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Is gender neutral language important?

Wash. state considers gender-neutral language bill

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — In Washington state, dairymen, freshmen and even penmanship could soon be things of the past.

Over the past six years, state officials have engaged in the onerous task of changing the language used in the state's copious laws, including thousands of words and phrases, many written more than a century ago when the idea of women working on police forces or on fishing boats wasn't a consideration.

That process is slated to draw to a close this year. So while the state has already welcomed "firefighters," ''clergy" and "police officers" into its lexicon, "ombuds" (in place of ombudsman) and "security guards" (previously "watchmen,") appear to be next, along with "dairy farmers," ''first-year students" and "handwriting."

"Some people would say 'oh, it's not a big thing, do you really have to go through the process of changing the language,'" said Seattle Councilmember Sally Clark who was one of the catalysts for the change. "But language matters. It's how we signal a level of respect for each other."

About half of all U.S. states have moved toward such gender-neutral language at varying levels, from drafting bills to changing state constitutions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Florida and Minnesota have already completely revised their laws as Washington state is doing.

The final installment of Washington state's bill already has sailed through the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee with unanimous approval. The nearly 500-page bill has one more committee stop scheduled before full Senate debate.

Crispin Thurlow, a sociolinguist and associate professor of language and communication at the University of Washington-Bothell, said the project was admirable.

He said that as language evolves, such efforts are more than symbolic.

"Changing words can change what we think about the world around us," he said. "These tiny moments accrue and become big movements."

Clark and former councilmember Jan Drago — the Seattle City Council has long eschewed the terms councilwoman or councilman — brought the issue to Sen. Jeannie Kohl-Welles in 2006 after they came across references to firemen and policemen in the mayor's proposed budget, as well as in state law dealing with local-government pensions.

Clark and Drago's findings sparked the initial gender-neutral language law that was passed in 2007, immediately changing those terms and directing the state code reviser's office to do a full revision of the rest of the code. A 1983 Washington state law had already required all new statutes to be written in gender-neutral terms, so state officials were tasked with going through the rest of state statutes dating back to 1854 to revise the rest.

As in past bills on the issue that have tackled sections of the state code, some revisions were as simple as adding "or her" after "his." Others required a little more scrutiny. Phrases like "man's past" changes to "humankind's past" and a "prudent man or woman" is simply a "prudent person."

Kyle Thiessen, the state's code reviser who has been working on the project along with two attorneys since 2008, said that the work was not without obstacles.

Words like "manhole" and "manlock" aren't so easily replaced, he said. Substitutes have been suggested — "utility hole" and "air lock serving as a decompression chamber for workers." But Thiessen said those references will be left alone to avoid confusion.

Republican state Rep. Shelly Short, of Addy, has voted against earlier gender-neutral language bills and said she plans to do the same this year.

"I don't see the need to do gender neutrality," she said, adding that her constituents want her to focus on jobs and the economy. "We're women and we're men."

Kohl-Welles, who has sponsored each of the gender-neutral language bills, said that while this project hasn't been her top legislation every year, "overall, it has important significance."

"I believe," she said, "that the culture has changed."

by on Feb. 3, 2013 at 10:27 PM
Replies (41-50):
12hellokitty
by Platinum Member on Feb. 4, 2013 at 12:06 PM

 I was just pointing out that in today's gender neutral society the role of MOM doesn't always have to be a female, woman,lady.  In some places they have done away with the term mother on birth certificates, replacing it with parent 1, 2, 3 or 4.    


Quoting annelauer:

This site is specifically for mothers, so the name is appropriate. I'm not sure if your response is indicative of a lack of understanding of this concept or a failure to read the site's terms agreement. I suggest you look into whichever one is unclear to you in order to gain a little perspective.


Quoting 12hellokitty:

You mean like the way this site, CafeMOM, does by presuming only women are capable of the role MOM?


Perhaps we should request the site name be changed to CafeParent?


 


Quoting annelauer:

You are completely missing the point. There are differences between men and women. And there are words to make that distinction. The problem is when a title presupposes only those belonging to a particular gender group are capable of fulfilling a role or inaccurately attributes certain characteristics only to one gender. This has a profound effect on how we view ourselves, others and our places within the community.



