Inclusive. Image: Agence Olloweb on Unsplash

Inclusive Language Is Not Exclusive Language

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but it seems we have a problem with calling people by their proper titles. Apparently, mothers must now be called “birthing persons“, waiters and waitresses are referred to as “servers” and mankind will henceforth be “humankind“. Because, according to fanatical right-wing activists, it’s too offensive for us progressives to use the truth. Well, in that case, I have to forgive myself, since that is not what is happening.

You see, ‘humankind’ is a very inclusive term. More so than ‘mankind’ which was clearly coined by men. To some of you, ‘men’ has always been used to encompass women, too. But, in my own humble opinion, believing the word man encompasses woman is like believing women are men. Because the ultimate definition of man is one who sports a penis and appears masculine. It doesn’t fit the physical attributions of a woman, therefore ‘mankind’ could potentially be misconstrued as a sexist term.

But, aren’t we all just crying over spilt milk? Hell, it’s not even spilt milk on this occasion. It’s more like water spilt on a bed of plants. To be precise: it’s doing more good than harm. It’s including people into a world where many of them feel they don’t belong. And that’s not just sentimental, it’s also saving lives. Indeed, it sucks that you may have to use extra syllables to get your message across – but not all inclusive terms are big words anyway. Besides, as any writer will tell you, using the precise word is better than using general terms.

In saying that, ‘mankind’ is just a word as well. And it’s not likely to be misconstrued unless you do so deliberately. (Or unless you say it to the wrong person.) But, technically, it’s not the right word. In a few years time, perhaps we could learn to accept mankind as referring to all men, womenkind referring to all women, and humankind referring to everyone – that way we could all be happy.

And then there is ‘servers’, which is a much more palatable word compared to waiter and waitress. And that’s because both waiter and waitress primarily focus on the act of waiting tables. But, not all hospitality staff actually wait on tables. Hell, far fewer of them actually wait in the more literal sense. However, all of them do serve, hence the word server. But there’s a more important reason why server works well and that’s to do with the gendering of the words waiter and waitress, as well as the more general use of waiter to include women.

And isn’t it funny that all those angry feminists out there are worried about trans women being called women? Some could argue there are much more important causes to be concerned about. Like the systemic male structures around language that still permeate society today.

In fact, that is what inclusive language aims to rectify. When you are referring to a group of people, it’s important to be as succinct as possible. And that is why we have inclusive language. Because many of the words we use today are not properly definitive.

Take mother, for instance. A mother is someone who births a child, raises it and loves it unconditionally. But you couldn’t necessarily call a surrogate mother a ‘mother’, since they’re not going to be the ones raising the child. This is why ‘birthing person’ could, in some instances, work. That is not to say that every mother should relinquish their right to call themselves mothers.

Another reason where birthing person would work better is if the person giving birth doesn’t consider themselves as female. An intersex person, for instance, may have female anatomy but male chromosomal characteristics. They can still give birth, but they may accept a male gender. Perhaps they would prefer the term father, which is their right. But some may be happy with the term birthing person. And what’s it to you?

Indeed, that doesn’t mean females, with female anatomy and chromosomal characteristics, can’t call themselves mothers. It’s like me not being able to call myself a gay man. It just ain’t gonna happen. And nobody in this world is asking you to forget your truth. It’s simply a ploy by the far-right who are shaping themselves into victims for no apparent reason.

Inclusive language doesn’t wish to be exclusively used; you can still call yourself a women, a white man, or even a mother. But it does wish to be used inclusively when referring to certain people. Because, in this wide and wavering world, not everything is as black and white. In other words: the truth is just a whole lot of grey. And I think it’s high time we all agree that some language is not as inclusive to everyone. No matter how tightly you squeeze them into a box.

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