Language has a pivotal role in shaping human thinking and behavioural patterns. Gender-neutral writing language is also known as gender-inclusive language. This is because it encompasses the usage of pronouns, and phrases that do not state gender. Many people today identify their gender outside the binary domains of masculine/feminine. Moreover, gender-neutral language is more inclusive and avoids discrimination based on this aspect. Language has a far-reaching impact on shaping our worldview. It is not a fixed phenomenon, but is instead fluid, and changes over time. The change brought about by language also has a deep impact on how we perceive the world in general.
Gendered language is offensive to other genders. It is also not considered a good professional, or academic writing practice. Binary language pertains to pronoun usage such as him/her, him/her, or boy/girl, and it is gender-specific. Whereas Gender-neutral language incorporates gender identities such as transgender, intersex, and gender-queer people. This article aims to highlight the importance of gender-neutral writing in the aspect of research. In detail, let us discuss the significance of gender-neutral language concerning research in dissertation writing.
Gender-Neutral Language Counters Gender Bias
Gender-specific language is sexist. A reason for saying this is that it discriminates against people based on genders, such as women, and transgender persons. Gender bias also reflects sexism. This entails that one’s gender is superior to others. It is specially referred to women and other non-binary identities. For a long time in official writing and academia, masculine pronouns were the norm. But now many authors are reluctant to let go of the conventional usage of gender-specific language. This is also related to the efforts that are underway for an egalitarian society. It requires establishing practices that can avoid gender discrimination in general.
Why Is It Important?
Academic Writing, and research are becoming a globalized practice around the world. Gender-neutral language is also becoming a norm in academic writing in terms of countering gender bias. Identity politics is influencing the decisions of governments and universities around the globe. They are aspiring to be more inclusive as well. People are becoming more aware of gender-neutral writing. This is due to the rise of female academics in many countries. Also, the rising population of transgender and queer persons in countries such as the US, and countries of Western Europe is a major catalyst for this change.
The English language itself has undergone significant changes within this context. The term man was synonymous with a person for a long time. The American Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal”. But it also provides a base for the continuation of male superiority. In this context, generations of Americans have been taught that the word men encompass both men and women. Yet gendered language words lead one to assume the connections between jobs and roles that are synonymous with men. Most people assume male individuals when they encounter words like policemen or scientist. The usage of gendered language is henceforth discriminatory and should be replaced by gender-neutral language.
Many authors are reluctant to use gender-neutral language, because of which they question the relevance of gender. They argue that as per conventional knowledge, masculine pronouns cover every gender, and that language has an insignificant role to play in avoiding discrimination. But they seem to forget that language significantly influences our choices and decisions. Writing can also be taken out of context because of this. The usage of gender-specific language gives the impression that the masculine gender is superior to other genders.
Relevance of Gender-Neutral Language
Gender-specific language leads to biasness in both thought, and actions. Masculine pronouns cover every other gender, but it gives the wrong impression. Gender-specific language further accentuates the aspect of inequality. The language employed by academics and authors in academic writing with respect to research profoundly impacts the society as well. The usage of gender-specific words also strengthens preconceived notions about the roles, and responsibilities. Therefore, gender-neutral writing language is necessary for research, and academic writing so that such stereotypes can be de-constructed.
Equality is a privilege for men, whereas equality is still a dream for millions of women, and other non-binary genders. In this aspect, language has a pivotal role in creating awareness about women, and transgender people’s rights. The United Nations recommends using gender-neutral language to avoid discrimination based on gender identity. The UN conventions emphasise the importance of gender-neutral language in shaping cultural, and social attitudes. As per the guidelines, gender-neutral language is the most effective tool for eradicating gender inequality. The usage of gender-neutral pronouns such as “they” help in avoiding gender bias, and the countering of discrimination based on sex. Using gender-neutral language in research and writing has positive consequences for the society as well. It has the following benefits;
- Gender-neutral language leads to an equal society.
- Closes the gender gap, and increases the country’s GDP by making the workforce more inclusive.
- Recognises the personhood of other genders, and non-binary identities.
- Allows creating a safer learning environment in schools, universities, and workplaces.
- Gender-neutral language leads to an inclusive society that values diversity, and that which respects the identity of women, as well as transgender, and gender-queer community members.
- Influences policymaking of governments and organisations while compelling them to be more inclusive, and to provide everyone equal opportunities regardless of their gender, or gender identification.
- Gender-neutral language leads to mainstreaming of women and other genders in the nation-building process. It also leads to a healthier, and more peaceful society.
- Promotes social changes for achieving gender equality ideals.
How To Use Gender-Neutral Language?
Many authors find it difficult to adapt to the gender-neutral writing language since elementary school training has taught us to use masculine, or feminine pronouns frequently. There is also no choice for gender-neutral third-person singular nouns such as (the professor, or a scientist). So what should you do to avoid gender-specific language? We will guide you about a few options that you can use in your writing to make it more inclusive. These are as follows;
Use “they” to express accurate gender relationships with the target audience. Especially when you encounter gender ambiguity. For example;
- If a student wants to learn more about philosophy, they should study Will Durant’s book “Introduction to Philosophy”.
This sentence is incorrect because the student is singular, and in the next instance, they refer to a plural noun. You can change this sentence by making it plural to be gender-neutral. An example for this is as follows;
- If students want to learn more about philosophy, they should study Will Durant’s book “Introduction to Philosophy”.
To avoid gender biasness, try to write both pronouns for referring to both genders. For example;
- Each student who majors in business studies must take a course of Introduction to Logic. He/she must take philosophy courses to develop critical thinking abilities.
Try To Avoid Using Pronouns
You can eliminate the pronouns for a gender-neutral piece of writing. For example;
- Noam Chomsky is a contemporary philosopher. This writer, and professor gave a speech at New York University in 2010.
Gender-neutral writing language is becoming an established practice within both research, and academic writing. It’s pertinent to use gender-neutral language. This is because it helps in de-constructing the societal inequalities based on gender. Language shapes our worldview significantly, and moulds our perceptions, and behaviours as well. Gender-neutral language counters ambiguity, and makes space for a world based on equality. This is what makes it even more crucial for inclusion within this context.