- The House of Representatives on Sunday is slated to vote on whether to pass a series of changes that would eliminate all gendered words from its rules.
- The proposal put forth by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rules Committee Chair James McGovern swaps gendered words like “chairman” for gender-inclusive ones like “chair.”
- The “bold reforms,” if passed, would be “advancing inclusion,” Pelosi said in a press release.
- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the proposal “stupid.”
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The House of Representatives on Sunday is set to vote on a series of changes that would eliminate all gendered words like “mother,” “father,” “he,” and “she” from its rules.
In addition to these specific words, the proposal outlines dozens of other shifts to gender-neutral language, as well as the establishment of an “Office of Diversity and Inclusion.”
The proposal was put forth by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rules Committee Chair James McGovern. In a press release, McGovern said the proposal “promotes inclusion and diversity” and is a way to “honour all gender identities by changing pronouns and familial relationships in the House rules to be gender-neutral.”
Pelosi called the proposal a series of “bold reforms” that reflect “the views and values of the full range of our historically diverse House Democratic Majority.”
Scholars have long studied the effect of gendered language on biases and perceptions. One 2016 study published in “Frontiers of Psychology,” for example, said, “the way gender is encoded in a language may be associated with societal gender equality.” The study says research consistently demonstrates that male-centric words like “chairman” and “policeman” as opposed to “chair” or “police officer” “evoke a male bias in mental representations and make readers or listeners think more of male than female examplars” when prompted.
The push for gender-inclusive language drew ire from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who said in a Friday tweet that the effort was “stupid.” The top Republican signed his tweet, “A father, son, and brother.”
This is stupid.
– A father, son, and brother https://t.co/bG9SlRAy6N
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) January 2, 2021
McGovern and proponents of the changes argue the rules are meant to be not just inclusive, but also accurate.
The proposal comes as a growing number of transgender and non-binary people who may not use or identify with gendered pronouns have been elected to serve at various levels of government.
Socially, gender-inclusive language has been gaining traction in recent years. A 2019 Pew Research survey found that about one in five Americans know someone who uses a pronoun other than “he” or “she.” Those odds increased to 32% among the younger respondents surveyed between the ages of 18 and 29.