USC 'diversity toolkit' takes aim at 'male gendered pronouns'

A professor at the University of Southern California recently published a “Diversity Toolkit” to help diversity educators fight “male gendered pronouns.”

The Diversity Toolkit, created by USC Professor of Social Work Jeremy Goldbach, was released last week as a tool to help diversity educators facilitate discussions on issues on “diversity and the role of identity in social relationships.”

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The toolkit outlines six activities that educators can do with students, including one on “Creating Gender Free Nouns,” which aims to fight the use of “male gendered pronouns” by teaching students how to replace them with gender-neutral words.

In one activity, a facilitator could tell students “to convert the suffixes of the nouns into gender-free, inclusive terms by changing the noun root word or substituting a non-gender-specific root word from another language,” according to the guide.

“Tell participants that since male endings are so pervasive, it is OK to invent new words by replacing the endings of existing words with something non-gendered,” Goldbach adds.

Even though the jobs Goldbach lists are male-dominated, such as lumbermen and repairmen, he still calls for diversity educators to teach students how to use the gender-neutral form, as it can help students learn “tolerance.”

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In an interview with Campus Reform, Goldbach argued that making words gender-neutral can help break down gender norms.

“I think in life we tend to use a lot of gender dominated language: Airman, lineman, stewardess,” he said. “It is helpful to consider replacing these with gender-neutral terms which acknowledges that many people can do these jobs without it being related to their gender.”

The Diversity Toolkit also features other activities, including one on “race and ethnicity,” and another on “power and privilege.”

“What is privilege? We all have privileges. What are yours? Were you surprised by any of the privileges you found in your invisible knapsack?” ask the discussion questions for a separate activity on “power and privilege.”

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Goldbach told Campus Reform that he created the toolkit to help inspire other diversity educators, especially considering that many “individuals in the field struggle to find ways to discuss these topics effectively.”

“The purpose is to help individuals engage in a better dialogue with each other around topics of social justice, power, and oppression,” he added, pointing out that “these can be difficult topics to facilitate and the toolkit is intended to provide some additional tools.”

In addition to teaching on the tenure track at USC, Goldbach also has a research focus on the “relationship between social stigma, stress and health among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth and adults,” according to his faculty page.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen