Talk:Gender-neutral language

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This seems like a good place to post this.[edit]

I recently discovered this sentence in an article:
"Goffin has played with other known musicians as a side-woman.
I linked it (side-woman) to the sideman article but am wondering if "side-woman" is a real word or if "sideman" is actually one of those unfortunate sort of gender neutral words that we learn to live with. Einar aka Carptrash (talk)


In the initial paragraph "chairman" is given as the first example of a "gendered" noun, whereas many people contend that the "man" in that case simply means "person", as it often did until the late 20th century. For example, the definition on doesn't mention men at all. I know many people disagree but isn't it rather a bad example to have in the opening paragraph, particularly as the very first example of all? (talk) 14:01, 12 January 2012 (UTC)

You are quite right. But any example you are likely to give will have the same problem, since "man" is gender-neutral, woman being female, wereman being male. The whole movement is based on a grammatical misunderstanding. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:50, 1 July 2013 (UTC)

Then one could still give that example, but put it more neutral. That is, one should say that some think or claim that e.g. chairman only refers to males, while others don't think so (or didn't think so in earlier times). - (talk) 21:33, 9 August 2015 (UTC)

"Either gender"[edit]

For a page about gender neutrality to repeatedly use this phrase is ironic, because it assumes that there are only two options. The (factually) correct form would be 'any gender'. (talk) 23:15, 23 May 2013 (UTC)

What on earth are you on about? How can there be more than two genders? (talk) 13:50, 3 November 2013 (UTC) is right in this case, and you ( might want to look at Genderqueer and the difference between sex and gender. As such, I will make suggested change to this article. 602p (talk) 15:18, 8 September 2014 (UTC)

@ Even without that stuff written by 602p one could use "any gender". If there are just male and female, "any gender" is still correct (though ambiguous, and thus maybe not the better choice). Maybe one could also use a neutral wording like "either or any gender", as some proposers of "gender-neutral language" might refer to both genders, while others might refer to any gender. In case of some Romance languages there are "gender-neutral forms" like "amig@s" (mixture of amigos (masculine) and amigas (female)), and some could say that it is gender-neutral (that is, it is gender-neutral regarding male-female differences). [ (German)] addresses gender-inclusive and gender-neutral language ("geschlechtersensiblen und inklusiven Sprache" and "geschlechtergerechte Sprache", lit. "gender-fair language") and just equality of male and female men resp. men and women ("Gleichstellung von Frauen und Männern"), thus it ignores animals and plants (i.e. it is speciesist) and other genders (i.e. it is gender-binary). - (talk) 21:33, 9 August 2015 (UTC)
A simple phrase to use in some contexts is "regardless of gender", which should be usable by all, from the gender-binary-ists to the gender-infinity-ists. And there is nothing to be gained by introducing the concept of "speciesism" in an article about gender.Pete unseth (talk) 20:42, 10 August 2015 (UTC)
Specicism: I just mentioned the term here on the talk page, but I didn't plead to mention speciesism in the article - well, at least not, if there is no critic against gender-neutrality in languages which say that it is speciesist, or if there is no-one pleading for "species-neutrality in language" (like pleading to use "he" and "she" for animals and to stop using the speciesist "it").
Genders: IMHO that wording is ok, but one problem might arise in the context: Some gender-neutrality approaches are gender-binary. So there might be "gender-infinity-ists" which critisize the gender-binary approach and say that it isn't gender-neutral at all.
PS: [] - in a way that does critisize some gender-neutrality approaches, but it doesn't say so directly (it is like "We are gender-infinity-ists and use a *", and not like "You using whatever form (e.g. the Binnen-I) are gender-binary-ists"). [] - that says "using Binnen-I (as in LehrerIn) is gender-binary" and "there are also gender-infinitiv-ists forms". So somehow the "gender-binary-ists" and the "gender-infinity-ists" view has to be mentioned. As a note: The statements above a from radical left-wingers, not from ordinary people.
- 21:28, 10 August 2015 (UTC), PS: 22:16, 10 August 2015 (UTC) (This section also edited by

The Japanese language, and original research[edit]

Currently a line within the article reads: "A distinct issue arises in Japanese... In this context, gender-neutrality refers to eliminating these differences from the language – for men and women to speak the same way." This is completely original research, and appears to shoehorn the reference to the Japanese language having gender-separated speech/vocabulary into this article. There has never existed a movement, either historically or today, to remove gender differences from spoken Japanese, by native Japanese speakers. Unless a source can be added explicitly stating that "gender neutral language, in the context of Japanese, refers to eliminating these differences from the language – for men and women to speak the same way", it is purely original research. --benlisquareTCE 07:28, 2 July 2014 (UTC)

