Posted by: ARNoack | October 17, 2012

Gender-Neutral Language Makes Gender Androgynous

As I reached the end of the chapter entitled “Feminism, Postfeminism, and ideologies of Femininity,” it saddened me that, according to Cameron, some women feel the need to become more like men in an effort to get ahead in their occupational or political careers. Women should be accepted for who they are regardless of their masculine or feminine traits because both men and women have valuable experiences, ideas, skills and perspectives to bring to any situation. I think the recent emphasis on gender-neutral language, in particular, attempts to elevate equality at the expense of diversity. 

“Actors” and “actresses” are now both “actors.” “Stewards” and “stewardesses” are now “flight attendants.” And “anchormen” and “anchorwomen” are simply “news anchors.” What this communicates to me is that men and women no longer have unique identities and perspectives: they’re interchangeable. I agree with the intended purpose of gender-neutral language: to avoid perpetuating the belief that one gender is more suited to one particular social or occupational role over another. But, in my experience, men and women are wonderfully, uniquely different and that should be celebrated, not mitigated. Perhaps this relates to the different perspectives on gender, biological essentialism (nature), that biology defines the essence of a person, and social constructionism (nurture), that society defines the essence of a person. I’d say nature and nurture both come into play. Overall, there’s one thing I’m certain of: I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the women in my life.

How does the concept of gender-neutral language affect the discourse on gender? Do you see gender from a biological essentialist or social constructionist viewpoint? Why?


  1. There are of course a lot of ways to look at this, but to me gender-neutral language is a way of indicating that gender is irrelevant to the situation at hand, and I think that’s a good thing. It’s a step towards thinking of people as people, rather than as their gender, ethnicity, etc. I agree that both men and women have diverse skills and perspectives to bring to the table, but I like the fact that gender-neutral language gives those various perspectives a sense of unity (they’re all human perspectives). It helps us as a society place emphasis on the fact that ability to perform a job or role like acting or anchoring is independent of factors like gender and ethnicity.

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