Gender Neutral Collective Nouns

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Gender Neutral Collective Nouns

In French, we use collective nouns and greetings that distinguish members of the group in a gender based way. This could be as simple as addressing a group of people as “Mesdames et Messieurs” or “étudiants/étudiantes”. We’re all very familiar with these words and phrases, and use them on a daily basis when addressing classmates, work colleagues, friends and family. The problem is that these terms exclude those who do not identify strictly as a man or a woman, and also clutters up our speech, and writing with parentheses or repetition.

By using gender neutral alternatives, we can be more welcoming and inclusive to everyone, while streamlining our writing. For example, forms that ask for the names of the applicant’s “father” or “mother” are not inclusive to parents who do not identify with either of those words, as well as families composed of more than one father or mother. In this example, “parent” would be a more inclusive term. We can avoid gendered language in French in similar ways.

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Below are a few examples of how to replace nouns to make them more inclusive:

Gendered Phrase

Inclusive Phrase

Mesdames et Messieurs

Tout le monde

Étudiants et étudiantes

camarade de classe or communauté étudiante

Directeurs et directrices

la direction

Hommes et filles

gens, personnes or le monde

Équipiers et équipières

équipe

Spectateurs et spectatrices

foule

To see more examples, click here