Friday, 20 September 2013

Chairman, Chairwoman or Chair - The Weighty Issue of Gender-Specific Language


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The debate rages on. Yet this problematic word derives from history, when the male of the highest status would be seated for weighty debates. The remainder of the elders would stand, thus signifying the seated male’s importance. Yes, the word “chairman” means seniority. It means importance. It means twiddle yer forelock, unworthy wretches. It means – a bloke!  Women just didn’t hack it as decision makers in those bad old days.
“Chairman” means, literally, “man of the chair.”  And today, as Lesley Bates, “Chair” of the University of the Third Age, Parbold, Newburgh and District, points out, “The problem is clearly the use of the term “chair” whether it precedes a gender term or not. Given that the importance of seating in relation to rank is now almost defunct, is it not time to get rid of the term and start to use more apt terms, such as “president”?”  Read more...

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