US State Dept cautions workers about ‘misgendering’ amid rising global conflicts - Hindustan Times

Blinken cautions US State Department staffers about ‘misgendering’ amid rising global conflicts

Feb 20, 2024 06:17 PM IST

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken directed State Department workers not to use gendered terminology such as "mother," "father," and "manpower".

In a recent internal communication, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken directed State Department workers not to use gendered terminology such as mother, father, and manpower.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken(AP )
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken(AP )

Blinken's advise to his personnel not to indulge in “misgendering” comes amid the ongoing conflicts in Europe and the Middle East.

His language guidance also comes days after the US launched strike on Iran-backed militants in Iraq and Syria in response to the killing of three American soldiers, diverting his attention to advise officials on which terms to use — and which to avoid while discussing gender.

According to a National Review report, Blinken maintained in the document – titled as “Modeling DEIA: Gender Identity Best Practices” and dated February 5 -- that gender is a social construct and that an individual's gender identity “may or may not correspond with one's sex assigned at birth.”

The Biden administration official advised his department colleagues to use "gender-neutral language whenever possible" to "show respect and avoid misunderstandings." He also directed staffers to disclose “their preferred pronouns in emails and when introducing themselves in meetings.”

"Commonly used pronouns could include she/her, he/him, they/them, and ze/zir," Blinken stated, stressing that in some situations people use multiple pronouns or accept all pronouns. "This is a personal decision that should be respected," he added.

Also Read: Biden reportedly foul-mouthed Netanyahu; White House reacts as Blinken heads to Middle East

Avoid using ladies and gentlemen

The cable also directs workers to use gender-neutral language whenever possible and to avoid using problematic phrases such as "manpower," "you guys," "ladies and gentlemen," "mother/father," "son/daughter," and "husband/wife." They have been advised to use better phrases such as "labour force," "everyone," "folks," "you all," and "parent," "child," and "spouse" or partner".

When speaking, the staffers must avoid using phrases like ‘brave men and women on the front lines,’" the memo says, suggesting to “use more specific language such as ‘brave first responders', ‘brave soldiers’, or 'brave DS agents'."

Did Blinken follow suggestions?

In his last year's Veterans Day post on X (formerly Twitter), Blinken seemed to err on his advice, saying, “We stand united in honoring the brave men and women who served our country.”

When employees unintentionally use the wrong pronouns to address someone, Blinken in the memo advises them to approach the situation with "subtlety and grace," while remembering that gender identity "may be fluid, so remain attuned to and supportive of shifts in pronouns."

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