Nice to Know: Avoiding Sexist Language

Sometimes people can be very sensitive when it comes to conversations, especially when it comes to using sexist language. In order to minimize or avoid sexist conversations, here are some guidelines for you to consider:

1. When a gender of an object is unknown, don’t assume a supposed gender. Ex. When talking about a doctor, don’t assume the doctor is he.

2. Sexism may sometimes be introduced in a language through use of suffix. Adding ess or ette onto an otherwise neutral noun indicates a masculine adjustment to a feminine word thus should be avoided in a non-sexist language.

3. Some words diminish or demean. Ex. Women referring to as chicks. Or, using terms such as Lady of the House or Dear Housewife.

4. Cultural habits contribute to sexism. Like, the adding of man to many words is one troublesome peculiarity of English. Ex. salesman, chairman, spokesman and fireman.

5. Stop stereotyping. People behave according to perceptions. If males perceive themselves as powerful men, they carry themselves proudly and strongly. If women perceive themselves as passive, weak and submissive, they behave in powerless ways. Ex. Secretary is always pictured as a woman while a bank president is always pictured as a man.

6. Avoid verbal abuse. Words are very powerful weapons or healers depending on the choice of verbiage and the manner it was spoken.

Here are more detailed tips on what to do:

1. Avoid using man to refer to typical human being.

Sexist: Man was created by God to inhabit the earth.

Non-Sexist: Humans/ People were created by God to inhabit the earth.

2. Use man correctly. Substitute man with non-sexist terms.

a. Man as Verb: Substitute with work, serve, operate, staff, run

Sexist: We are going to man the booth.

Non-Sexist: We are going to watch/supervise the booth.

b. Man as Prefix

Sexist: Mankind, manpower, man-made, man-hours.

Non-Sexist: Humanity, human-power, artificial, work-hours.

c. Man as Suffix

Sexist: Chairman, spokesman, salesman.

Non-Sexist: Chair, president, presider, spokesperson, speaker, salesperson.

d. Man as People

Sexist: Englishmen, Frenchmen

Non-Sexist: The English, The French

e. Man as Public Servant

Sexist: Congressman, lady senator.

Non-Sexist: Legislator, representative, senator.

3. Use pronouns correctly. A noun is used to replace a noun or another pronoun. First and second pronouns are genderless. (I, we, me, you, ours, yours, etc.) Third person pronouns cause sexist difficulties. Once used accurately, no problems exist.


a. Use plural nouns/pronouns:

Sexist: A child should learn to tie his own shoelace.

Non-Sexist: Children should learn to tie their own shoelace.

b. Omit the pronoun:

Sexist: A politician likes to offer his opinions.

Non-Sexist: A politician likes to offer opinions.

c. Change the subject:

Sexist: A lawyer who wants to win his case will work hard.

Non-Sexist: Hard work is important to a lawyer who wants to win a case.

d. Use the passive voice:

Sexist: The gardener uses his tools in his work.

Non-Sexist: The gardeners work is accomplished with the use of tools.

4. Use the neutral words. Stop the habit of making two forms of nouns – masculine and feminine when only one is required.

Sexist: Usher – usherette, major – majorette

Non-Sexist: Attendant, band player, bus helper, assistant, physician.

5. Define women by who they are, not by who their fathers or husbands are.

Sexist: Mr. & Mrs. Juan Dela Cruz

Non-Sexist: Juan & Marie Dela Cruz

Sexist: Beth, the wife of Juan…

Non-Sexist: Beth, who is marred to Juan…

There are just about some of the guidelines and tips on how to evade a sexist conversations. Don’t let this be a barrier of communication but an aide on how to create a very healthy discussion. Who knows? What if the person who you are trying to have a big business deal with is sensitive with these issues, you may lose your chance, right?


2 thoughts on “Nice to Know: Avoiding Sexist Language

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