Achieving gender-neutral language is no small task, says a Washington state lawmaker from Seattle. (Thinkstock …
In Washington state, the word "freshman" is out. And "first-year student" is in. In total, 40,000 words have been changed as part of an effort to rid state statutes of gender-biased language.
The bill, signed into law earlier in the year by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, went into effect this week.
And it was no small task. "This was a much larger effort than I had envisioned. Mankind means man and woman," Democratic state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles of Seattle told Reuters.
"Fisherman" is now a "fisher." "Penmanship" is called "handwriting." And "manhole cover" is, well, still "manhole cover." Some words don’t have an easy replacement.
Others do: "His" is now “his and hers.” "Clergyman" is now "clergy." "Journeyman plumber" is now “journey-level plumber,” according to the Daily Mail.
According to Reuters, Washington is the fourth state to officially remove gender-biased language from the law. Others are Florida, North Carolina and Illinois. Nine other states are considering similar gender-neutral laws.
"Words matter," Liz Watson, a National Women's Law Center senior adviser, told Reuters. "This is important in changing hearts and minds."
France recently officially banned the term "mademoiselle" from official documents. The Gallic term means "miss," and French officials contended it forced women to acknowledge their marital status.
The French also bid adieu to "maiden name," which they dismissed as "archaic." They should know: Paris only recently got rid of a law that banned women from wearing pants.
- Jay Inslee