Get Inspired, Be Empowered Forums Gender Justice The need to incorporate gender neutral (or gender inclusive) pronouns in every day speech and writing. Reply To: The need to incorporate gender neutral (or gender inclusive) pronouns in every day speech and writing.

Mayuravarshini Mohana
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Gender, in feminist discourses, is often perceived as socially constructed i.e., the value and credit accorded to gender holds true only when socially situated. The plebeian understanding of gender as a concrete identity problematizes unique individual expressions. Gender is in fact not an identity but a pattern of behaviour and thinking. Beauvoir’s famous statement ‘One is not born a woman but becomes one’ clarifies that women, and by extension men, are not essential beings. They are expressions of societal expectations (a ‘womanly’ woman and a ‘manly’ man) that come along with strait-jacketed gender categories.

Considering gender as a social construction lifts its absolutism and permits a freer expression of gender and gender fluidity. Gender is not a binary but a spectrum, contrary to what we’ve been conditioned to believe. Our society and education system exhibit rigidity in its conception of gender and this cultivates in most of us, intolerance towards those who defy the normative. We comprehend this resistance by labelling it as abnormal, weird and defiant.

Language plays an important role in our perception of identities. In fact, our language determines the way we organise and understand the world. The ‘world’ in question is a product of our language and right now, it is predominantly gender-exclusive. Right from the day we learn to speak, our minds condition themselves to the gender- binary. There are a lot of people who identify as agender (having no gender), bigender (both man and woman) and non-binary (not conforming to the man or woman). Restricting our usage of English pronouns to he/she is an act of oppression. It otherises persons who do not identify as man or woman, making them feel excluded and unacknowledged. Therefore, there is a growing insistence on the usage of gender inclusive pronouns.

Gender-inclusive pronouns are all about avoiding misgendering. A person’s gender should not be assumed based on their clothing or behaviour and imposed on them, especially through our language. Instead, it is best to ask a person’s preferred pronoun and use it. Most often, people add it to their bio description on their social media handles. For instance, not all intersex people and trans people identifying as man prefer the pronoun ‘he’. Some may prefer being referred to using their first name instead of a gendered pronoun. People who identify as non-binary, like Demi Levato who came out recently, often prefer they/them. Sometimes zie/hir (pronounced as zee and here) is the preference. Example, zie bought a skateboard with hir new credit card.

Remember, using gender-neutral language instead of preferred pronoun may make people feel unacknowledged and invalidated. It is also extremely important to not restrict the usage just to discourses/discussion on gender fluidity. It must be extended to everyday usage such as emails, news reporting, diary entry, chats etc. to build a prejudice free inclusive world.