Study suggests use of gender-neutral terms to describe people leads to gender equality

Study suggests use of gender-neutral terms to describe people leads to gender-equality
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A pair of researchers, one with Washington University in St. Louis, the other with the University of California, has found evidence that suggests the use of gender-neutral terms to describe people promotes gender equality. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Margit Tavits and Efrén Pérez describe experiments they conducted with Swedish volunteers and what they found.

Back in 2012, people in Sweden began debating adding a new word to their language to describe people in a -neutral fashion. The language already had the words hon and han, for he and she respectively—the word hen was proposed to describe people without referring to their gender. By 2015, use of the new word had become commonplace, and was added to the Swedish Academy Glossary. In this new effort, the researchers wondered if widespread use of the word in Sweden had reduced male bias in general references, thereby leading to greater gender equality. To find out, they carried out three experiments that involved writing assignments by over 3000 volunteers.

In the first experiment, volunteers looked at a picture showing an androgynous character walking a dog. Each was then asked to use the familiar hon or han or the new word, hen, to describe the action in the picture. In the second experiment, volunteers completed a short story about a person of unknown gender running for office. The final experiment involved soliciting volunteers' views on women and non-males in general (LGBT and non-binary people).

The researchers report that those people who used the new word, hen, to describe the dog-walking picture were less likely to use a male name for their character. They also found that people took the same amount of time to write the story about the person running for office regardless of the term they used to describe them. And they found that people who used the new word showed more positivity towards LGBT people. They conclude by suggesting that the introduction of the new word into the Swedish lexicon has led to more gender-inclusive language. They further suggest that such inclusiveness could be leading to less gender bias and the promotion of gender equality.


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More information: Margit Tavits et al. Language influences mass opinion toward gender and LGBT equality, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2019). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1908156116

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Citation: Study suggests use of gender-neutral terms to describe people leads to gender equality (2019, August 6) retrieved 21 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-08-gender-neutral-terms-people-gender-equality.html
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Aug 06, 2019
Why don't we just refer to each other as "it", in lower case too, make everybody happy. It'll satisfy those few who hate heteros, those few who hate non-heteros and the seeming multitudes who are always self-righteous.

Aug 06, 2019
"(P)eople who used the new word showed more positivity towards LGBT people." So they concluded that the introduction of the word is the root cause of greater positivity toward LGBT people.

Did it ever occur to them that people who have empathy for LGBT people would be more likely to pick up and use the new word? Is it not equally (or even more) plausible that people who already had positive attitudes toward LGBT and gender equality are *precisely* the people who would be most likely to start using the word "hen?"

The found a statistically significant correlation. That's all they found. Their arguments about the impact of the word "hen" on society are speculation.

Aug 06, 2019
"It" sounds too much like an inanimate object. Hon or han -> hen worked well for the Swedes because the words are similar and the new word does not favor one gender or the other. I'm at a loss for a suitable new English replacements for him/her or she/he.

Aug 06, 2019
And yet, a nurse, is still called a nurse. The most lopsided profession ever, except motherhood.

Aug 06, 2019
And yet, gay couples and lesbian couples want to procreate, which STILL requires the sperm or the egg from the opposite sex.

It's no wonder that Sweden's population growth of ethnic Swedes has so diminished. The Swedes are so busy trying to placate/satisfy the 'dissatisfied' and those who feel humiliated by their 'birth genitalia' to the extent that they REFUSE to admit to their natural gender, and instead want to be known as some kind of unnatural dehumanised "thing" that is genderless. The 'inclusionary process' by which the genderless (or pretend-genderless, or the genitalia-modified creatures that the Swedes now dote on in full adoration), are to become the Emblem of the Swedish people and their god-forsaken country. It will be their Standard and their national identity to NOT welcome those (except Muslims) to Sweden who bemoan the fact that Swedes in Sweden are no longer procreating as they once did. It may also be a sign of White self-hatred.

Aug 06, 2019
And yet, a nurse, is still called a nurse. The most lopsided profession ever, except motherhood.
says copernicuson

WHY are you equating motherhood with a profession, lopsided or not? Does your Mum know how you feel about her giving birth to your sorry arse? The nursing profession is open to both genders.

Aug 06, 2019
And yet, a nurse, is still called a nurse. The most lopsided profession ever, except motherhood.
My nephew is a nurse for Chicago police department. He prefers paramedic, tho...

Aug 06, 2019
"It" sounds too much like an inanimate object. Hon or han -> hen worked well for the Swedes because the words are similar and the new word does not favor one gender or the other. I'm at a loss for a suitable new English replacements for him/her or she/he.

How bout - we (or us)...
There, now doesn't that sound less divisive and more promoting of inclusive cooperative behavior?

Aug 06, 2019
This information is useless without statistics to indicate the degree of difference. If it's 1%, say, no one will ever notice in practice.

Aug 06, 2019
This information is useless without statistics to indicate the degree of difference. If it's 1%, say, no one will ever notice in practice.


Because a larger effect requires less data to show it is statistically significant people confuse "statistically significant" with "large effect".

Aug 07, 2019
Seems like a nice, randomized (if not double blinded), large enough study (several thousands) with with great statistic significance (P < 0.001) and mostly large effect sizes (often 0.2 to 0.6). And while it is language instead of culture dependent, it verifies a nice effect specifically in my local environment!

"(P)eople who used the new word showed more positivity towards LGBT people." So they concluded that the introduction of the word is the root cause of greater positivity toward LGBT people.

Did it ever occur to them that people who have empathy for LGBT people would be more likely to pick up and use the new word?


Did it ever occur to you to read and understand the study? It was randomized.

In fact, none of what you claim is what the study found (see above) or discuss (see its discussion)! It's like you were more interested to verify *your own* bias than of the actual subject and the facts at hand ...

Aug 08, 2019
'It's like you were more interested to verify *your own* bias... '

What "bias" is that, Torbjorn? Have you now become a 'mind-reader' and aficionado of perceived biases? Please explain.

Aug 08, 2019
More crap science from the Humanities fools in universities. They've ruined the humanities with their BS gay hypothesis, not even theories.

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