Gender bias in terminology

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Phyrebrat

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Hi. Just a quickie query.

I often hear the people tripping up on the term hero/heroine for their blurbs and marketing.

Even as a kid I never understood the need to gender-ise hero to heroine etc as it’s (hero) never struck me as innately masculine.

Nowadays I’m hearing many people of all genders referring to heroes (and ‘actors’ for that matter) as opposed to heroes and heroines.

Are these things changing?
 
n-gram viewer says hero has steadily increased over 40 years while heroine has remained steady. Google Books Ngram Viewer

If there are more female protagonists now (I think there are, no data though) then it would indicate a slight uptake of women being called heroes.
 
I would just say 'hero' and 'actor' for whatever gender and not think much of it.
 
Even as a kid I never understood the need to gender-ise hero to heroine etc as it’s (hero) never struck me as innately masculine.

In a world where the weight of societal expectations leads to the masculine, heroine might matter to those who are not and would like recognition?

I don't know if this is changing, but the feminine / masculine split of the Avengers and superheroes in general might suggest it still has some utility.
 
I don't think you'll be surprised to read that I'm all for less gendered language. One thing that was pointed out to me a long time ago was that actor is male, actress is female, but 'actors' includes both, so it effectively singles out (or others) women actors as different, by making a masculine term the default, a common occurrence in English. This is exactly the same for the word hero. There's no reason for a woman not to simply be a hero; after all, she would be so if her actions were by definition heroic.

So, like Mrs Mouse, I'd tend to use hero and actor, and think little more. If the person themselves wishes to use another term, then of course I'd tend to defer to their term for them.

Danny brings up award categories and, of course, there will always be a need to be able to categorise to some extent, for example how many opportunities are available to working class actors, compared to those scions of acting dynasties. Award ceremonies are not perfect, so actors and films have to fit into the closest category available. It's already been commented on in the media that the simple binary option excludes non-binary actors. However, I'll say no more, as I don't want to get into current affairs territory, which is banned.
 
I would just say 'hero' and 'actor' for whatever gender and not think much of it.

I don't think you'll be surprised to read that I'm all for less gendered language. One thing that was pointed out to me a long time ago was that actor is male, actress is female, but 'actors' includes both, so it effectively singles out (or others) women actors as different, by making a masculine term the default, a common occurrence in English. This is exactly the same for the word hero. There's no reason for a woman not to simply be a hero; after all, she would be so if her actions were by definition heroic.

Yup, these. I tend to use the single version rather than both as it seems silly, if not misguided in its origin. I think modern feminism (for example) has moved us past these distinctions.

I'm not particularly plagued by any doubt myself when writing as I'd say hero for all, but I thought I should ask seeing as these things change quicker than we do.

TBH, I suspect those of us in minority tribes, sections and subculture would be happy with equality more than terminology and lip service... And by 'those of us', I include all you lovable SFF (and horror!) geeks :D :p
 
I grew up with 3 older brothers and just tag along bemused at anyone seeing me as any different, frankly. Not sure they feel the same way but, … yep. People first, and dang the labels
 
I believe this is part of a (slow) trend in language. Many of the terms using the suffix -man have been replaced in common usage: 'chair' and 'fire fighter' etc. In the US, hurricanes are now given alternate male and female sounding names. This latter disparity will likely continue for a while, we still are not ready for a boy named Sue.
 
I believe this is part of a (slow) trend in language. Many of the terms using the suffix -man have been replaced in common usage: 'chair' and 'fire fighter' etc. In the US, hurricanes are now given alternate male and female sounding names. This latter disparity will likely continue for a while, we still are not ready for a boy named Sue.

Yep, that's how I see it, but that hero, actor, etc don't end in -man, so I was wondering why the gender-specificity has alternates for those terms.

(I steered clear from the patriarchy in the Bible which I think is also hugely responsible for this as we have those politics and religion rule.)

I mean, I've always called a lady angler, an anglerine... :D
 
Besides in awards ceremonies, I thought pretty much everyone used actor nowadays? In fact, I think most professions now use non-gendered names (flight attendant, police officer, CEO...)

