Researchers Say Terms ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ Are Offensive – Try ‘Sperm-Producing’ or ‘Egg-Producing’ Instead
According to a group of U.S. and Canadian scientists, terms like ‘male’ and ‘female’ must be replaced. Instead, they recommend trying terms like ‘sperm-producing,’ ‘egg-producing,’ or ‘XY/XX individual.’
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The proposal is part of an effort to end “harmful terminology” in science. The Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Language Project group says that the effort is part of a reckoning with colonialism, white supremacy, and patriarchy.
“Much of western science is rooted in colonialism, white supremacy and patriarchy which ‘continue to permeate our scientific culture.”
To “address this history,” the group says, we must adopt a new vocabulary that will “foster inclusion.”
It isn’t just ‘male’ and ‘female’ that have come under scrutiny; even words like ‘alien’ and ‘blind’ are too offensive for use, with suggested replacements being ‘Non-endemic species’ and ‘awareness.’
The group lists their “Top 24 Harmful Terms” on their website, along with recommended alternatives.
According to the EEB, saying mother and father are now forbidden since “these terms perpetuate a non-universal heteronormative and cisnormative view of the parenting and birthing process.” Instead, try referring to your mom and dad as either the egg donor or sperm donor of the family.
Terms like colonization and colonizer are “harmful and triggering for Indigenous people that have been subjugated to colonialism, racism, and genocide, and use of the term describes normalizes it as a natural phenomenon rather than a destructive one with human context.” The suggested replacements are “established, early successional species.”
The word “discover,” like you might see written on the side of a credit card, is offensive because it “erases the longstanding, detailed ecological knowledge of Indigenous communities that have been involved with local environments and ecosystems before colonialism and western science.”
Saying “survival of the fittest” is apparently linked to “eugenics, ableism, and social Darwinism,” says the EEB.
The EEB project was launched this month with multiple researchers from the University of British Columbia. The list and its lengthy replacement terminology were based on crowd-sourced suggestions. The researchers say their work is essential to end the “ongoing marginalization of many groups.”
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The project was reportedly born from a Twitter conversation between colleagues and was inspired by the comments of Haley Branch, another researcher at the university. According to Daily Mail, Branch took exception with the term “fitness,” arguing that “the word is vague and ableist — discriminatory against people with disabilities.”
In an interview with The Telegraph, Professor Frank Furedi of the University of Kent responded to the proposal and criticized the EEB for its activism.
“I think that when you characterize terms like male/female, mother/father as harmful you are abandoning science for ideological advocacy. Regardless of intent, the project of re-engineering language will cause confusion to many and the last thing that scientists need is a lack of clarity about the meaning of the words they use.”
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People can freely submit their suggestions for the repository online, including “harmful terms” and “replacement terms.”