Speaking to All. (Tip-Off)

Article excerpt

Words are so important in any people-related business, and they affect the everyday behavior of all of us who support recreation and parks.

People often say, "When I use the pronoun `he,' I mean everyone--girls and boys or men and women." Some of us can probably remember learning in our high school English classes that the appropriate singular pronoun was always "he." But words aren't just words. Our mental reality (or words) helps us to construct our world. The Equity Institute notes that using the words "man," "he" or "guys" to refer to men and women doesn't describe our world accurately.

The impact that language has on a culture is overwhelming. It dictates our values, attitudes, opinions, beliefs and, most significantly, our behavior. There's a close relationship between language and its effect on self-awareness, self-concept, self-identity and self-esteem. What makes gender-exclusive language so insidious is that it's so widely used and generally accepted. People don't see it, they don't hear it and they don't even notice it. But if we truly believe in and desire equality and equity for all individuals in our culture, then our language must reflect our beliefs and desires. Make language neutral and inclusive, not value-laden and exclusive. There's no better place to do this than in a recreation or park setting, where people go voluntarily during their free time to participate in something they truly enjoy.

In recent years, considerable attention has been paid to the use of gender-neutral language. It has become common to find most modern textbooks using "he/she" or "him or her," or having one paragraph which uses the feminine pronoun and the next paragraph which uses the masculine pronoun. As these examples show, it's quite easy to change gender-specific words to make them inclusive. …

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