In today’s world of digital connectivity, once marginalised members of society have been given a global voice. Technology has facilitated a greater distribution of power and opportunity through the influence of social media platforms, blogs and online publications; moving mountains for social justice movements. In our first in a series of blogs around society equality, we explore how to write content that continues to uphold gender equality by irradicating outdated roles, narratives and stigmas.
Writing content that empowers people across all sectors of global society does not only benefit your consumers but goes forth to maintain and uphold proper standards; making your brand a role model for your audience and inspiring your competition.
As content writers, we know that language is one of the most powerful tools that we have at our disposal. The language we use informs the tone of what we’re saying, explains complex ideas and evokes emotional responses. It goes without saying that creating valuable content relies upon being able to craft and master language to its full potential.
Unfortunately, there are many examples of archaic language that can perpetuate and uphold divisive gender stereotypes. Some examples of patriarchal language are so embedded in our dichotomy that they may be hard to notice. For example, words such as ‘masterpiece’, ‘mankind’, and ‘manpower’ all centre men, without needing to mention them. All of these words have perfectly acceptable gender-sensitive synonyms: ‘treasure’, ‘humankind’, ‘workforce’.
It may seem subtle, but these small words uphold a male-centric use of language and do not support female equality. Although their usage may not be offensive, if you are writing content to be consumed by an audience you should avoid any use of language that favours one particular gender.
Substituting gender-discriminatory language with neutral alternatives is an easy way to write better content. Gender-neutral language encompasses not only male and female but also more fluid gender categories and non-binary people. Examples include switching out the word ‘man’ for ‘person’ in words like ‘chairman’ or ‘postman’.
However, a gender-neutral approach still takes the male perspective as its basis. This means that the views of women and other marginalised genders can go overlooked. Therefore, gender-neutral language can still run the risk of being gender-blind (the complete non-consideration of gender) by upholding unjust privileges as it removes consideration for non-male people.
When writing, using gender-sensitive language is often the best course of action to ensure that you recognise your full audience and uphold standards that should be used globally.
How to use Gender-Sensitive Language
The European Institute for Gender Equality recommends incorporating these three key principles in your approach. We’ve expanded each idea to help you in your content creation:
- Recognise and challenge stereotypes.
When writing content, you must interrogate the language that you use to determine if it is appropriate. As time goes on, language develops and the root of what we say often becomes lost. For example, the word ‘mankind’ is often used innocently, but the core of its meaning suggests that humanity is only geared towards men.
In these instances, we must question and look into the hidden meaning of what we are saying. When the words we use are shared, it is essential that they benefit others and do not harm people.
- Be inclusive, avoid omission and make others visible
As mentioned before, gender-neutral language often neglects important messages by upholding male perspectives. Addressing gender isn’t something that you should be afraid to do in your content, but be sure that you are confronting injustices and promoting equality.
- Be respectful, avoid trivialisation and subordination.
Playing down inequalities or acting as though we live in a utopian society where they do not exist is not helpful. As things improve, we should recognise this and be grateful for progression, but avoid becoming complacent. We still have a long way to go to achieve equality and each and every one of us must play an important role.
Go Forth and Write Fairly
Now that we’ve taken a look at some of the basics of equality in content writing, you should be able to write with more confidence that what you are writing doesn’t have the potential to hurt and offend.
We all know that words matter and when you don’t know who can be reading them, you have to be extra vigilant that you are writing properly. The internet is mostly accessible to all, so remember that even if people are outside of your target audience, they can still read your content.
At It Works Media, we know that writing content can be difficult! We hire and train experts to create effective content strategies that meet the needs of our clients as well as the needs of our society.