Benlisquare I can ask some Japanese friends if they've ever heard about it and possibly see if they can point me to sources. Prima facie, it sounds untrue. EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 19:32, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
Japanese friend who's decently familiar with gender stuff said there was an article from Canada about use of "xe" that got (mis)translated and was circulating around 2chan, but knew of no movements to end gendered language use. EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 20:26, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
@benlisquare: "never existed a movement [...] by native Japanese speakers". Well, that's not needed. Western feminists could propose to eliminate such difference and could use the term "gender-neutrality" for it, too. Of course that would be cultural imperialism, but that's another topic, and of course one should clearly state that Western feminists proposed to elimanite such changes (if they did).
PS: Maybe there are other languages where men and women speak different. So maybe one could simple replace "Japense" by another language's name or a word like "some". Anyway, as it was unsourced and doubtful, I've moved it to here:
"A distinct issue arises in Japanese: the Japanese language does not have grammatical gender, but the speech of men and women differs, including the grammar and vocabulary used. In this context, gender-neutrality refers to eliminating these differences from the language – for men and women to speak the same way.[original research?]"
- (talk) 21:33 & 21:59, 9 August 2015 (UTC)

Response to EvergreenFir[edit]

I have amended my edit to include references and to mention, as you suggested, that some consider chairman to be gender-specific. I hope this works much better. It seeemed very strange when I first read the article to see chairman being described as gender-specific, when to many, including where I live, it is not. It would be preferable to include in the original sentence only terms that are unambiguously not gender-specific, such as policeman and stewardess. (talk) 12:32, 1 September 2014 (UTC)

If you would like to improve the article further, you could format the references so they appear properly. (talk) 12:32, 1 September 2014 (UTC)
I appreciate your efforts and have reverted your edits because of formatting issues. Your main issue seems to be that "chairman" can be applied to both men and women and thus should not be included on the list, correct? EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 19:48, 1 September 2014 (UTC)
Instead of just reverting, why don't you help me format them properly or show me how they can be formatted? I found the online guide a bit confusing. Essentially correct: it is preferable to include roles in that sentence that are definitely gender-specific, instead of ones that are often taken to be gender-neutral. (talk) 19:58, 1 September 2014 (UTC)
I have just gone through and updated the references with <url> </url> tags to give properly formatted references. I hope you are happy with this. (talk) 20:06, 1 September 2014 (UTC)
Just so you know, my IP address has updated: I am still the same user as before. (talk) 20:10, 1 September 2014 (UTC)

RfC: The MoS and the generic he[edit]

This essay came up in a conversation about the Wikipedia Manual of Style's stance on the generic he and gender-neutral language. It has has progressed to two RfCs at the village pump. Further opinions are welcome. Darkfrog24 (talk) 18:56, 5 March 2015 (UTC)

Changes from 9th August 2015‎[edit]

  • "Gender-neutral language [...] aims to eliminate (or neutralize) reference to gender in terms that describe people."
    That is ambiguous at best, but actually it's rather senseless and wrong. "gender" has different meanings, but in a linguistic contect ("language") it usually is short for "grammatical gender". So the sentence is rather like this: "Gender-neutral language [...] aims to eliminate (or neutralize) reference to grammatical gender in terms that describe people.". But that's not what gender-neutrality is (e.g. the English term woman doesn't have a grammatical gender, but refers to a person of female sex).
    Thus the change removed the ambiguity and made the sentence more clearly resp. correct.
  • Statement about Japanese (also see the dicussion above): That's unsourced, and it's a source was requested since July 2014, so requested for more than a year. (I first worte "unsourced since" and "unsourced for", but actually it might be unsourced for a longer time.)
  • Statement about "all sexes or genders" (also see the dicussion above): That's POV and not necessarily true. Sometimes gender-neutrality just refers to male and females (example was given), and while the male and female gender is sometimes seen as "all genders", there are others which say they are are more genders.
    Thus the change was neutral and removed POV.

    PS: Ok, the change was misleading and non-neutral. When one says that there are just two genders (male and female), then it's "all genders = the male and the female gender". So one could misunderstand "both (the male and female) or all sexes or genders" to mean something like "some pseudo-gender-neutrality approaches aren't gender-neutral, but exclude some genders", which is a POV-wording.
  • "Gender-neutrality and gender-emphasis": There are different approaches regarding "gender-neutrality". Some gender-neutrality approaches actually emphasize gender by using wordings like "he or she" or "actors and actresses". (Such wordings might be more common in languages with (grammatical) genders and nouns which only refer to one biological gender, like German Lehrerin or Spanish profesora (female teacher - and thus not male teacher) and Lehrer or profesor ([male] teacher).)
    Thus the change was necessary to further clarify what "gender-neutrality" actually means.
    (Of course there might be views, that such approaches actually aren't gender neutral, but gender-binary, but 1. then there would be different views and 2. I can't give a source for that.)
    PS: Added a reference which says something like "some gender-neutrality approaches are gender-binary, while some aren't". Maybe one could find a source to state something like "some gender-neutrality approaches are gender-binary and a critizised for being non-gender-neutral" (well, that wording sounds POV-like, so would need an improvement).
  • Meaning of English words (also see the dicussion above): At the moment there is just one meaning or rather one interpretation of some terms sourced with some dictionaries. But there were and are other interpretations.
    Thus the change removed some POV by mentioning other interpretations.

