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😟 Gendered

Gender runs through our languages. In gendered languages like German, French and Spanish, this is of course very obvious. Every noun and adjective, as well as functions or titles, are assigned a gender. But we can also see the gender phenomenon in gender-neutral languages like English. Moreover, languages rely on the traditional view of binary gender (he or she). In this category, Witty draws your attention to overt or covert gendered concepts.

😮 Gendered image deeply anchored. In plural less.

Think very quickly: When you hear the word “expert” what image pops up in your head? Rather a man?
What happens when you hear “nurse”? Is the image rather that of a woman?

Based on our personal experience or socialization, we tend to picture a certain gender behind such expressions even though linguistically these terms are gender-neutral. Hence, these words have a so-called ‘social gender’.

What can you do?

The plural-form of nouns and pronouns helps us to slightly circumvent these automatic associations between such expressions and inner images. We fall less into the bias trap.

In English, that is linguistically neutral, using plurals is considered an accepted option for avoiding socially gendered language. It is not a perfect solution, but an accepted compromise in the absence of other feasible options.

You also can add “of all genders”, “everyone who”, people in [insert field or profession] to make it more neutral.

And finally, another option is to put an asterisk behind such socially-gendered words. For example: - doctor* - nurse* - giving a nudge to our brain to think of the “non-typical” gender behind the word.

😟 Limits men to traditional roles and behaviors

Traps men in outdated stereotypes. These stereotypes hinders them to develop their full potential, according to their own wishes, talents and skills. 

What can you do?
Ask yourself "What would I write if this person was female?"

😟 Limits women to traditional roles and behaviors

Traps women in outdated stereotypes. Such stereotypes can hinder them to develop their full potential, according to their own wishes, talents and skills.

What can you do?
Ask yourself "What would I write if this person was male?"

💡 People are more likely to picture men here

For economic-historical reasons, an image of a man is unconsciously evoked in front of the inner eye, even if the term is linguistically neutral. The female gender or other gender identities do not become visible. And they will not feel to belong in this setting. In order to provoke an inclusive image, be not only linguistically, but also mentally neutral in your formulation. 

What can you do?
Rather use a noun that describes the activity. Or use a denomination that is truly gender-neutral.

😟 People are more likely to picture men here

The male generic does not speak to all genders or gender identities. Many people therefore do not feel included in the dialogue. 

What can you do?
Use words that address the female gender as well as gender identities that do not follow a binary understanding of gender.

😟 Perpetuates outdated ideas about leading people

Casts the topic of leadership in stereotypical male terms and traditionally hierarchical. 

What can you do?
Use terms that assume a supportive notion of leadership and can mean different genders.

😟 Pronouns that exclude non-binary people

With the form "he or she", we do have the good intention to be represent all genders. However, there are more than just two genders, biologically and socially. Thus, with the form "he or she" we exclude a big part of the gender spectrum. 



USA: According to a 2021 study by the Williams Institute, an estimated 1.2 million American adults aged between 18 and 60 identify as non-binary, making up 11% of the LGBTQ population in that age bracket. A 2020 survey by The Trevor Project found that 26% of LGBTQ youth (ages 13–24) in the U.S. identify as non-binary.

Brazil: A 2021 survey published in Scientific Reports found that 1.19% of Brazilian adults are non-binary.

Canada: In April 2022, Statistics Canada released findings from the 2021 census, making Canada the first country to ask a core question about gender identity, and found that 41,355 Canadians aged 15 and over identified as nonbinary

Switzerland: A 2021 survey found that 0.4% of adults in Switzerland describe themselves as non-binary. The survey of 2,690 Swiss residents was weighted to be reflective of the entire population.

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-binary_gender


What can you do?
Use the direct form of address (you). If you have to write in the third person, use "they".

😟 Word component impacting representation

Hides a form that is not gender-neutral and therefore calls up images with masculine connotations in our mind's eye.

What can you do?
Use alternatives that are gender neutral while avoiding duplication.