Language and diversity


Language has power. It gives power and it takes it away. That little ditty we learned as kids - sticks and stones may break my bones, but words with never hurt me - is complete bollocks. Words can hurt, both at a personal and a societal level.

I’ve been finding a lot written on how language can help or harm efforts to increase diversity. From the obvious - using the suffix ‘man’ on every job role which instantly limits who seems capable of performing that job, to the more subtle.

I’ll start with a couple of articles I found recently, which are at the more subtle end of the spectrum.

The Linguistic Turf Wars Over the Singular ‘They’
A good historical look at the origin of ‘they’ and how the current argument that it’s not grammatical are complete rubbish (you don’t hear anyone complaining about using ‘you’ in the singular yet the ‘correct’ singular version is ‘thou’ which we dropped centuries ago.

PRI’s The World In Words podcast recently did an episode on ‘They’ which is a good partner to the above article.

Another word that causes all sorts of problems - objective.
4 Reasons Demanding ‘Objectivity’ in Social Justice Debates Can Be Oppressive
Objectivity has become, particularly for those fighting against social justice issues, the be-all-and-end-all. As soon as you show any personal stake in an issue you’re arguments are rejected as ‘not being objective’, regardless of whether your arguments have merit. This is a great little listicle that explains why ‘objectivity’ has become so popular with those trying to maintain the status quo



[Talking right: I lost my Appalachian accent to fit in. Now I want it back][1]

I really like this article as it touches on so many issues with such lightness. We are judged, and judge, based on accents. There’s accents associated with being smart and accents associated with being stupid, even though accents do not, and never have, been accurate at conveying this information. After all, the idiotic toff is a standard trope of many comedies. But we still expect academics to talk in a certain way and it can force those who don’t conform to these expectations to change the way they speak. So people either have to change who they are or chose not to pursue a career they want.

ADMIN NOTE - link seems to be dead



Meet the woman who changed the dictionary definition of ‘femininity’
Changing the meaning of potentially sexist words, one dictionary definition at a time.



Science famously strives to be objective but it is becoming increasingly clear to me objectivity is subjective and in the eye of the beholder, and what we call ‘objectivity’ is really just the status quo of the white male. It seems I’m not the only one to notice this…

White Men Of Academia Have An ‘Objectivity’ Problem

“Objectivity,” for example, frames a white male subjectivity as the norm (thus “objective”), rendering racialized (non-white) and genderized (non-male) subjectivity as the “other,” as lacking credibility.



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Inclusivity putting French language in ‘mortal danger’, claims l’Académie française
Get out the tiny violins out for l’Académie française who fear for the future of the French language if it were to stop unnecessarily gendering nouns. The article gives a fascinating history of this feature of French and some of the solutions people have suggested to end it.



[note to self - logged]