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Craftsman - is not the gender neutral term we men believe it to be

Pondering... why are gender "neutral" words such as craftsman are not as gender neutral as we men seem to think they are?
I've been personally trying to break myself from a bad habit... one that I've thought was not such a big  deal...  I use the term "guys" in mixed company to describe a group of people ... not yet a team.  In mentoring groups toward becoming a team, I reserve that term for groups that truly behave like a real team.  I was giving a presentation at a local special interest group and afterwards a person gave me some useful feedback... my usage of the term "guys" was distracting and verging on "off-putting" in the room of mostly females.  I needed to read the audience and the room - and choosing the proper term would help them to engage... what I truly desired.

I remember in the 1970s (yes this should date me) teachers in school told us that some words were considered gender neutral - I believe that "guys" was one of these terms.  Most of my teachers were female, so shouldn't they know?  Turns out that they were wrong.  I believe they were just teaching the accepted standard practice - without actually examining that level of "accepted practice."

Now how might one with an inquisitive mind go about examining that?

I saw this experiment on Twitter by Steve Rogalsky @srogalsky - I believe it should work for us.

Let's take a more nuanced term - craftsman - it's general gender neutral.



Now quickly name some famous craftsman - quick as you can....

Ben Franklin (printer), Gustav Stickley (furniture), Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson, (firearms), Norm Abram (This Old House), Chris Smith (boats: Chris-Craft), etc.

OK great, we could go on...  but now let's reflect... this gender neutral term craftsman resulted in a brain that was primed to answer the question with a hidden bias... there are no females in the list... WHY?

We could easily name some crafty women:

Martha Stewart (home/living), Betsy Ross (sewing), Georgia O'Keeffe (painting), etc.

The question we should reflect upon ... why didn't we mention the women when asked to name craftsmen?  Obviously it is not the gender neutral term we men believe it to be.

Let me google that for you:  craftsman images  results in zero images with women.

I'm not going to do it... but we could count (possibly on one hand) the women in the list of
Members of the Internet Craftsmanship Museum.

See Also:
A female craftsman? via A little feminist blog on language
stackexchange: gender neutral alternative to craftsmanship


Comments

David said…
Really interesting to distinguish this. I often use "guys" in gender-mixed company and often enough am aware that it doesn't quite capture the nature of some of the people.

I guess "people" would be a good substitute for "guys", without sounding too politically correct/clinical.

Have you come to a conclusion about using or replacing your use of "guys"?

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