Media urged to use language acceptable to both men and women


Nation journalist Mandy Bertin leading a session in the presence of the man whose title was changed by gender activists to ombudsperson

The call was made during the two-day seminar organised by the University of Mauritius and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, which pointed out many “inappropriate commonly used words” during one of its past general conferences, and suggested alternatives they listed.

“If words and expressions that imply women are inferior to men are constantly used, that assumption of inferiority tends to become part of our mindset. Hence the need to adjust our language,” said delegates at the Unesco conference.

Their points were asserted at the Mauritius seminar where Seychelles was represented by reporters from the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation and Seychelles Nation.

“Language is a powerful tool: poets and people who wage propaganda know this – but also do victims of discrimination,” said the Unesco delegates.

“If people everywhere show greater sensitivity to the implications of the language they use, a higher degree of precision will result. Incorrect choice of words may cause a report to be interpreted as biased, discriminatory or demeaning, even if they are not intended to be.

“Ambiguity arises in cases where it is unclear whether the author means one or both sexes for example when the word Man and Men are used. There is a lot of evidence that the word Man conjures up a male image, even when the intended meaning is generic,” they said, giving the following examples and many others:

Instead of saying ‘Man’s search for knowledge has led him to improve scientific methods’, they said reporters could use the words: people, humanity, human beings, humankind, the human species, the human race, we, ourselves, men and women.

“The search for knowledge has led to better in scientific methods is preferable,” they said.
Likewise they should avoid saying “the average man, man in the street, primitive man or to man a project”.

“The average person, people, primitive human beings, primitive men and women can replace these, and instead of manning, operate, run, administer are better words,” they said.

Some of the delegates from the gender sensitive reporting workshop attended the next one – on media ethics – and immediately changed the title of their chief trainer – South Africa’s Johan Retief – from Ombudsman to Ombudsperson of his country’s press council.

Experts at the Wednesday and Thursday ethics meeting looked critically at articles and pictures published in the region’s newspapers and news items aired by radio and television stations.

They supported some controversial decisions of three Seychelles newspapers, including Nation, which we hope to detail next week.

All four Seychellois delegates gave captivating presentations at the media ethics seminar.

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