeley plans to remove gendered pronouns from its municipal code”. Washington Post, July 18, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2019/07/18/berkeley-plans-remove-gendered-pronouns-its-municipal-code/
 Thomas Fuller and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs. “No More Manholes in Berkeley as City Writes Gender Out of Codes”. The New York Times, July 19, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/19/us/berkeley-gender-ban.html