Use inclusive language

Language is a powerful tool and can have a massive impact on athletes. Using the correct language, depending on the situation, is hugely important to ensuring everyone is included and respected.Key reference: Toolkit on gender-sensitive communication   

Theoretical premises and main definitions 

Language reproduces and produces social dynamics 

Language reflects the attitudes, behaviours and norms within a society. It also shapes people's attitudes about what is 'normal' and acceptable. 

See also: Overview of the toolkit | European Institute for Gender Equality

Gender-sensitive language 

Gender-sensitive language is gender equality made manifest through language. Gender equality in language is attained when women and men –  and those who do not conform to the binary gender system – are addressed through language as persons of equal value, dignity, integrity and  respect. 

Gender-neutral language 

This is not gender-specific and considers people in general, with no reference to women or men. It is also called gender-blind language. 

Example of gender-neutral language: “People do not fully appreciate the impact they have on the environment.” 

See also:  Pronouns | European Institute for Gender Equality

What are we challenging? 

Gender-discriminatory language 

Gender-discriminatory language is the opposite of gender-sensitive language. It includes words, phrases and/or other linguistic features that  foster stereotypes or demeanours and ignore women or men. At its most extreme, it fails to treat the genders as equal in value, dignity, integrity  and respect. 

Example of gender-discriminatory language: “Ambassadors and their wives are invited to attend an after-dinner reception” 

There are three broad categories under which much gender-discriminatory language falls: 

  • Stereotypes 
  • Invisibility and omission 
  • Subordination and trivialisation 

Sexist language 

Essentially, sexist language is the same as gender-discriminatory language. However, there is a subtle difference in how people use the terms:  sexist language is commonly seen as a language that the user intends to be derogatory; gender-discriminatory language, on the other hand, also  includes language people use without any sexist intention. 

Example of sexist language: “Women shouldn't coach men's teams because women Ultimate is worse.” 

Gender-biassed language 

Gender-biassed language either implicitly or explicitly favours one gender over another and is a form of gender-discriminatory language. 

Example of gender-biassed language: “Every day, each citizen must ask himself how he can fulfil his civic duties”. 

Practical perspective: Ways to implement inclusive language 

General tips 

  2. Recognise and raise awareness of how language affects our behaviour and social dynamics 
  3. Recognise differences between the needs and the social conditions of women, men, and non-binary people 
  4. Challenge unconscious assumptions people have about gender roles in society 
  5. Do not automatically assume transgender people identify as ‘non-binary’. Many transgender people identify with one gender; this gender may differ from the one assigned to them at birth. 

See also: Practical tools (checklists and summary tables) | European Institute for Gender Equality

How to choose between a gender-sensitive and a gender-neutral language?

See also: Test your knowledge | European Institute for Gender Equality 

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