Embracing gender neutral vocabulary

Many everyday words and phrases are being deemed as inappropriate by California State University at Fullerton. The university is offering a workshop on campus encouraging students to contemplate eliminating specific words from their vocabularies to abolish inclusive words. 

These are words that don’t label someone by gender. Some of these inclusive words are words you wouldn’t even think were offensive in any way. They include words such as mankind, fireman, waitress and congressman.

Topics such as this one are extremely sensitive to certain people, especially people of this generation. Millennials tend to take certain things to heart far too often, but it’s never without reason. 

After all, we’re the generation who wants to make changes and see a difference throughout the world, which is why this workshop was created; to create change. 

Fliers were posted around Fullerton’s campus to advertise the Gender Chat Inclusive Language program and teach students gender neutral terms and words. 

For example, when one says ‘hey guys’ addressing everyone in a group, both male and female, the more appropriate greeting would be ‘hey friends.’

During an interview with the Orange County Register, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs at CSU Fullerton Meredith Basil said, “It [the program] is voluntary, it’s not something anyone is required to attend.” 

The program is not mandatory throughout the campus, despite what some may think. It’s simply a group for students who want to work on their vocabulary and become familiar with genderfluid terms and phrases. Maybe at some point making it a trend for people to begin using these terms. 

Many people however, have the idea that the university is banning the use of the word ‘man’ in general, which caused a backlash. But in the same interview a California State University Fullerton spokeswoman emphasized the university itself hasn’t banned its students from using any of these words or expressions and proceeds to emphasize the school’s commitment to freedom of speech.

Changing the word mankind to humankind, or changing fireman to firefighter, shouldn’t be that big of a deal. In fact, changing these words and phrases to gender neutral terms could potentially benefit these students in the future. Genderfluid phrases could take us one step closer to gender equality. 

For instance, ever since we were children we’ve wanted to be firemen or policemen, simply changing the name from fireman to firefighter could give little girls the chance to say they way to be a firefighter when they grow up, not a fireman. 

Changing names of people in specific professions can also make it easier for women or men to feel like they too belong in that category of work. 

Whether it be congressman, salesman, secretary or nurse, changing these to inclusive words could diminish gender stereotypes in the workplace.

CSU Fullerton isn’t the only university who had this idea. In the spring of 2016, Princeton University released gender neutral language guidelines for employees to follow. The human resources department released a four-page guideline on alternative words to use instead of the word ‘man.’ 

Other universities, such as University of Northern Colorado, University of Nebraska- Lincoln and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, are all hosting similar initiatives. 

With the potential good it could do, these inclusive words also sparked outrage across the nation. Many people feel that this has gone too far and that it’s completely outrageous to change everyday words. Whereas a few students from CSU Fullerton’s campus who were interviewed by other news sources, such as the Orange County Register and Daily Mail, said they find no offense with both gender exclusive and gender inclusive words. 

It would most likely be the same way at Sonoma State University, although it’s not a reality on yet. For the most part, as a student body, we are very accepting and conscientious. 

If we were to experience the usage of inclusive words it wouldn’t affect our campus negatively, but instead would be something students would adapt to overtime.

 It wouldn’t be the end of the world if this comes to Sonoma State, in fact I feel some people would actually prefer it. 

Using inclusive words isn’t necessarily something we need as students, but something we should practice and become familiar with. Most people don’t have an issue altering their vocabulary, but there are always exceptions. It isn’t hard to see, that some people are overly sensitive and some are overly defensive about this topic, but the fact of the matter is everyone can’t be pleased.