All in all, the change from 9th August removed ambiguities and POV.
- (talk) 17:59, 10 August 2015 (UTC), PS 23:09, 10 August 2015 (UTC)

Stating "biological gender" can be considered POV, which is the main reason I have reverted you twice now (as seen here and here). Like I stated here and here, your edit in that regard is at conflict with the sex and gender distinction. Whether or not gender is biological or socially constructed, or both, is addressed in the Gender article and in the Sex and gender distinction article. Your edit of "biological gender" is essentially stating "gender is biological, and there is some other form that isn't." Even above in this section, you use gender to refer to male and females. If you want to include biological sex in the article, then just state "biological sex or gender." As you can see, "biological gender" has no Wikipedia article. Furthermore, gender most commonly refers to the state of being male or female and/or following the feminine and masculine gender roles. That is why the Gender article is about that definition, not grammatical gender. So for the "Gender-neutral language [...] is a form of linguistic prescriptivism that aims to eliminate" sentence, there is no need disambiguate gender with "biological gender" to make it clear that we are not talking about grammatical gender. Flyer22 (talk) 00:39, 11 August 2015 (UTC)
Furthermore, sex also has different meanings; and if we state that, in this case, people are likely to think that we mean "grammatical gender" instead of the "male or female" aspect, it can also be argued that using "sex" for your wording of "biological gender or sex" is ambiguous and that people most likely think we mean sexual activity. So that's another reason that stating "biological sex or gender" is clearer. We have the Wikilinks with that wording, and anyone confused by what we mean on that can click on those two terms. Flyer22 (talk) 00:46, 11 August 2015 (UTC)
  • If you disliked that wording, why didn't you just change that instead of reverting everything? Maybe one could (that's not necessarily that I do) interpret your reverting as vandalism, as a removing of "unwanted" information...
  • This is a linguistic context, as even implied by the article title "language". So there is a need to disambiguate "gender", as this is usually short for "grammatical gender" in linguistics. Just linking to another article is no solution, as it's still ambiguous here, and as links can change and sometimes are misplaced (like one could incorrectly use [[gender]] in a linguistic context, but actually mean [[grammatical gender]] or [[grammatical gender|gender]]). The usual wording to differ between those meanings of genders (at least in other languages or non-"genderism" contexts) is to use "grammatical gender" (gender in grammar), and "biological gender" or "sex" (gender outside of grammar, in nature) [*, **]. Thus using "biological gender" and "grammatical gender" is unambiguous, so that nothing gets mixed up, and is common and neutral usage (at least in other languages or non-"genderism" contexts). So, as just using the word "gender" is still ambiguous, please suggest an un-ambiguous and "NPOV" wording [***].
[*] In other languages and non-"genderism" and non-linguistics contexts it is not uncommon to have it like "gender = biological gender = sex", and a "sex and gender distinction" is POV too.
[**] Well, as "gender" in grammar is sometimes amibiuous too, there could even be something like "grammatical gender of nouns" and "grammatical gender of verbs", but till now I've not seen something like that.
[***] "un-grammatical gender" sounds unfitting, like some grammatically incorrect gender and not like gender outside of grammar. Semi-PS: Well, "non-grammatical gender" might fit, that is "gender outside of grammar".
  • Regarding that Furthermore part: The misleading wording "biological sex or gender", where gender is more likely to mean grammatical gender and which you critized for good reason, was yours and not my suggestion.
- (talk) 18:22, 11 August 2015 (UTC)
No very experienced Wikipedia editor would interpret my reverting you as vandalism. The WP:Vandalism policy is clear. And my latest revert of you shows me reverting you on the lead, but not on the other stuff you added. I don't see your lead changes as needed, but I won't revert again if you re-add those, as long as you don't re-add "biological gender." I don't know what you mean by "The misleading wording 'biological sex or gender', where gender is more likely to mean grammatical gender and which you critized for good reason, was yours and not my suggestion." Flyer22 (talk) 18:35, 11 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Well, I'm no experienced WP editor, and ok, I didn't notice that it was just a partial revert.
  • How about the new version? As before, it's meant to be a basis for discussion and not be "edit-warring". I first wanted to propose another version, but then had some doubts, namely: As there is "gender", should there also be "grammatical gender", that is a link to other article? Compare the following:
    • "reference to gender in terms that describe people." -- That's in the article and quite ambiguous. One could misunderstand it to mean to e.g. merge French "un enfant" (grammatically masculine, a [male] child" and "une enfant" (grammatically feminine, a female child) into something like "unu enfant" (a new no-gender, a child). (Actually there might be similar proposals, but that is not what gender-neutrality means in general.)
    • "reference to (non-grammatical) gender ..." -- This is short and unambiguous, and that is what I first wanted to use, but this doesn't include a link to "grammatical gender".
    • "reference to gender -- here this is not meant in the sense of grammatical gender -- ..." or "reference to gender of living creatures -- and not to the grammatical gender of words --" -- This maybe makes the first sentence quite long, maybe too long.
    • "reference to gender in terms that describe people. Note that this does not refer to the grammatical gender of words." or "... Note that gender here does not mean grammatical gender."
If one can find a source, which proposes to merge grammatical genders (like merging masculine and feminine in French into a common gender similar to English) or create a new one (like creating a neuter gender for French) or re-arrange grammatical genders of words (like making all German terms which describe people to neuters, such as "das Lehrer"), then "not ... grammatical gender" could be "not necessarily ... grammatical gender".
- (talk) 20:15, 11 August 2015 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)
No, I don't approve of your wording of "here this is not meant in the sense of grammatical gender"; that is absolutely not needed, per what I stated above. All that is needed is "gender" or "biological sex or gender"; I've changed the lead to the latter, per what I've stated above. And just because I cease talking with you here at this talk page doesn't mean that I agree with you. It is not WP:Silent consensus. In this case, my not responding to you means that I have nothing more, or mot much more, to state to you on this matter. If you want outside opinions on these changes of yours, since other editors watching this talk page are not responding to you, then try one of the matters listed at WP:Dispute resolution. Flyer22 (talk) 22:26, 12 August 2015 (UTC)
Looking at the other lead changes you made and the followup edit here (I mean the lead changes you restored), I don't see how they are an improvement. Compare them here:
  • For example, the words policeman and stewardess are gender-specific; the corresponding gender-neutral terms are police officer and flight attendant.
  • For example, the word stewardess is gender-specific, while policeman is nowadays also labeled to be gender-specific; the corresponding gender-neutral terms are said to be police officer and flight attendant.
The first version is short and clear without any unnecessary language. The second version unnecessarily trades "and" with "while" as though contrasting the terms, when the sentence is actually stating that both terms are gender-neutral. That is not good wording. That second version also states "are said to be," which seems to be lightly contesting that "policeman" is not gender-neutral. The "are said to be" addition is WP:Weasel wording and could earn itself a Template:Who or Template:Whom tag (two tags which significantly annoy me, especially since they are so commonly carelessly applied). Flyer22 (talk) 22:40, 12 August 2015 (UTC)
Reverted. Flyer22 (talk) 13:08, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

