Wipe-Out: The "M" Word

"Why make anyone feel alienated?"
Princeton University has taken the controversial step of requiring staff members to stop using "gendered words" in order to make the "workplace more inclusive."

The directive came down in a four-page memo from the HR department which specifies guidelines for "all written communication and job adverts;" the generic term man is banned from all job titles.

The reason given for these changes is "to be more courteous to those who don't identify using 'binary gender' categories. (Read the article from the dailymail)
The use of gender neutral language is encouraged by many universities, writes Jeremy Beaman in an August 18, 2016 article; namely, UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Tennessee and Marquette University. (Read the article from thecollegefix)
Free speech advocates are concerned.
Strap on your Seatbelts
The tip of the iceberg:
Gendered Term                                               Inclusive Term
firemen                                                              fire people
man hours                                                          person hours
him and her                                                       they
he and she                                                         generic terms, i.e. "the student"
career woman                                                    specific terms: artist, director, professor, etc.
actress                                                               actor
coed                                                                  student
forefathers                                                         ancestors
man                                                                   people, person, individual
You've Got to Be Kidding
That's what Matt Vespa wrote in his Aug. 20th article, "Insanity: The Word 'Man' is Banned at Princeton University." (Read article from townhall)
"Human oh human!" Michael Brown, (www.askdrbrown.org), the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program and prolific author, said when considering what the Princeton initiative means to him. "A mafia leader will now hire a 'hit individual;' the honest male individual will be called a 'human of his word.' Rather than banning the 'man' word, Princeton has simply disguised it . . . why not say huwoman instead of human?"
Want more Michael Brownisms? He writes that Princeton was founded in 1746 under the motto, "Under God's Power She Flourishes." The first female wasn't admitted until 1969! To all this he says, "Individual alive!" Read the article from stream)
Title IX All-Inclusive, Too
Change is in the wind, considering how these university guidelines dovetail with the Obama administration's interpretation of Title IX. In an August 22nd post by CNN Wire, "schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student's sex, including a student's transgender status."  Last week, the Obama administration clarified the issue: "transgender students [are entitled to] enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment;" thus, transgender students are to be allowed to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.
The CNN Wire article covers the controversy swirling around this issue. Texas and several other states are challenging the Obama administration's interpretation of Title IX,  "which prohibits sex discrimination in schools, colleges and universities;" as the administration has extended Title IX coverage to include non-discrimination based on gender identity. 
How do these Guidelines Affect Writers?
As a children's writer, for me the challenge is huge. As I prepare the ms of my first book for publication, I do a run-through for the words man, boy, girl, him, her, he and she, which constitute the bulk of the terms in question here.
Oh, my. What a non-inclusive trove did I find. Several "oh, man's," which were easy to replace or simply delete.
Tougher is coming up with alternatives to the terms boy and girl. Here are a few brain crushers I eked out:
Gendered Term                                                           Inclusive Term
A boy slipped next to the woman . . .                         A little kid in rumpled clothes . . . 
A girl in short-shorts and bare feet . . .                       I slipped her name in early, so called her                                                                                     by name with each reference to her
Next to the little pot a boy . . .                                    Next to the little pot a person . . .
Hopefully, my replacements won't buzz like a neon sign, flashing: AWKWARD.
Help! What about the terms he, she, him and her? They're still in.
This experience has taught me a lot about sensitivity. I believe I was sensitive before Princeton University's memo. I'm more sensitive now.
Please comment on your thoughts and what you do to be an all-inclusive writer. 
Photo credit: www.pinterest.com; "17 of the Most Fabulous Gender Neutral Bathroom Signs"

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction courses, picture book course and mystery and suspense course. She has currently finished her first book, a mystery/ghost story for 8-12 year-olds, and is in the process of publishing it. Follow Linda on Facebook.


Karen Cioffi said...

[Shaking head] YIKES! That's all I can say as a writer. Oh, and of course: IS EVERYONE GOING CRAZY!?

Linda Wilson said...


Linda Wilson said...

PS, Boy and girl are back in, just not "man," so far anyway!

Karen Cioffi said...

[Still shaking head.]

Melinda Brasher said...

I do believe in being sensitive and inclusive, but I do think some of this goes too far, sometimes only making the issue worse.

Other times, the current "PC" just seems wrong.

One of my favorites is "educator" instead of "teacher." Maybe it's just me, but "educator" holds echoes of re-education projects and slivers of "I am the guru, let me educate you idiotic masses," whereas "teacher" is such an old term, so well-used and neutral (to me) that it doesn't hold any of those other meanings.

Then there's the preference for "server" over "waiter/waitress." I think this "server" idea is to get rid of the gender specific terms. But seriously..."server" feels so much like "servant" that maybe the change of terms addressed the sexism but increased the classism. Argh...

Linda Wilson said...

You make excellent points, Melinda. How far can inclusiveness go? I wound up only taking the word "man" out of my book, like when I had a character say, "O, man." I put Geesh in place of one and left the other deleted!

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