Using Gender-Neutral Language
Since the 1970s, awareness of the psychological effects of exclusionary language has increased. The most pervasive type of exclusionary language is the use of masculine referents in contexts that are about people in general. Much of the Ageless Wisdom literature was written at a time when gender-specific (i.e., masculine) referents were in everyday use.
Nowadays the standard publication reference books – e.g., The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association and The Chicago Manual of Style – urge writers to use bias-free or gender-neutral language. We see this philosophy reflected in Today’s New International Version of the Bible, using Romans 12:6-8 as an example:
Original New International Version:
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”
Today’s New International Version:
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
Quotations from the Blue Books, however, are still typically presented with no modification to gender-specific referents. The easiest solution is to substitute a similar passage without a gender-specific referent, which can then be quoted as published. If that is not possible, there are four common ways to make modifications to the text in order to retain the original meaning while eliminating gender-specific referents. These are illustrated below, using the following sentence as an example: “The reasoning mind of the disciple can then take the successes and failures he encounters in his training and learn the intended lessons.”
- Use partial quotes so that you can substitute gender-neutral language for gender-specific referents.
The reasoning mind of the disciple can then take the successes and failures …[encountered in] training and learn the intended lessons.
- Recast the sentence so that no personal pronoun is required.
The reasoning mind of the disciple can then take the successes and failures encountered in training and learn the intended lessons.
- Recast the sentence in the plural.
The reasoning minds of disciples can then take the successes and failures they encounter in their training and learn the intended lessons.
- Substitute an article (“the” or “a” or “an”) for a personal, gender-specific pronoun.
The reasoning mind of the disciple can then take the successes and failures encountered in the training and learn the intended lessons.
See the following article for a more detailed exploration of this issue:
Towards Inclusive, Bias-Free Language