More information: Problems and criticism of gender-neutral language[edit]

One could add, and most likely should add, a section about problems and critism.
Problems which arrise of gender-neutrality approaches, and of criticism of "gender-neutral language" include (esp. in case of languages with grammatical genders):

  • (Older) gender-neutral texts will be incorrectly seen as gender-unneutral.
  • (Some) gender-neutral texts are ugly (when using special characters like / or * or _ or I or @ to make it "gender-neutral").
  • It is more difficult to understand (some) gender-neutral texts.
  • It is more difficult or even impossible to read (some) gender-neutral texts (How should special characters be pronounced?).
  • Gender-neutralists 'destroy' language, and break orthographic and grammatical rules.
  • Some gender-neutrality approaches are gender-binary, or even sexists:
    • When a word like "man" means "human being", then something like "man and woman" gives "human being and woman", so it discriminates males. (This example maybe isn't the best one, but conveys the principle how gender-neutral language can be seen sexist.)
    • Forms like German "LehrerIn", "Lehrer/in", "Lehrer/-in" (look and) sound like "Lehrerin" (female teacher), so it discriminates males.

Of course, some critism might be limited so single languages and does rather belong into sub-articles. And of course, one could also show more gender-neutral forms, but some forms might be limited to single languages and might rather be put into sub-articles. - (talk) 23:45, 10 August 2015 (UTC) & 18:22, 11 August 2015 (UTC)

Presumably, there should also be a "Rationale for Gender-Neutral Language" section (e.g. I believe it's argued that if we say "Fireman" instead of "Firefighter", women won't become firefighters who otherwise would have), which the problems/criticism section would be in response to. A criticism section without a rationale section is bizarre. Dingsuntil (talk) 03:20, 22 March 2016 (UTC)

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