As for hero, I honestly can't remember the last time I referred to a female hero as a heroine. I've always disliked the unnecessary distinction.
(I'd like to see anyone call Carol Danvers a 'heroine' to her face! :p)
 
On a similar note, I find I struggle when I'm referring to a group of people at work.

The term 'guys' as in 'you guys' has long been de-genderfied in terms of M/F but nowadays I find it clumsy and imprecise (or over-general?!). I've heard teachers been advised to use 'folks' but... nawwww. I feel old enough as it is without turning my classes into 1940s Darling Buds of Mayville. :D

I have a non-binary student who prefers they/them. When I talk about the history of b-boying (the accurate term for breakdancing) I use b-boying and b-girling as that worked its way into the Hip Hop subculture long, long ago. Now, with non-binary do we revise the historic term and use breakdancing (imprecise and just, ugh) or provide a new term altogether? What do I do if one of my non-binary characters is a breaker and I have to use the term?

My student and I call it b-theying now, but that was born from a light-hearted discussion when I asked them what they thought.
 
The term 'guys' as in 'you guys' has long been de-genderfied in terms of M/F but nowadays I find it clumsy and imprecise (or over-general?!). I've heard teachers been advised to use 'folks' but... nawwww. I feel old enough as it is without turning my classes into 1940s Darling Buds of Mayville. :D
In the library teen room I work at we use 'friends', but it makes me feel so old. But there really aren't any non-gendered terms that carry the same energy as 'guys'.
My student and I call it b-theying now, but that was born from a light-hearted discussion when I asked them what they thought.
I love that!!! (Have you seen Mila Jam's 'It's Raining Them' video?)
 
On a similar note, I find I struggle when I'm referring to a group of people at work.
I'd be surprised if there's a single person on Earth who can agree on what sounds best when addressing a group of people. "People?" "Ladies and gentlemen?" "Guys?" "Peeps?" "Humans?" "Earthlings?""You morons?" I've tried them all and none of them sound quite right.
 
I use peeps a fair amount. It's okay.

In any case, I basically try to go with what seems to make the people it matters most to happy, but if we're just going with heroes, actors, and so on, I'm all for it as that's probably my personal preference.
 
I don't think I've ever used 'guys' to just mean a group of men. Ever. Guys, to me, is just a group of people. A guy, singular, is a bloke, but 'guys' has always meant whatever gender. I'd probably also use it to refer to a group of whatever... like, I dunno, ducks or something. "Look at those guys over there, quacking and eating bread and that."

I also use gang. You guys* have probably seen me say 'thanks, gang' on this very site.


*:p
 
I use "guys" to address my daughters all the time. I don't see it as a gendered term in UK English, though maybe in the US it's different (Guys and Dolls etc, but even then that sounds rather archaic these days).

"Look at those guys over there, quacking and eating bread and that."
I know plenty of humans who do this.
 
I mean, I've always called a lady angler, an anglerine...

It's "anglerette", you monster!

In seriousness, I think it's very hard to make one rule to cover the whole language (much like all of English grammar!). There are expressions that either have become neutral with use (you guys) or mean something more than "a man who does X" (B-boy*). I rarely use them except for clarity, but I don't see anything patronising in "actress" or "heroine", but to some people they have a subtly different meaning than the male or neuter equivalents. Each to their own, so to speak.

TBH, I suspect those of us in minority tribes, sections and subculture would be happy with equality more than terminology and lip service... And by 'those of us', I include all you lovable SFF (and horror!) geeks

Very good point. Changing a word can be lip service in the most literal way.


*being a middle-aged rural white Englishman, I am of course an expert on old-school hip-hop. Or "skool" as I believe the young people say.
 
Somehow I managed to use the word authoress during an MA class back just before the millennium, to general hilarity. I think actress is probably about the only "job" term like that which still sounds natural to me, possibly because of the Oscars etc.

One term I don't think I've ever seen anyone complain about is "goddess" (just as well for my writing career, such as it is). Interesting that this one seems to have been given a free pass.
 
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