Thursday, 29 March 2018

How to Use Inclusive Language

Two days ago, UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson was upbraided by the Speaker of the House of Common when he referred to Emily Thornberry as Lady Nugee - using her husband's name. "We know what her name is and it is inappropriate and frankly sexist to speak in those terms, and I am not having it in this chamber. That is the end of the matter. That parlance is not legitimate and it will not be allowed, and it will be called out.” Johnson apologized afterward.

Despite being progressive in gender equality, taking the husband's name looks like a stubborn remnant that is hard to tip away. I was told men cling to it as the last badge of subtle authority, women give it to men as an exchange for power transition at home and at work.

Here are some inclusive language I gave to my students and clients:

NOT Chairman/ Chairwoman BUT Chairperson

NOT Policeman/ Spokesman/ Fireman/ Housemaid/ Waitress/ Cleaning lady BUT Police officer/Postal worker/ Spokesperson/ Firefighter/ House helper/ Server/ Cleaner

NOT Businessman/ Businesswoman BUT Business people/

NOT Manpower BUT Workforce

NOT Manmade BUT Constructed/ Artificial

NOT “We need someone to man the desk” BUT “We need someone to staff the desk”

NOT Sportsmanship BUT Fair sporting

NOT Housewife BUT Caregiver/Homemaker

NOT Mothering/Fathering BUT Parenting

NOT Wife/Husband BUT Partner/ Spouse/ Families

Here are some more tips for inclusive language that goes beyond gender:

NOT using “he” as a standard pronoun: “The employee may exercise his right” BUT  “The employees may exercise their right”/ Her or his/ (S)he

NOT Dyke/ Fag/ Fairy/Poofta, BUT Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex

NOT "Non-(English/Arabic, etc.) speaking background", BUT "Culturally and Linguistically Diverse" or Or “Mexican whose first language is Arabic”

NOT Kiwi, Yank, or Pom BUT Person from New Zealand, United States of America, or Poland

NOT using traits as identity: Full-blood/ Half-cast/ The Handicapped worker/ The disabled person/ The retarded man/ The deaf employee/ The cripple woman, BUT using traits as extra information: People who identify as…/ People with … backgrounds/ Person with physical disability/ Person with intellectual disability/ Person with hearing disability/ Person with mobility impairment /  

NOT Confined to a wheelchair/ Wheelchair-bound BUT Wheelchair user/ Wheelchair-enabled

NOT “Rachida, despite being confined to a wheelchair, will lead our project”, BUT Focus on ability and not disability: “Rachida will lead our project”

NOT Merry Christmas BUT Happy Holiday

NOT Guest worker/Immigrant worker BUT Expat/ Workers with International mobility

(Cited from my forthcoming book Cross-Cultural Management: With Insight from Neuroscience and Evolutionary Biology)