Clarifications on Basic Terminology and Related Recommendations
- The purpose of this section is to help volunteers to use correct terminology and procedures for fostering an inclusive and non discriminatory work environment in a changing world.
- Scientifically, sex of a person is best seen as a tuple of parameters corresponding to hormonal sex, brain sex, clinical sex, chromosomal sex, physical sex and more. Population data relating to this cannot be properly classified. In feminist discourses, the term 'biological sex' is frequently used in senses corresponding to parts of the concept of sex. But modern biology is in a state of flux - reviews of old school textbooks in endocrinology, for example, may resemble reviews of doctrinaire discourses.
Gender is a plural concept that includes social constructs characterized by arbitrary norms and prescriptions on gender expression. Modern people recognize that genders exist on a spectrum/space-continuum and do not abide by religious ideas of binary gender with its rigid prescriptions of heteronormativity. In most contexts it is good idea to use more specific terms like gender expression, gender identity or specific parts of the social construct.
* Gender Identity
Gender identity of a person is the person's own sense of gender without regard to expression of the same in society. A simplified infographic capturing the diversity of possible states is at this page. For more on basics and overview of modern research click here.
Gender Diverse People
A collective term for non cis-gendered people. For more information see this page.
What is Sexism?
From any reasonable feminist perspective, the term sexism refers to discrimination against women based on her sexual features in the
context of an unequal and discriminatory society. The term can be traced back to second wave feminist discourse .
- In few other discourses, the term is used in a universal way, that is discrimination against a person or a group of persons based on their
sexual features. Apparently most of these usages have been by extremist groups.
So to hit the nail on the head always, we suggest that you do not use "sexism against <non woman genders>". Instead speak of "sexual
discrimination against <person/person category>" if that corresponds to your intended meaning.
- This would mean that for speaking about sexual discrimination against cis-women and trans women, "sexism" should be preferred. For all other
gender categories including trans men, "sexual discrimination" should be used.
Some references for the above are:
Do instances of misandry with sexual overtones amount to sexism?
- Because of the above, it does not and should fall under "sexual discrimination".
What is the difference between gender and sexual discrimination?
- Many people also use gender and sexual discrimination in an interchangeable way, but that leads to overloading of the terms and confusion. Preferring one or more genders over others without regard to other factors is gender discrimination. Examples of gender discriminatory viewpoints are
Only men can manage a project with over 20,000 SLOC.
Managers for the grocery store or cops need to have masculine features.
sexual features when the context under consideration does not call for consideration of any of those classes of features. So it can go far beyond "biological sex". An example of sexual discrimination is:
Cops should not be having periods.
Can an employer who believes that 'genders exist on a continuum' indulge in gender discrimination?
- The belief that genders exist on a continuum predisposes the person
towards a tolerant position. But the person may still be prejudiced against parts of the gender continuum.
How can we be inclusive of all genders if "genders exist on a continuum"?
- This problems calls for detailed policy guidelines. If the context requires no gender related information, then go without it and follow strict gender neutral communication practices. If the context requires gender related information, then a consensus would be to allow people to choose from Female, Male, Transgender, Bigender and Other with the explicit permission for trans women to identify as women/females and trans men as men/males.
How to use Gender-nondiscriminatory and non-sexist language?
- Simply use no salutations (in Emails) or non-gendered ones and avoid gendered references.
For the latter part, this boils down to getting your pronouns right. The best practice would be to use they, break grammar rules on number and do not not respect gender-normative rules.
Thus they is pretty should be fine. The rationale is that grammar should follow usage and "they is pretty" was grammatically correct for many centuries and is correct again. Do not use s/he and such as these presume a binary state of affairs (trans people get included) and discriminate against bi-gendered, agendered people and others. The other option is to avoid personal pronouns - it is possible if you are never verbose enough.
For 'words of salutation' feel free to use: "Hey Y'all" "all y'all (plural)" "Hi = Hello". It is pronounced this way.
Lighter overview of key aspects of gender neutral English
* Light -1.
A. Mani is a researcher in algebra, logic and rough sets in India. She is also an active free software contributor, Ubuntu Women leader, teacher, activist and consultant.
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