Statement on Inclusive Language

In continuity with the liberal arts tradition, the Department of Religion at Emory affirms the ethical dimensions of scholarship and of teaching. We are therefore fully committed to the University's opposition to discrimination of all kinds. As an expression of this commitment we advocate the use of inclusive language in and outside of the classroom, in writing and speaking.

Inclusive language is language which assumes that women and men are fully equivalent participants in humanity. In other words, inclusive language is not biased in such a way that it perpetuates the tacit assumption that men are the standard form of human being. One strategy of the civil rights struggle included a repudiation of language which implied that whiteness was the paradigm of humanity or virtue (e.g., "that's mighty 'white' of you."). It became apparent that language was infected with racist stereotypes and assumptions. Language is not a neutral or innocuous system of signs but can be a bearer of corrupt and degrading ideas. A recognition of the full humanity of all peoples should prompt an attempt to speak and think in ways which include all human beings and degrade none.

Language which refers to all human beings need not reflect the assumption that all people are men. The identification of a general class (human) with a subset of it (men) naturally works in favor of the subset and to the detriment of the rest. (Think how certain advertisers would like for all soft drinks to be called "cokes" or all brands of tissue to be called "Kleenex"). Words like people, the world, us, human being, humanity, etc. can replace man, mankind, men. Likewise, the pronoun "he" can usually be replaced by the plural (human beings/they rather than man/he). Another alternative is to alternate masculine and feminine pronouns (the scientist/she). We invite the students taking classes with us to participate in our experiments with inclusive language.