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Friday, February 8, 2013

Sen Kohl-Welles Defends Her Gender-Neutrality Bill

Posted by on Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 4:29 PM

Washington State senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle) has been taking heat for sponsoring a bill that would remove gender-specific language in state law. Critics say it's a waste of time. So in a newsletter today, she responds, pointing out that these right-wing blowhards would probably think her legislation was an excellent use of time if the tables were turned:

A bill of mine that passed out of the Senate unanimously this week, SB 5077, has drawn an unusual amount of attention in recent weeks. Talk radio personalities and others have asked why I would sponsor legislation to replace outdated gender-specific terms in state statutes with gender-neutral language when our state faces larger, more urgent challenges such as creating jobs and balancing the budget as we recover from recession.

Their argument is that I shouldn’t divert time or money from those urgent needs, and I agree; in fact, if my bill actually did that, I would not have introduced it at all. But the bill does nothing of the sort. The bill is drafted during the legislative interim and costs nothing, nor does it interfere with other tasks such as the major issues we tackles during the legislative session. My colleagues on both sides of the aisle and across the state agreed with me, voting unanimously to pass the bill out of the Senate this week.

Apart from that, some people have questioned the value of replacing traditional terms like “fisherman” with “fisher” or “gripman” with “grip operator.” But if society’s gender history were reversed, I wonder how many men today would feel comfortable being called a “firewoman,” “policewoman” or “fisherwoman.” Even if this is not a monumental issue to some, it is nevertheless observes basic principles of accuracy and respect that I think the vast majority of Washingtonians would agree on.

This legislation is nothing new. In 1983, legislation was passed to require that the Legislature use gender-neutral language in any bills it passes. SB 5077, which I sponsored at the request of the code reviser’s office, simply extends that practice to statutes written prior to 1983.

Well said.


Comments (25) RSS

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aardvark 1
poor fight to pick. the only problem with firewoman is that it's convoluted, not because it's gender specific.
Posted by aardvark on February 8, 2013 at 4:34 PM · Report this
That's good because like many womyn in Seattle I can't tell what gender Jeanne Kohl-Welles is.

Maybe we should name every "Pat" and be done with it?
Posted by Postman Pat on February 8, 2013 at 5:00 PM · Report this
Who is going to go through all the statutes and draft changes to them? Do the changes then have to come back to the legislature for another vote?
Posted by Asbel on February 8, 2013 at 5:09 PM · Report this
Never mind, I see that the bill itself lists all the corrections to be made.
Posted by Asbel on February 8, 2013 at 5:11 PM · Report this
Luckily for the Stranger sheep, "cocksucker" is already gender-neutral.
Posted by Stranger'sWorstNightmare on February 8, 2013 at 5:25 PM · Report this
Are we all trannies now?
Posted by Trannie Liberation Front on February 8, 2013 at 6:14 PM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 7
Why not just propose one bill listing all established nouns that are in practicality gender-neutral but have masculine origins, such as fisherman, with a disclaimer that clarifies that all state law in reference to said terms are required to be administered and implemented with a gender-neutral disposition?
Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on February 8, 2013 at 7:12 PM · Report this
Tacoma Traveler 8
One of the unexpected blessings that come with coming out of the closet is that nobody expects me to prove my masculinity anymore.

Then again, you straight guys don't have to either. When you do, it makes you intolerable to be around. A bill like this is not a threat to your manhood. Your manhood is bullshit anyway. What is it, other than a Y chromosome, a cock and two testicles? The other anatomical facts about you don't dictate your behavior. Does the fact that my eyes are blue mean that I must be more social than hazel-eyed people? Does the length of my femurs determine if i should be better at doing taxes or at cooking? What about the shape if the instep of my foot-does that indicate that i have to be into monster trucks and cheap beer?

So why should your dick?

And why does the presence or absence of a dick mean that you should be called anything in particular in legal documents?

Are short people to be referred to in all legal proceedings as "The Short Person Smith" or "The Untall Person Jones"? Should your occupation title be different if you are fat or thin? And if you are hairy or smooth, should that fact be noted every time someone discusses you in a governmental context?

Absurd, huh? So is defining someone on the basis of gender. Look, I have a penis too. And I rally don't give a shit if anyone makes note of this fact or not. Outside of the guy I'm fucking, its nobody's fucking business. And it sure as shit isn't the government's.

You know what are some good job titles for women? President. Governor. Mayor. Senator. CEO. CFO. Executive Director. Soldier. Firefighter. Sailor. Doctor. Attorney. Pipe Fitter. Foreperson.

And you know what? Your dick doesn't shrink if you call them those things.
Posted by Tacoma Traveler on February 8, 2013 at 7:15 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 9
Nice rant, TT @8. Much better than the one I started. Well done.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on February 8, 2013 at 8:08 PM · Report this
It's worse in Spanish, TT. Generic nonhuman nouns are designated male or female, whether or not the object in question has an actual verifiable gender (e.g. tigers are always male), or it's just a part of something with a verifiable gender (e.g. the hand is always female), or it's inanimate (e.g. the table is always female).

And, of course, the moon is female and the sun is male, but you could have guessed that.

And if you're learning Spanish in school, you have to memorize all this junk.

This is all just so that you know whether to use "la" or "el," "las" or "los," "ellas" or "ellos," or, better yet, so that you know whether the action verb referring to the object(s) should end in an "a" or an "o."