Quoting meriana:


The whole thing is rediculous. I wonder just how far they're willing to take this gender neutral idea...are we, at some point, no longer going to refer to children as girls and boys because that denotes a gender. People really need to get beyond seeing everything as stereotyping, excluding, offensive, etc. There are differences between girls and boys, men and women no matter how many try to deny it. Those differences used to be appreciated, these days it's all about making everyone the same.



 


 



 

Ultra_
by Member on Feb. 4, 2013 at 12:58 PM

I agree. Some of it bothers me, some of it is just extreme!

Quoting turtle68:

 words like police officers and fire fighters I can understand....manhole and manlock...even ombudsan, not so much.

on a side note I never understood the need for actresses to be known as actors...I think I missed that one.



wowguildmomma
by Member on Feb. 4, 2013 at 2:02 PM
1 mom liked this

I fail to see the problem with things as they were. While I was in the navy I wasn't offended that my rank was Seaman rather than Seawoman or Seaperson. 

I think we are getting a bit overboard and that there are much bigger fish to fry politically than how the gender references are worded. How about our budgets, reforms, etc...... those need attention much more than how the stupid laws they are passing are worded.

TranquilMind
by Platinum Member on Feb. 4, 2013 at 2:04 PM

NO.  It is not important.  Normal people don't freak out when they hear the word, "mailman" instead of "mail carrier".    Some changes will evolve normally anyway. 

"Man's past" to "Humankind's past"   Stupid, freaking ridiculous.

TranquilMind
by Platinum Member on Feb. 4, 2013 at 2:04 PM

 Lol at "seawoman".  Somehow, that struck me as really funny, and I pictured Ariel, the mermaid, from the kid's movie.  It actually draws less attention for you all to be refered to as "seamen". 


Quoting wowguildmomma:

I fail to see the problem with things as they were. While I was in the navy I wasn't offended that my rank was Seaman rather than Seawoman or Seaperson. 

I think we are getting a bit overboard and that there are much bigger fish to fry politically than how the gender references are worded. How about our budgets, reforms, etc...... those need attention much more than how the stupid laws they are passing are worded.


 

AMBG825
by on Feb. 4, 2013 at 2:21 PM

 I think any law passed from this point on, or even amended should be gender neutral.

 

But going back and rewriting every law on the books is time consuming and at this point in time our energies should be focused on other areas. I agree language has a heavy meaning, but the money and time spent going back and revamping every law we have is counter productive. As laws come to our attention ....and eventually a lot of those laws will get looked at anyway ..... change the language. But to actively go back and spend the time and money ...in this economy ....no way.

AMBG825
by on Feb. 4, 2013 at 2:23 PM

 When I was in we were called "split tails." LOL

 

neat trivia fact (and you might already know this.) Women in the Navy used to be called WAVES. Women in Active Volunteer Enlisted Service. They stopped using it because of the slogan "Join the Navy. Ride the waves."

Quoting wowguildmomma:

I fail to see the problem with things as they were. While I was in the navy I wasn't offended that my rank was Seaman rather than Seawoman or Seaperson. 

I think we are getting a bit overboard and that there are much bigger fish to fry politically than how the gender references are worded. How about our budgets, reforms, etc...... those need attention much more than how the stupid laws they are passing are worded.

 






 

pamelax3
by Gold Member on Feb. 4, 2013 at 3:42 PM

Do these people really have this much time and money on their hands.. What a waste.

LindaClement
by Linda on Feb. 4, 2013 at 3:50 PM
1 mom liked this

Now that's a shame.

Quoting AMBG825:

neat trivia fact (and you might already know this.) Women in the Navy used to be called WAVES. Women in Active Volunteer Enlisted Service. They stopped using it because of the slogan "Join the Navy. Ride the waves."

Quoting wowguildmomma:

I fail to see the problem with things as they were. While I was in the navy I wasn't offended that my rank was Seaman rather than Seawoman or Seaperson. 

I think we are getting a bit overboard and that there are much bigger fish to fry politically than how the gender references are worded. How about our budgets, reforms, etc...... those need attention much more than how the stupid laws they are passing are worded.

 


Imacakebaker
by on Feb. 4, 2013 at 3:54 PM

Because there is nothing else to do?  No other issues?

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