Just some examples of ‘gendered language’

UNESCO‘s Guidelines on Gender-Neutral Language  was written as a result of the idea of ‘sexist language‘ when it was first raised by Nordic nations in 1987.

As we know, language is powerful.  It can uplift a person or it can drag a person down and for centuries women have been exposed to the constant use of gender specific terminology.

‘If words and language infer that women are inferior, the assumption of inferiority can exist’ (pg: 4)

Here are just a couple of examples from UNESCO’s Guidelines for Gender Neutral Language.  The alternative language is included to the right.

Man’s search for knowledge has led him to improve scientific methodology. The search for knowledge has led us to improve scientific methodology.People have continually sought knowledge.
Man, Mankind people, humanity, human beings, humankind,the human species, the human race, we,

ourselves, men and women, homo sapiens,

one, the public, society, the self, human


‘History of the Scientific and CulturalDevelopment of Mankind’ History of Humanity
manpower staff, labour, work force, employees, personnel,workers, human resources, human power,

human energy


5 thoughts on “Just some examples of ‘gendered language’

  1. Hi Susanne. I guess the alternative language should be considered to be used by both genders when writing, right? Just wonder if women write with the language on the left column, will it be an issue? After having read, I think I need to consult Swedes on one Swedish word because I think it is okay to use ‘man’ in Swedish to represent both genders.

    1. We are aiming for language to be gender neutral not gender specific so that it is more inclusive of women. Instead of always saying things like ‘the project manager, he’ or ‘the nurse, she’ we want to stop the gender stereotyping. You are right to talk about both sex’s (there are more than 2 genders) using non gender specific language. Throughout history we have been so used to reading and hearing about ‘man’ that many women don’t even notice that there is an issue, hence many women do still refer to ‘mankind’, ‘manpower’, Man (agers), and so on. The issue is that women are more than half the population and should not continue to be excluded from references to human kind and what we have all so far achieved.

      I am not an expert on Swedish language, but I think you are referring to the male, female and neuter of many words in this language, German is similar. I haven’t studied this, but I would think that it stems from a long held belief that there are mans jobs and womens jobs so words were given an appropriate gender status depending on which sex they were thought to belong to. Anything that crossed both sexes like ‘Das Auto'(car) in German was given a neutral status. I know that in German there are exceptions to this rule, but it is interesting to wonder why these gender status’s are used at all.

      If you really think about what you are saying “Swedish word because I think it is okay to use ‘man’ in Swedish to represent both genders”, is the issue that is being referenced in the article. It’s not OK to me for my gender to be represented as ‘man’ when females and males are different, but no less equal. What about gay, lesbian and transgendered people, should be refer to them as ‘man’ as well? By using the term ‘man’, it just makes men the standard that everything is measured by, no wonder women have been discriminated against for centuries. Thanks for responding.

  2. Dearest Susanne,

    Time got away from me and I never got to arrange that catch up before Xmas, my apologies.

    We are off to your old stomping ground Noosa for a couple of weeks, fingers crossed the weather holds out for us. I am so looking forward to stopping…sitting on the balcony, walking along the river front, walking through the national park, pottering around the markets and someone cooking for me in all the yummy cafes!!!

    I hope you all have a lovely Christmas and holiday season. Look forward to catching up in 2013.

    Stacey xox

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