diversity, inclusivity, writing

What’s in a name? Some reflections on diversity and inclusivity in language

While it is true that English is less heavily gendered than, say, Romance languages, I believe that some nouns aren’t as gender-neutral as people like to believe.

In fact, is there even such a thing as gender neutrality? In this article, hosted by the Coffee & Cocktails Podcast, I explain why I think we can’t always rely on gender-neutral terms, and why I don’t believe holding space for all possibilities necessarily makes everyone happy.

Coffee & Cocktails® Podcast

Dr Andrea Hajek

Although we are by now well into the twenty-first century, when it comes to gender diversity we often seem to be lingering in the past. Multiple attempts to oppose an Italian lawagainst homophobia and transphobia are only the most recent expressions of this reluctance to acknowledge nonbinary gender identities. 

Something is changing though. Gender inclusivity is increasingly making its way into the language we use. One way to promote gender inclusivity is to avoid making references to a person’s gender, unless it is pertinent to the discussion. Here’s what the Inclusive language guidelines of the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) say on the matter:

Generally, descriptors that refer to personal attributes such as race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age, for example, tend to over-emphasize the distinguishing attribute. We recommend avoiding the use of such descriptors unless they are relevant and valid.

In other words, we must try…

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