i’m not sure if this should be categorized under semantics or feminism, though both pet-peeves were drilled into me here (I say that thankfully). While I am certainly not a raving man-hating ‘feminist’ (i am after all a satisfied homemaker), I do have some ‘feminist’ leanings. I remember relating to a rather broad definition of the term in a Gender Communication class (my favorite class ever btw)…though unfortunately do not remember the definition. however, I digress.
I try not to be too overt about it, but I am a stickler for gender-neutral terms. My son uses the following terms: Postal Worker, Mail Carrier, Police Officer, Firefighter. The only word i have trouble with is “chairman”. Chairwoman/man goes back to specifying gender which i prefer to just avoid all-together (therefore you never have to wonder if you have it right) & “chairperson” well…that’s just silly. thankfully that one doesn’t come up in typical conversations with a 2yr old. Anyhow (there i go digressing again), my problem? Children’s books. Even the aforementioned “Someone Bigger” is chock-full of non gender-neutral terms. I realize that they are correctly relating to the gender of the people pictured, but still…..partially b/c it’s confusing for a 2yr old to sort out when to use the male version of the word vs. the female or neutral & partially b/c it’s just a silly pet-peeve that I hold dear….it irritates me. If it’s not a rhyming book & i can sneak it in, I’ll just change the word. However, my beloved “someone bigger” is a rhyming book. It does not sound the same to insert “firefighter” where “fireman” was written.
Worse yet, a big one for me is “you guys”. Ha! Everyone uses that! I think i’ve mentioned before that around the time I was leaving Georgia, I consciously worked to exchange “ya’ll” for “you guys” in my vocabulary. Mostly successful, but somehow my son has picked up the term “guys” & says it to Grace & I constantly. So I constantly redirect him to say ya’ll, “because Grace and I are not guys, we are girls”. The kicker: he’s got me saying it! I’m too impressionable.