The backstory: On Instagram, I follow a woman named Jen Hatmaker. She lives in Austin, Texas and writes about her life as a wife, mother, and Christian. On the face of it, we don’t have much in common, but I like her sensibility and her sense of humor. From her, I’d adopted the idea of an occasional rant about the small annoyances in life. She calls her rants “Not a Fan” and that rather sums it up, so my occasional rants will also arrive under that title.
Today's "Not a Fan" rant is about the gender neutral titles. Are you using the phrase Congressman? Cut that shit out.
I have spent my adult life teaching about American government and I have always made sure to use gender neutral descriptions of elective office. it’s an important distinction that signals to girls and boys that these are positions that can be occupied by both women and men. Some titles are gender neutral on their own: President, Senator, Supreme Court Judge, Governor. They have an association with men, of course, whether because men have exclusively served in the positions (looking at you, President) or because men have most often occupied the roles (looking at you, every other office in America).
Women have made the greatest progress in elective office is positions in the state legislatures and the House of Representatives and we need to reflect that progress by being sure to use gender-free descriptions of those positions. It’s not a Congressman; it’s a member of Congress and the title is Representative. If your state legislature has an Assembly, don’t call a representative an Assemblyman. Go for Representative or member of the Assembly.
Train yourself to be inclusive by default and imagine all the little girls (and boys!) who grow up to believe that there is no limit to their political aspirations. Then, when we elect our first woman president (and that had damn well better be in my lifetime), you’ll know that you played a part in the achievement.