I don't know about non-Romance languages other than English, but we have pretty easy with English when it comes to gender. I don't think there's anything the Jeanne Kohl-Welles of Spain and Latin America can do.
Posted by floater on February 8, 2013 at 10:58 PM · Report this
Seattle_1_scientist 11
Nice troll #1. This isn't picking a fight, it's righting a fucking wrong. Jeezus.
Posted by Seattle_1_scientist http:// on February 8, 2013 at 11:15 PM · Report this
Not a fan of her continued anti-gun facts-be-damned history, but I support this effort.

As @10 says, other languages make it much more difficult. English, however, allows us to right this wrong. So let's fucking do it already.
Posted by Tawnos on February 9, 2013 at 1:28 AM · Report this
If I see a person walking in the distance
who could be male or female, I could say,
"Look at that person. I wonder if they know where they're going", that would be incorrect because "they" is plural. If I replace "they" with "he" then I'm assuming
its a dude. (by the way, is it ok to call females "dudes"?) But what if its a broad?
We need a new word that is the plural of
he/she. I suppose "it" would work, as in,
"I'm not sure if it's a boy or a girl...(sounds
ok so far)..."I wonder if it knows where it's
going?" ...a bit too impersonal.
Posted by handelfire on February 9, 2013 at 1:56 AM · Report this
I'm kind of falling in love with our old Tacoma Traveler.
Posted by katallred on February 9, 2013 at 2:22 AM · Report this
@3 There's a staff of lawyers, called the code reviser's office, that handles any changes ordered by the legislature. Once a change has proposed, the office writes up a new version of the law with the new wording. The new wording is provided to the legislature before they even vote on the bill.

These changes have already been made, they just need final approval.
Posted by Queerly Yours on February 9, 2013 at 6:46 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 16
Too bad "Senator" is already gender-neutral. She could have a lot of fun addressing all the guys as "Assemblywoman" Your-Name-Here.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on February 9, 2013 at 7:42 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 17
Too bad "Senator" is already gender-neutral. She could have a lot of fun addressing all the guys as "Assemblywoman" Your-Name-Here.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on February 9, 2013 at 7:42 AM · Report this
raku 18
13: "They" is fine, and correct.
Posted by raku on February 9, 2013 at 7:55 AM · Report this
Tacoma Traveler 19

America does not have an official language. English is commonly used, but that is by accident and not design.

We represent something very strange as far as nations go. Other states are defined by nationality-A Hungarian born in Romania will always be called Hungarian, even if his family has been there since the 1600's. A Turk born in Bulgaria will always be a Turk by nationality. In America, even if your parents were born in Russia, you are an American by nationality if you were born here.

We are not members of the Commonwealth. There has been talk of a "special relationship" with Britain,. but that's only been acknowledged since WW2, and is only used when it's politically expedient for the President of the time. Clinton saw Blair as an ideological ally who could help him shore up support in his own country for his very conservative platform within the Democratic Party. Prior to that, we had not heard the term since FDR, who used the term to gain support for the US' entry into the war. Since Bush and Blair both left office, we haven't heard the term again, and probably won't until there's another war we need British support for. In all reality, thhe special relationship is mythology.

So is the concept that we are shackled to tradition in ways that countrie belonging to La Francophonie, the Commonwealth, or the Ibero-American Summit. We dont belong to an equivalent of the EU, which would define us in terms of a North American identity. We are not, and will never be, tied down by tradition based upon language,the colonial past, or geography.

We are, in a word, free. Free to invent ourselves in any way we choose. Free to become whatever country we would like to be. And I would like us to be a country where the only barrier to success is merit. A nation that does not give unfair advantage based upon to whom one was born, or where, or with what gender or what sexuality. A land where the word freedom is spoken in many languages, in a thousand dialects, and in all such cases it is understood perfectly.

I want equality across the board for every American. A totally flat playing field, one in which the sweat on your brow and the blisters on your hands, as well as the brilliance of your ideas, is what determines how far you will go in life. Women sweat as hard as we do. They work every bit as hard as we do. And their ideas are just as brilliant. There is no reason why they should not be allowed to achieve whatever they can in free competition as equal players in a just society.

Tradition be damned. In America, our religion is the future, not the past.
Posted by Tacoma Traveler on February 9, 2013 at 8:21 AM · Report this
" I would like us to be a country where the only barrier to success is merit. "

Thanks for the high school international studies lesson. How about ending affirmative action, especially against Asian students at our universities?
Posted by Or don't you believe in merit? on February 9, 2013 at 9:09 AM · Report this
sirkowski 21
Jesus Christ, learn to pick your battles. e_e
Posted by sirkowski on February 9, 2013 at 10:14 AM · Report this

'man' can refer to male, but also refers to the human race.


it has a gender neutral meaning.

English Comprehension Fail.

poor Jeanne has pussy-whipped herself, it seems....
Posted by stupid bitch on February 9, 2013 at 10:30 AM · Report this
@22 your misogyny is showing.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on February 9, 2013 at 4:28 PM · Report this
fletc3her 24
Once the right wingers stop ranting about political correctness they can explain again why we should call torture an "enhanced interrogation technique".
Posted by fletc3her on February 9, 2013 at 11:28 PM · Report this
Tacoma Traveler 25
When I was a kid, we had another word we used before people started calling everything "politically correct'.

Back then, we called it "polite".

I do miss the days when other people being polite wasn't something you scorned or ridiculed. You know, in some cultures, being polite is regarded as a positive trait. I guess for a lot of people, being an asshole is a better one.

Well, you are what you eat, assholes.
Posted by Tacoma Traveler on February 9, 2013 at 11:41 PM · Report this

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