By Poojil Tiwari
In a move to foster gender sensitivity amongst its students, Delhi University has introduced a new course that aims at the identification of sexist terminology and endorses the use of gender neutral terms. The year-long course that begins this academic session is intended for the M. Ed. students of the university.
The prevalence of gendered terms in languages
The new course, which has now been approved by the university’s academic council and the executive council, contains four units which explore the role of language in culture, identity, gender, and media, respectively. In an interview with DailyMail, Neera Narang, who formulated the course said, “Language should always be gender neutral. This approach is missing in several languages that we use in our daily lives. By using sexist terminology, we are robbing the right a woman can exercise. Female and femininity have its own character, power and strength.”
When it comes to vocabulary, gender bias functions in two ways. Often we refer to gender neutral entities by using essentially masculine words such as ‘mankind’. Similarly, a female writer is referred to as a ‘poet’ and/or ‘author’ in popular language, instead of calling her a poetess or authoress. Additionally, we tend to associate certain words with a particular gender, which may give off a negative impression. This can be characterised by the usage of words like ‘nagging’ and ‘bossy’ for women which overshadow other aspects of their personality. Constant usage of such gendered terms tends to diminish the credibility of women by sub consciously undermining their authority. The idea is to develop a vocabulary where gender bias can be eliminated with the use of pronouns.
Laying the foundations for gender sensitisation
The induction of such a course in the varsity’s curriculum definitely reflects the university’s conscious efforts to make itself more gender sensitive. The idea behind introducing this course for the education department is to firstly, send out teachers that are empathetic when it comes to gender and can differentiate between sexist and non-sexist remarks. Given that teachers are the primary educators in our society, it becomes very important for them to use language that is gender inclusive. This sentiment was echoed by Ms Narang who spoke about the course making a difference when the students step out into the world as teachers.
For the long run
While speaking to the DailyMail, the dean of the department N. Ranganathan said, “Since language education is a significant area in teacher education and research module, we have decided to make our course which is not restrictive in its most fundamental form. With the passage of time, one has to evolve. One has to think of how not to use a sexist language when speaking.”
While the discussion on gender equality is alive and kicking, there is a severe lack of discourse on the incorporation of gender sensitive language in our vocabulary. In such a space, it is commendable to see India’s top ranked university pick up on the finer aspects of the gender equality discussion and try and inculcate gender sensitive language into the mainstream narrative.
Featured Image Source: Visualhunt
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