The world is not black and white. Although, despite appearances, not everyone is aware of this. Inclusive language is inclusive language, which aims to reduce the impact of stereotypes and prevent sexism, discrimination and exclusion regardless of gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, but also, which is worth emphasizing, because this aspect is most often overlooked, skin color, disability, age, origin, religion, or material situation.
asymmetry of language
In Polish, but also in many European languages, masculine grammatical forms are interpreted as universal, for both men and women. In everyday communication, we often operate with male-centric language, as if the recipient of content is only male. Asymmetrical language, on the subject since the 1970s. In the 1990s, a worldwide debate continues, upholding gender inequality and the traditional binary division of social roles. And feminatives (feminine equivalents of male terms) such as minister or guest often evoke not only an ironic smile, but also social resistance. For there to be any progress on this topic, people need to change their attitudes. First of all, they must treat everyone equally.
Where is inclusive language used?
According to EU directives, offices and public institutions are required to use inclusive language and avoid stigmatizing terms. It is increasingly widely used in multinational corporations and in companies with equality-driven policies. The ways of promoting and interpreting inclusive language can vary. The most common is a balancing strategy, in which phrases in both feminine and masculine forms are used at the same time (e.g., ladies and gentlemen), and a neutralizing strategy, in which gender-neutral or descriptive forms are used (e.g., person employed).
Social activists often speak out about the need for language inclusivity. “Menstruating persons” is one of the strongly controversial terms. The misunderstanding stems from a colloquial interpretation: it is women who menstruate. This approach excludes other menstruating people (transgender, non-binary people).
Why is it important to use inquisitive language?
As scientific research indicates, language shapes the world around it. How we speak translates into the perception of our surroundings and ourselves. Entrenched in language stereotypical beliefs such as “every woman must…”, “the measure of success is money” not only reduce our personality, but just as often become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Another example is linguistic calques (e.g., tease, gypsy), which perpetuate existing prejudices in society and consequently give permission for discriminatory behavior. And although we don’t realize it, there are actually a lot of them in our language.
how to use?
No society is homogeneous. We have different experiences, beliefs, we come from different backgrounds. The language we use on a daily basis can be judgmental (“a good girl doesn’t do that”) and sometimes stigmatizing (“you cry like a woman”). It assumes a single, universal norm to which we should aspire and, in a way not always noticed by us, excludes people who do not fit into it (e.g., people who do not fit into the current canon of beauty, people affected by the crisis of homelessness). In addition, it imposes certain behaviors on us. We change not because we ourselves want to, but because others expect us to. This has a direct impact on our self-esteem and self-worth. Using inappropriate forms can also be stigmatizing and hurtful to the addressee. Inclusive language aims to emphasize the value of the person, builds a positive image of ourselves. When addressing another person, let’s not violate their dignity.
A person experiencing homelessness, not: homeless.
A person experiencing violence, not: a victim of violence.
Rom, not: gypsy.
Homosexual person, not: homosexual.
Bisexuality, not: bisexuality.
Transgender people do not make a sex change, only a gender correction.
Address people by their preferred name and pronouns. If in doubt – ask. If you write, you can use “_” e.g. “you_did_”. – The lower dash symbolically gives space to all people who do not identify with the binary division of society.
Inclusive language applies to all of us, no matter who we are.