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Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

Is gender neutral language important?

Wash. state considers gender-neutral language bill

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) β€” 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 β€” the Seattle City Council has long eschewed the terms councilwoman or councilman β€” 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 β€” "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 (51-60):
parentalrights1
by on Feb. 4, 2013 at 4:01 PM
I think it's a good concept but can be taken too far.

I don't think it's okay to use language that assumes a person in a particular position is a particular gender.
Posted on the NEW CafeMom Mobile
AMBG825
by on Feb. 4, 2013 at 4:21 PM

Why is it a shame?  Female sailors aren't whores. They do a job and being ridden isn't one of them. Changing the slogan didn't stop people from treating them as government paid hookers. But calling them sailors just like everyone else sure helped to put an end to the treatment. It's a fine example of how language and terminology can have a detrimental affect on how people are viewed. 



Unless you are one of those that continue to believe that military women are government paid whores. Then that is aroblem YOU need to deal with. And why do dislike women so much?

Quoting LindaClement:

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.

 








 

LindaClement
by Thatwoman on Feb. 4, 2013 at 4:35 PM
1 mom liked this

Because it was funny.

The slogan didn't make people treat them like hookers, and it had nothing at all to do with how they responded to sexual advances. In fact, it has nothing at all to do with misogyny. Or promiscuity.

This PC era, when people are apparently keenly attuned to -isms and discrimination hasn't prevented people from being promiscuous, either.

Because it's unrelated.

Quoting AMBG825:

Why is it a shame?  Female sailors aren't whores. They do a job and being ridden isn't one of them. Changing the slogan didn't stop people from treating them as government paid hookers. But calling them sailors just like everyone else sure helped to put an end to the treatment. It's a fine example of how language and terminology can have a detrimental affect on how people are viewed. 



Unless you are one of those that continue to believe that military women are government paid whores. Then that is aroblem YOU need to deal with. And why do dislike women so much?

Quoting LindaClement:

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.

 




TCgirlatheart
by TC on Feb. 4, 2013 at 4:39 PM
1 mom liked this
To me, yes it is. More so for professions that have the "man"suffix. I feel it gives the idea that it is exclusive to men.
I do not, however, feel it needs to be legislated in any sense.
Posted on the NEW CafeMom Mobile
happinessforyou
by Bronze Member on Feb. 4, 2013 at 4:42 PM

SMH- everyone needs a "ribbon".....

AMBG825
by on Feb. 4, 2013 at 4:58 PM

 Sure it's related. If even your boss ...in this case the Navy is referring to you as a whore, you don't think that the rest of the world will view you the same?

Quoting LindaClement:

Because it was funny.

The slogan didn't make people treat them like hookers, and it had nothing at all to do with how they responded to sexual advances. In fact, it has nothing at all to do with misogyny. Or promiscuity.

This PC era, when people are apparently keenly attuned to -isms and discrimination hasn't prevented people from being promiscuous, either.

Because it's unrelated.

Quoting AMBG825:

Why is it a shame?  Female sailors aren't whores. They do a job and being ridden isn't one of them. Changing the slogan didn't stop people from treating them as government paid hookers. But calling them sailors just like everyone else sure helped to put an end to the treatment. It's a fine example of how language and terminology can have a detrimental affect on how people are viewed. 

 

 

Unless you are one of those that continue to believe that military women are government paid whores. Then that is aroblem YOU need to deal with. And why do dislike women so much?

Quoting LindaClement:

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.

 




 






 

LindaClement
by Thatwoman on Feb. 4, 2013 at 5:05 PM

Actually, what other people view me as is none of my business.

And, no: an acronym that means something specific does not in any way colour the way 'the rest of the world' sees anyone.

Quoting AMBG825:

 Sure it's related. If even your boss ...in this case the Navy is referring to you as a whore, you don't think that the rest of the world will view you the same?

Quoting LindaClement:

Because it was funny.

The slogan didn't make people treat them like hookers, and it had nothing at all to do with how they responded to sexual advances. In fact, it has nothing at all to do with misogyny. Or promiscuity.

This PC era, when people are apparently keenly attuned to -isms and discrimination hasn't prevented people from being promiscuous, either.

