According to a recent study by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and UCLA, the avoidance of masculine pronouns can play a significant role in reducing gender prejudice and increasing support for minority genders.
In the study, which was published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Last month, the researchers asked participants to use either masculine (he / she / his), feminine (she / his / her) or gender-neutral (they / them / their) pronouns to describe a hypothetical situation as a politician going to his office. (Note: They / them / theirs are not the only gender-neutral pronouns that people use. For a list of others and information on how to use them, click here.) Then, after the introductory description, researchers invited participants to share their views on women and LGBT people.
The results confirmed the researchers' hypothesis that gender language affects our implicit bias toward men: Those who were asked to use feminine and gender-neutral pronouns to describe the hypothetical scenarios were more likely to support women and those in the LGBTQ community. On the other hand, participants who used masculine pronouns were less likely.
"The results show that individual use of gender-neutral pronouns reduces the mental capacity of men," study authors Margit Tavits and Efrén O. Pérez write. "This shift is associated with people expressing less bias in favor of traditional gender roles and categories, which manifests itself in more positive attitudes toward women and LGBT people in public affairs."
Whether we know it or not, how we talk not only reflects our personal values, but cultivates personal and cultural prejudices. This is because gender language can be similar to linguistic sexism. How we speak influences our perception and bias towards others – and researchers say that our language creates power dynamics in society.
For example, using words like "guys" to address a group of people basically erases everyone in the group who is not a man, while saying "humanity" as a catch for "humanity" or "firefighters" instead of "firefighters" Sets the standard that masculinity is a cultural baseline.
These language choices have unfortunate consequences, according to Tavits & # 39; and Pérez & # 39; study. “When considering citizen business, speakers who use male pronouns are more likely to regard it as a male world, and see other groups as atypical. Speakers who use masculine pronouns will also be more likely to support traditional gender roles as they adapt to a male-centered view. "
While we tend to think about gender differences in workplace dynamics or family roles, the effects of gender language are more expansive than we might assume. And in some cases, sexual intercourse can be literally a matter of life or death. For example, although the name of a hurricane may seem harmless, studies show that hurricanes with traditionally female names are perceived as less serious than those with male names, resulting in lower evacuation rates and higher deaths.
These gender phrases, as other kinds as they may be to some, can have powerful consequences in society – but researchers are hopeful that by making a conscious effort to exchange how we speak, we can exploit the positive effects of gender-neutral language.
"Words matter," Pérez says attract. "The specific words we use can disrupt people from making judgments and choices that we as a society may think are good for us as a whole, such as greater equality and inclusion of LGBTQ communities."
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