When male AND female sex categories are erased from language

(15 Posts)
FeminismandWomensFights Fri 05-Feb-21 10:02:20

Please help vipers, I need arguments to challenge a group locally who aim to offer useful support to the public. The group want to use language that’s blind to biological sex. For example to use ‘people who... [insert uniquely female activity] or ‘parents who..’ [instead of ‘mums’ and ‘dads’]. Their hope is to be more inclusive. This is being equally applied to male and female sex categories.

How can I best challenge this? I feel this detaches the group offering the support from reality as experienced by the majority of the public who might want their help, and I can point out the disadvantages to women of denying biological reality. But what else can I argue to challenge this?

OP’s posts: |
TheBuffster Fri 05-Feb-21 11:17:18

I would go down the line of what doesn't need to be sexed due to not necessary or common sense.
Such instances I can think of are:

Parents and carers instead of mums and dads is inclusive of children being raised by grandparents, adopted, etc.

We are looking for volunteers to help with the cake sale (instead of mums and dads)

Such instances don't lose much from being inclusive however, some instances meaning is lost could be:

We are looking for mum's and dads to help drive kids to x (if changed to people could end up with safeguarding risks, as mum's and dads are informally seen as less of a safeguarding risk than ransoms)

Our local book group for mum's (nothing wrong with either sex joining, but if it's already heavy with one sex could make males joining uncomfortable)

Our maternity yoga group for mother's to be(I feel this explains itself but some people think father's to be can give birth, I'd be adding a caveat like 'pregnant people' as well as MTB not instead of, arguing that the word mother is very emotional and part of the language that eases pregnant women in to motherhood.)

Without knowing your organisation it's hard to come up with specifics, but the main reason for keeping sexed words are:

Clarity- whether medical or just to signpost who you are talking to in shorthand. Long-winded explanations lose interest.

Respect- most people prefer men or women than menstruaters and wankers.

Universal understanding- if you use roundabout terms like people who lactate you're going to end up alienating people who don't understand the words through language or education barriers.

A good idea would be to perhaps test drive them in a meeting. See how people really respond to, " Can all the menstruaters line up here and all the prostrate Havers over there?" Then watch ensuing indignation and chaos.

TheBuffster Fri 05-Feb-21 11:18:18

Randoms not ransoms

Kit19 Fri 05-Feb-21 11:20:03

"aim to offer support to the public"

what sort of support are they aiming to offer?

titchy Fri 05-Feb-21 11:28:41

You know sometimes it's ok to use language that isn't sexed. 'Parents and carers' is fine to use instead of 'Mums and dads' - better in fact because it includes anyone caring for a child.

You need to give specific examples I'm afraid of where non-sexed language is being used at the expense of clarity - the above isn't such an example.

334bu Fri 05-Feb-21 12:49:30

Birthing person is an example of where non sexed language is totally confusing.
Birthing person - person helping a woman give birth AKA midwife, obstetrician?
Birthing person- person actually giving birth AKA mother?

FeminismandWomensFights Fri 05-Feb-21 12:50:21

Thanks. I’m keeping this vague deliberately but it’s talking-based peer support aimed at adults around issues affecting their families, so the support is offered from pregnancy onwards.

I just feel uncomfortable with the organisers not acknowledging sex differences in language when eg majority of relevant ‘parents’ in many instances will be mothers. Obviously pregnancy, BF etc is a female experience. They also want to refer to ‘LGBTQ+ families’ as well and I don’t think it’s helpful to lump in sexuality and identity together. Maybe the language without sexed terms is more inclusive in some instances, I’ll pick my battles with what I challenge.

OP’s posts: |


FeminismandWomensFights Fri 05-Feb-21 12:53:44

I think my OP came from the fact that language changes are usually inflicted on women only, but here the changes seem to be aimed at everyone so it feels a bit trickier to articulate why it still feels not actually ‘inclusive’.

OP’s posts: |
AuroraBor Fri 05-Feb-21 13:47:44

With the "people who...." phrasing the common denominator is lost. When you talk about issues faced by "people who menstruate", "people who give birth" and "people who lactate" you're taking about 3 groups of people when in reality you mean mostly the same group of people.

MichelleofzeResistance Fri 05-Feb-21 15:16:25

Language and comprehension barriers are created for people by this carefully skirting, avoidant language.

There's nothing wrong with women and..... mothers and.....

Include, don't erase, don't go for high faluting political language that is in fact elitist and exclusionary in practice to many vulnerable communities, and point out that the people disadvantaged by this will be in the massive majority vulnerable females. Also look at whether there is a disproportionate avoidance/change of female centric language to male centric. Avoiding transphobia is of course important. And so is avoiding gynephobia. It's a balance between the two.

TheBuffster Fri 05-Feb-21 15:22:20

The word mother is incredibly emotionally loaded for me. My DH is a parent too but didn't carry or birth dear son so his feelings are different. I carry a lot of guilt because D's has a birth related disability and find it difficult to express even to DH because my body let baby down. The word mother is important in identifying my particular mental health needs which are very different from my husband's as being a mother is central to my trauma and not just a parent.

Ereshkigalangcleg Fri 05-Feb-21 15:55:04

Buffster thanks

TheBuffster Fri 05-Feb-21 16:28:04

Thanks @Ereshkigalangcleg.
I imagine I am just the sort of person ops group would be looking to support.
I don't mind if you use my story as an example op, as I think an important part of my trauma is the very particular role I played as a mother to be and now mother.

FeminismandWomensFights Fri 05-Feb-21 17:08:12

Thank you Buffster and good wishes to you and your family flowers
Thanks everyone for all your comments. It is all very helpful in trying to articulate the balance I think they could get to, with some more thinking about women’s needs as well as ‘everyone’s’ needs.

OP’s posts: |
LolaSmiles Fri 05-Feb-21 17:16:32

If the desire is to be genuinely inclusive then there is no need to erase any group.

Mums and birthing parents works fine to be inclusive without erasing the very important and clear 'mum', but only talking about birthing parents is deliberately erasing mum, which is what most people call themselves if they are an adult human who has given birth.

Parents and carers would work for a family support group because it's inclusive of different families, without trying to erase the fact that many family groups are for parents.

I'd always ask 'is this language clear to the majority?' and 'is this language excluding rather than including?'. If the push is to exclude and hinder clear communication then that tells you a lot about the agendas of those involved.

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