Editorial | Pitt’s gender inclusive language guide is useful, worthy of praise


Tom Brenner/Pool via AP

Sen. Josh Hawley’s paper covers part of the face of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

A certain unnamed jerk in the United States Senate tried his hand at some Pittsburghese on Thursday, brutally butchering the use of “yinz” in an effort to score a few internet points. This self-inflicted humiliation was an attempt to mock Pitt for encouraging the use of gender-inclusive language.

There’s a tirade to be had about why senators should be too busy to fuel nonsense culture wars, but we’re only two paragraphs into this editorial and have already given said jerk too much oxygen.

The point is, as students, we could not be prouder of Pitt’s efforts to make every member of our community feel welcome and at home on campus. This language guide published by the University offers simple, easy suggestions that can go a long way in ensuring people feel respected and their experiences are treated with value.

Some parts of the guide focus on opportunities to specify preferred pronouns, suggesting that students include them in their email signatures and Zoom profiles. It also brings up a few recommendations for respecting and using a person’s preferred pronouns. These include asking if you forget someone’s pronouns, understanding that pronouns can change over time and taking accountability for accidentally misgendering a person.

If this seems overboard to you, consider this — pronouns are part of your most personal identity, just like your name. Nobody should have to feel the disrespect of routinely, and perhaps even intentionally, being called the wrong name. The same goes for pronouns.

The guide does an excellent job addressing other potential objections to using inclusive language, citing the incredibly basic truth that language is always changing, and is based in social constructs anyways. Referring to a person as “they,” even when it doesn’t perfectly agree with English language conventions, is not some desecration of the language, it’s simply a modicum of politeness to a fellow human being.

The guide also points out the damage of relying solely on male or heterosexual examples when teaching. Not only is this shortchanging students of the full breadth of a topic, but it can unintentionally create a sexist and homophobic classroom environment. Even something as small as switching to the use of “first-year student” instead of “freshman” can make a difference.

Mocking gender-inclusive language is conservatives’ favorite, and perhaps only, joke, but making the aforementioned jerk look silly isn’t the point. Rooting out sexism and misgendering are not things to trade social media dunks over.

The fact is that taking small steps, like subbing out “ladies and gentlemen” for “yinz,” are of no cost to you, and are a show of respect and appreciation for others’ identities. We’re grateful to attend a university that’s committed to making gestures like this the norm.

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