Because there’s nothing more important going on in the world right now, the United Nations would like to remind you that the use of gendered words and phrases is super problematic.
“What you say matters,” cautions the international organization in a tweet. “Help create a more equal world by using gender-neutral language if you’re unsure about someone’s gender or are referring to a group.”
As a general matter, world-governing authorities should not be in the business of telling people what they should and should not say. Also, the UN’s list of suggested substitute words is kind of bad.
What you say matters.— United Nations (@UN) May 18, 2020
Help create a more equal world by using gender-neutral language if you're unsure about someone's gender or are referring to a group. https://t.co/QQRFPY4VRn #GenerationEquality via@UN_Women pic.twitter.com/koxoAZZuxq
Where to begin? “Humanity” is a better substitute for “mankind” than “humankind.” A “landlord” and an “owner” are not quite the same thing, nor are “manpower” and “workforce.” The word “representative” is not remotely an obvious synonym for “businessman,” and “partner” has enough other meanings that it doesn’t always work as a substitute for “boyfriend/girlfriend.” A “maiden name” is a woman’s original family name, not any family name.
All in all, a pretty pathetic effort. One hopes the UN takes its actual job—ensuring world peace—more seriously.