Culture can be defined as the systems of knowledge shared by a relatively large group of people. Gender aspects are relevant to the broad definition of culture as a ‘social construction’ and to the ways in which cultural policy is designed and implemented. This is because cultural rights are human rights, and therefore the rights of both women and men.
Phrases to look out for – try swapping the order of these phrases sometimes King and Queen Lord and Lady Mother and father Boys and girls Men and women Sir/Madam Brother and sister Husband and wife Ladies and gentlemen Boyfriend and girlfriend Turns of phrase which exclude women Gender-discriminatory Better Master of ceremonies Host A man’s home is his castle One’s home is one’s castle, a person’s home is their castle, a person’s home is his or her castle Best man for the job Best candidate for the job, best person for the job, best woman or man for the job Joe public An average citizen An Englishman, a Frenchman, and Irishman An English/ French/ Irish person Gentlemen’s agreement Informal arrangement Man-hour Staff hour Workmanship Handiwork or expertise Statesman Politician, diplomat Mastermind Create/creator Countryman Compatriot Masterplan Grand plan Brotherhood Kinship, community
Gendered nouns Alternatives Businessman or businesswoman Business executive Chairwoman or chairman Chair or chairperson Female lawyer Lawyer Policeman or policewoman Police officer Repairman Repairer, technician Steward or Stewardess Flight attendant Salesman Salesperson, sales clerk Workman Worker Man Person, individual, human being Mankind Humanity, human beings, people, men and women Spokesman Spokesperson, representative Manpower Workforce, human power, labour force, workers Cameraman Camera operator, for plural:
Gendered pronouns (he or she) He/she; she/he; he or she; she or he; s/he His/her; her/his; his or her; her or his. Use the third person plural (‘they’). Use gender-neutral pronouns, such as “ze”. Rephrase to omit pronoun. Replace with definite article (the) or indefinite article (a). Information about gender and gendered nouns (“female lawyer”) Do not provide irrelevant information about people’s gender.
Gendered adjectives Alternatives Bossy or pushy Assertive Emotional or hormonal Passionate, enthusiastic, empathetic Ditsy Silly Frigid (no male equivalent) Lacking sexual responsiveness Frumpy Dowdy and old fashioned Shrill High pitched, grating voice Loose (no male equivalent) Having sexual confidence Hysterical Irrational Mumsy Dowdy and old fashioned Virile Strong, energetic
A resource for policymakers, legislators, media and anyone else with an interest in making their communication more inclusive Language is a reflection of the attitudes, behaviours and norms within a society. It also shapes people’s attitudes as to what is ‘normal’ and acceptable. Women play an active role in society, yet – all too often – we use language that ignores or minimises their contribution.
One example of trivialisation is the additions of diminutive affixes to denote that the referent is female. Gender-sensitive writers should avoid these expressions as they can trivialise women. Example Gender-discriminatory language The usherette helped me to my seat just as the actress came on stage. Gender-sensitive languageThe usher helped me to my seat just as the actor came on stage.
Traditional titles for women, Mrs (married) or Miss (single), used to refer to their marital status, whereas the term for men, Mr, was neutral in this regard (either married or single). This naming convention signals a woman’s relationship to a man within her name, inviting the hearer to consider this as part of who she is, rather than presenting her as an individual.
There are many ways to make sure that all your communication material feels like it is aimed at all people, not just one gender. When creating a piece of communication material, consider: Choice of voice-over artist. Consider if the gender of the voice-over is perpetuating stereotypes, such as using only a male voice to impart information. Aim for a mix of genders.
Although gender-neutral language can be a way of overcoming the use of the male as generic, this form of language is not always appropriate. It may ignore key gender elements of the subject under discussion. Furthermore, although the language may appear to be neutral, custom may mean that in practice people continue to interpret a generic reference (such as ‘people’) to mean men.
Gendered nouns and adjectives used to denote generic experiences encourage us to view the world as mainly having relevance to men. The word ‘manmade’ equates the word ‘man’ with ‘human’. The term ‘postman’ suggests all postal workers are men. In a gender-equal society it is important to use language that recognises that these posts can be held by women or men.
Using ‘man’ to mean all people collectively propagates the invisibility and omission of women; using ‘he’ to represent any given individual does the same. Avoid using ‘he’ when referring to the generic experience of all people as this removes women from the common experience. Examples Gender-discriminatory languageThe responsible citizen will report anything suspicious he sees to the police.Gender-sensitive languageThe responsible citizen will report anything suspicious he or she sees to the police.