Invisibility and omission in language

Invisibility and omission in language occur when the male version is used as the generic norm and, as a result, keeps women from being visible in public life.

The following sections address the invisibility and omission of women in communication and propose ways to acknowledge and promote their visibility and inclusion actively:

  • Do not use 'man' as the neutral term

  • Do not use 'he' to refer to unknown people

  • Do not use gender-biased nouns to refer to groups of people

  • Take care with 'false generics'

  • Greetings and other forms of inclusive communication

Examples of situations where women may be subject to invisibility or omission and alternatives to use:

Gendered examples

Solution

Alternatives

Each participant should submit his paper a week before the meeting.

Use 'his/her' or ‘their.’

Each participant should submit his/her paper a week before the meeting.

The head of unit has to travel abroad often. This places a heavy burden on him and his family.

Change the sentence to a plural.
Use his/her.

The head of unit has to travel abroad often. This places a heavy burden on her/him and his/her family.
The heads of unit have to travel abroad often. This places a heavy burden on them and their families.

Under the law, all men are equal.

Use women and men or people.

Under the law, all women and men are equal. Under the law, all people are equal.

The second candidate was the best man for the job.

Avoid omission and use person.

The second candidate was the best person for the job.

This house is located in no man's land between two villages.

Remove the gendered noun, and use unclaimed territory.

This house is located in unclaimed territory between two villages.

To boldly go where no man has gone before.

Remove the gendered noun; use no-one.

To boldly go where no one has gone before.

In the fieldwork phase of the project, the research team is encouraged to talk to the man in the street.

Avoid use of men when
referring to both women
and men. Use average
or ordinary people.

In the fieldwork phase of the project, the research team is encouraged to talk to ordinary people.

Gendered pronouns and alternatives | European Institute for Gender Equality (europa.eu)

How to avoid invisibility and omission?

Do not use ‘man’ as the neutral term

Example 1
Gender-discriminatory language
Under the law, all men are equal.

Gender-neutral language
Under the law, all people are equal.

Gender-sensitive language
Under the law, all women and men are equal.

Example 2

Gender-discriminatory language
We play man-defence

Gender-neutral language
We play match defence

Gender-sensitive language
We play women's defence (in the women’s division)

Do not use ‘he’ to refer to unknown people

Example 1
Gender-discriminatory language
Each player is responsible for his calls.

Gender-neutral language
Each player is responsible for their call.

Gender-sensitive language
Each player is responsible for his or her call.

Do not use gender-biased nouns to refer to groups of people

Example 1
Gender-discriminatory language
Manmade fabrics can actually require less manpower to produce than natural fabrics.

Gender-neutral language
Synthetic fabrics can actually require fewer human resources to produce than natural fabrics.

Example 2
Gender-discriminatory language
The forefathers of today’s villagers used the same methods for catching fish as today’s villagers.

Gender-neutral language
The ancestors of today’s villagers used the same methods for catching fish as today’s villagers.

Examples of common gendered nouns and alternatives

Take care with ‘false generics’

Examples of gender-neutral language
In 2014, 14% of people aged 18-65 stated that they had experienced sexual violence in the previous year.

Better language (gender-sensitive)
In 2014, 23% of women and 5% of men aged 18-65 stated that they had experienced sexual violence in the previous year.

Follow the EUF:
Any feedback on this page?
With the support of the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.