Avoiding racist and sexist language can be a challenge even for authors who do not espouse racist or sexist ideologies. The English language is structured to divide everyone into the categories of “male” and “female,” and it is easy to fall into stereotypes when providing character descriptions.
The website Stylewriter-USA.com suggests that the best place to start when eliminating racist language is in identifying it. Some words can be offensive or racially insensitive only in certain contexts, whereas others are inherently racist. It’s easy enough to identify and avoid overt racial slurs, but words like “ghetto” or hyphenated race descriptors can be contextually appropriate in some circumstances and inappropriate in others. Proofreading each individual sentence with this in mind can help. Ensuring consistency in descriptive words can also help to avoid passively racist language. The statement “white people and black people” is inherently less problematic than phrasing it as “white people and blacks.” It’s important not to use descriptors such as this unless they are directly relevant to what is being written about.
Some common phrases, such as “Mexican Standoff,” or “Indian Giver” have overtly racist undertones and should also be avoided. There are always less insensitive ways to express the same thoughts, and these should be used to the exclusion of phrases that encourage stereotypes. Developing characters according to stereotypes should also be avoided, even if they are ostensibly positive. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Avoiding sexist language can be even more of a challenge due to the basic structures of the English language. The Hamilton College Writing Center suggests that there is no one consistent solution to avoiding gendered single person pronouns. Instead the entire sentence must be reconsidered. One easy way to do this is to rewrite the sentence in the third person plural rather than singluar, as the pronoun “they” does not define people along gendered lines. Some words in English are also inherently sexist and should be avoided. One common example is the use of the word “mankind,” which could easily be replaced by “people” or “humanity.” Non-gender specific titles should also be used whenever possible in describing groups of people performing the same work that contain both women and men.
Response 1 (Racist Language)
Creating a cast of characters for a piece of fiction that is racially diverse is challenging even to those who actively strive to be racially sensitive. Avoiding racial and ethnic descriptors entirely can work, but in some circumstances it can’t be avoided. Including characters with different racial backgrounds is an important aspect of avoiding implied racism, but it’s equally important to be sure that these characters are created with sensitivity in mind. The advice that I found most helpful is to avoid feeding into stereotypes by proofreading the piece with the specific intent of looking for ways that the characters fall into them. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Response 2 (Sexist Language)
I think it would be great if the English language included a non-gendered third person singular pronoun. Using “they” instead of “he” or “she” is not grammatically correct, and I don’t necessarily believe that just using the plural pronoun instead of the singular is the best approach. Maybe an entirely new word could be created that allows writers to discuss individual characters without immediately defining them according to their gender roles. This would require a basic restructuring of the English language, though, which is unlikely to happen any time soon. In the meantime avoiding unnecessary gender descriptors by rewriting sentences in the plural rather than the singular is often a good solution. When I read a novel it really stands out to me when characters are stereotyped according to their genders, since I know that this feeds into how our society views our presentations of gender roles. This stereotyping has a negative impact on readers and society as a whole whether its in a sexist or a racist context, so I’m glad so many people are so concerned about learning how to avoid it.[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
Klein, Jennifer. (1993). “Avoiding Sexist Language.” Hamilton Writing Center:
StyleWriter USA. (n.d.) “How to Identify and Eliminate Racist Language in Your Writing.” Free