For some time now I have been trying to be careful about the way I write, which in my opinion is an expression of respect for anyone who would like to read my posts.
Inclusive languageaims to avoid offense and fulfill the ideals of egalitarianism by avoiding expressions that express or imply ideas that are sexist, racist, or otherwise biased, prejudiced, or denigrating to any particular group of people (and sometimes animals as well). Use of inclusive language might be considered a form of political correctness; often the term “political correctness” is used to refer to this practice, either as a neutral description by supporters or commentators in general or with negative connotations among its opponents.
Its supporters argue that language is often used to perpetuate and spread prejudice and that creating intention around using inclusive language can help create more productive, safe, and profitable organizations and societies.
In short, the point is to include in your statements, whether written or spoken, all those who would like to be the audience and not exclude anyone.
The Polish language, which is my mother tongue, is very gender-specific and when we talk or write about something, we usually describe reality with the words:
powiedziała / powiedział (said)
Pan / Pani (Mr / Mrs)
zobaczła / zobaczył (saw)
and yet not everyone wants to be labeled that way.
On the other hand – in Poland – many names of professions – as a thing from the times of the People’s Republic of Poland (1952-1989) – have no female equivalent (prime minister, farmer, doctor, etc.), which for many years clearly defined the gender of people who could potentially perform a given profession.
In the world that is constantly fighting for equal rights for people of different skin color – in Poland we are discussing basic human rights and whether people of different gender have the same rights and privileges.
Let’s get back to business
Is a tech blog a good place for language discussions?
Mindfulness and respect are one thing, but the business needs of adapting to a changing world can surprise you.
The most interesting example was noticed by my children when registering on the Scratch platform:
Your sex: Woman/Man/Non-binary/Other/I don’t want to say.
This started a discussion in our home about gender, world diversity and mutual respect.
However, this form appears to be unique. So far, I have not come across a similar one anywhere else. I also do not fully understand the need to specify the gender when registering to the website, unless the website wants to personalize the sales offer. But – ok.
The old days
For many years, when you set up an account on a website (e-mail, online store) – sometimes you were asked for your gender. Usually the choice was Female / Male.
But what if you don’t identify with any of these genders?
Along with the changing awareness, in order to avoid verbal clashes in Polish language, many companies have opted for a more impersonal and less formal approach to the client.
Currently, instead of Mr / Mrs – websites treat us as good friends.
Even more interesting forms are “personalized” emails, which are automatically sent, for example, by online stores, to inform the customer about the current status of the order or service.
You can also treat the customer impersonally, but nevertheless with more respect: ‘Dear Customer‘.
Even the most vigilant ones make mistakes and unforeseen situations. I received an email several times from one website starting with:
Many times, especially in correspondence from non-Polish speakers, I am Mr. or Herr.
It taught me that something that is obvious to me – my identification as a woman – is not clear to someone else just after knowing my name.
I do not have a problem with that.
This issue does not only concern the Polish language
Many languages are gender-specific.
In Polish, many words contain gender, but there are situations where English or German-speaking people have a bigger problem that generates a challenge similar to the e-mail correspondence above.
From what I know about German language, it is natural and obvious to use Herr (Mr) or Frau (Mrs) in front of a given name or surname in correspondence (including e-mail).
In order to facilitate proper contact with the customer, the choice of a courtesy form when registering for an online store is not unusual. Until we want to give the user a different choice.
In Germany they came up with the idea of a third option – and for some time you can find the form of ‘Divers’ (various) or ‘Keine Angabe’ (No information) in the registration forms.
In the form, the change looks fine.
After registering in the store or while processing the order, the store will send the customer e-mails. And what will a store taught to label people polite before their first and last names send?
Hello Keine Angabe Jan Kowalski
With these changes, software testers always have something to do 🤓
And finally words of wisdom.
There is no one right way to apply a language that does not exclude anyone.
We must constantly try to make everyone feel comfortable as a recipient of content.
In the end, the sender is responsible for the quality of the message.
Do you agree?