Because it's unrelated.

Quoting AMBG825:

Why is it a shame?  Female sailors aren't whores. They do a job and being ridden isn't one of them. Changing the slogan didn't stop people from treating them as government paid hookers. But calling them sailors just like everyone else sure helped to put an end to the treatment. It's a fine example of how language and terminology can have a detrimental affect on how people are viewed. 



Unless you are one of those that continue to believe that military women are government paid whores. Then that is aroblem YOU need to deal with. And why do dislike women so much?

Quoting LindaClement:

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.

 




 


AMBG825
by on Feb. 4, 2013 at 5:14 PM

 It is when it directly impacts your ability to do your job. IF you boss calls you a whore and your coworkers follow suit, it most certainly does affect you. And it is your business. The acronym was in bad taste and directly impacted how the Navy's female sailors were treated and viewed. It may not have been intended to have that consequence, but it did nonetheless.

 

It is an excellent example of how language can have those unintended impacts on groups of people.

Quoting LindaClement:

Actually, what other people view me as is none of my business.

And, no: an acronym that means something specific does not in any way colour the way 'the rest of the world' sees anyone.

Quoting AMBG825:

 Sure it's related. If even your boss ...in this case the Navy is referring to you as a whore, you don't think that the rest of the world will view you the same?

Quoting LindaClement:

Because it was funny.

The slogan didn't make people treat them like hookers, and it had nothing at all to do with how they responded to sexual advances. In fact, it has nothing at all to do with misogyny. Or promiscuity.

This PC era, when people are apparently keenly attuned to -isms and discrimination hasn't prevented people from being promiscuous, either.

Because it's unrelated.

Quoting AMBG825:

Why is it a shame?  Female sailors aren't whores. They do a job and being ridden isn't one of them. Changing the slogan didn't stop people from treating them as government paid hookers. But calling them sailors just like everyone else sure helped to put an end to the treatment. It's a fine example of how language and terminology can have a detrimental affect on how people are viewed. 

 

 

Unless you are one of those that continue to believe that military women are government paid whores. Then that is aroblem YOU need to deal with. And why do dislike women so much?

Quoting LindaClement:

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.

 




 


 






 

activitymode
by Member on Feb. 4, 2013 at 5:17 PM
Such a waste of time. I get some of it, but manhole? Really?..
Posted on CafeMom Mobile
LindaClement
by Thatwoman on Feb. 4, 2013 at 5:55 PM

Which, magically can no longer happen because of a change of terms?

Yeah.

Quoting AMBG825:

 It is when it directly impacts your ability to do your job. IF you boss calls you a whore and your coworkers follow suit, it most certainly does affect you. And it is your business. The acronym was in bad taste and directly impacted how the Navy's female sailors were treated and viewed. It may not have been intended to have that consequence, but it did nonetheless.

 

It is an excellent example of how language can have those unintended impacts on groups of people.

Quoting LindaClement:

Actually, what other people view me as is none of my business.

And, no: an acronym that means something specific does not in any way colour the way 'the rest of the world' sees anyone.

Quoting AMBG825:

 Sure it's related. If even your boss ...in this case the Navy is referring to you as a whore, you don't think that the rest of the world will view you the same?

Quoting LindaClement:

Because it was funny.

The slogan didn't make people treat them like hookers, and it had nothing at all to do with how they responded to sexual advances. In fact, it has nothing at all to do with misogyny. Or promiscuity.

This PC era, when people are apparently keenly attuned to -isms and discrimination hasn't prevented people from being promiscuous, either.

Because it's unrelated.

Quoting AMBG825:

Why is it a shame?  Female sailors aren't whores. They do a job and being ridden isn't one of them. Changing the slogan didn't stop people from treating them as government paid hookers. But calling them sailors just like everyone else sure helped to put an end to the treatment. It's a fine example of how language and terminology can have a detrimental affect on how people are viewed. 



Unless you are one of those that continue to believe that military women are government paid whores. Then that is aroblem YOU need to deal with. And why do dislike women so much?

Quoting LindaClement:

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.

 




 


 


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