One of my favorite words used to be “retarded”. It just summed up a whole paragraph of feelings in a single word. As someone who grew up predominantly in the 80’s this was a word that was simply part of our lexicon. I was as likely to say it about myself as I was anyone else. It was one of the words that you don’t even think about when you’re using it. That is until you start a YouTube channel and start being bashed as an insensitive asshat.
To be honest I was sad to have to stop using that word. I genuinely did not attach any hate or misgivings when uttering it. The word was simply a way to express my frustration in a way everyone from my generation accepted without a second thought. But the millennials are ever so much more politically correct than I am, and being that they are a major portion of my viewer base I decided it was time to retire the word. If people complain about “hateful” words, and it really doesn’t harm me to stop using them, it’s a simple kindness to give in. (And frankly once I swapped the old word with “14 year old” I think we can all agree it’s a much better insult. 14 years olds annoy everyone, including other 14 year olds, and we all grow out of it. White, black, boy, girl everyone agrees 14 year olds are annoying…)
I have been thinking about this a lot in regards to my followers and the issue of women involvement in the tech scene. One of the issues that is talked about a good deal now is all of the “small” insults that pile up until women feel that they shouldn’t even try to be involved in this field. I have no interest in rolling over and playing nice with everyone I meet, on the other hand as said before if there are very small efforts that can be made to make the situation better it seems like common sense to implement them.
One of the issues I see is that so many of the words we use in the tech field are masculine. For myself whenever I am talking about a group of people I default to words such as “guys” because the reality is that the field is predominantly made up of men. Although this seems innocuous the ramification is that whenever I speak about tech it reinforces the idea it’s a man’s game, and women are not even invited.
“Let’s get all the guys together to discuss the infrastructure project” by definition excludes women from participation. This may not be what the speaker intends, but by saying “guys” instead of a gender neutral word it in fact means “men”.
Going forward I am making a conscious effort to start using gender neutral terms whenever possible. You will start to see “folks” used much more in all of my communication. This is a simple change that can help have an impact even if no one notices it’s happening.
For those out there that will scream about political correctness run amok I will make the simple observation that females make up 51% of the population. Leaving ethics, morals, and political correctness out of the conversation it is simply pragmatic to be more inclusive. By being a bit more sensitive to women we can increase our consumer base, our employee base, and our base of leadership in this field. Thinking about how to correct small slights seems to me to be the smartest thing to do.