Do you remember the first time you heard or saw somebody say not to use gendered pronouns? Wait, what? It was a confusing thing to see, but you maybe shook your head and brushed it off as that one person being a bit far out there. And then you heard it more and more. You started to see she/her listed in bios and emails. What? And then it became a growing topic on social media. Eventually it made the news and became somewhat mainstream. It’s infiltrated some schools now. At some point, there was a shift from people using inclusive language to people banning traditional gendered language. I first saw it in Facebook groups for women’s health. It was jolting and bizarre. Then in another group and another group. Then entire groups banned the use of words like women, mother, breastfeeding….in groups for women’s health. As a doula, I couldn’t wrap my head around this. These are the words we’ve used our entire lives. Since when are they offensive? Where is this coming from? It hasn’t been around that long and now the language we’ve used for thousands of years has been banned in some places.
What do you do when you’re presented with this issue?
You want to respect people. You want to be kind. You want to avoid arguments. Kindness can be hard when people on social media are angry and hateful. How do you handle it when someone tells you to change your language? Let’s talk about a couple different approaches.
While some choose to use the alternative terms and do not push their views on others, it has become commonplace for people to correct another person’s language or tell them they need to change it. What do you do when someone confronts you about your use of traditional language?
1: Refuse to be baited.
You don’t have to respond. You can carry on with the language you use. Be confident. The social media language police are not your people, not your village, and not people you are required to have this conversation with.
2: Disconnect from spaces that don’t align with your values.
Leave those groups. Consider your friendship with those people. Who do you want to be connected with? Clear up your surroundings.
3: Stand firm.
Wishy washy is nothing worth respecting. Apologizing is weak. I can respect a person I completely disagree with if they are genuine in their views. Be straightforward with what you stand for. You don’t have to give an explanation. It’s not up to anyone else to validate. You can say “I use traditional gendered language.” or “I use biblical language.” or “I don’t believe in using alternative language.” If you need to, be straightforward and say “I will not be changing the language I personally choose.” Perhaps, throw in your rights “I have the right to free speech in America and you do not have the right to dictate what I can and can’t say.” Let go of wanting people to like you. Be authentic to who you are and what you believe.
4: If necessary, point out any behavior that is aggressive or inappropriate.
5: From time to time, we find ourselves dealing with a particularly explosive person who is angry and doesn’t control their emotions well. If you are in person with this confrontation, walk away. Document it if you need to. If this is taking place on social media, you can ignore the attacks. You also have the option of asking them some direct questions.
Speak gently. Stand firm. Stand with God. Don’t let today’s controversial issues hinder your walk with Jesus or your boldness to represent your faith. It’s really that simple. Refuse to partake in the push to erase gendered pronouns. Carry on speaking the language you always have. Let go of fear. Hold on to faith. Be confident. Carry on.