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Gendered Professions

Have you heard of a “lady plumber” or a “woman writer” (or any other profession)? How about “gentleman plumber” or “man writer” (or any other profession)? What’s wrong with this picture?

INCORRECT

  • Wow! I went to class and my teacher is a man professor!
  • A lady auto mechanic worked on my car.
  • My daughter is a woman doctor.

CORRECT

Job titles and professions are increasingly neutral when it comes to the sex of the person doing the work. The job of a plumber, nurse, pilot, or caregiver can belong to anyone. The error in the examples is in using lady, woman, gentleman, or man rather than female and male. You might have a female mechanic and a male nurse, and no one would think twice. But because gendering professions doesn’t make sense, why not just call them writers, plumbers, nurses, pilots, and caregivers?

MORE TO KNOW

Lady, woman, gentleman, and man are all nouns. In assigning an individual to a profession, the noun of the profession (e.g., plumber) needs an adjective (e.g., female), not a noun (e.g., woman), if one must indicate it. This tendency to gender professions is likely to disappear in the next decade or so.

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