Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gender 101, Episode #12: Gender-Neutral Restaurant Etiquette (and socks!)

Our gender-variant friend Lucy continues their discussion with me about gender - how should wait staff address someone gender queer? (And check out the metaphor we worked with Lucy's socks!)

Thanks, Lucy!


ps - Yes, on editing this I did notice that I said "waiter" rather than "wait-person" or "wait-staff,' or "server" (the last is the one I think sounds best.) It's a reminder that this is a process and a journey, and it's okay to occasionally mis-speak. Being aware of the gender-bias in our language is a huge step... and the more we discuss this, the better we'll all get at it. Thanks for watching!


Lisa Jenn Bigelow said...

Totally awesome socks!

"Folks" is a word I've been trying to work into my daily vocabulary more as a gender-neutral alternative to "guys." It's hard! But every time I slip, I notice and kick myself, which feels like progress.

This video makes me rethink how I address kids at the reference desk, though. Sometimes I do say, "Yes, ma'am" or "What can I do for you, sir?" I tend to do this when *I* feel certain of a child's gender... but it doesn't really matter what *I* feel is "certain," does it? I could still be wrong.

Thanks, as always, for the great food for thought.

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

I say "folks" all the time. I'm glad that's a good choice.

In the south/southwest, you can probably also say "y'all."

Incidentally, since moving to Austin, I've also taken to saying "honey" as a reference to someone's significant other. As in, "So how is your honey doing now that the cast is off?" I wouldn't tend to do it north of Oklahoma, though.

I love how this blog makes me think, and by the way, I really enjoyed the video sample of your presentation.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Thanks Lisa and Cynthia,
I'm working hard to eliminate "guys" as my go-to term, and I'm so glad these discussions with Lucy are resonating!

And Lisa, yes, I think that's a really important insight - it's not about how sure WE feel of someone's gender identity, it's really their call... One of the interviews coming up in the series is with a fascinating individual who presents as a very masculine man with a lumberjack-style beard - and yet the gender of their mind is female.

And Cynthia, thanks for the kind words about my presentation - I love doing them and helping move us all forward!


Angie said...

It's funny, I learned to say "you guys" when I was a little girl -- preschool age -- playing with a group of other little girls. This was back in the sixties, and we called each other "you guys" all the time, and certainly didn't mean males. [ponder] "Folks" works fine, though, and I actually say that occasionally. I'll have to pay attention and use it more often.

With words like "waiter" and "actor" and such, I'm all for just ditching the -ess variant and calling everyone by the root. A waiter is someone who waits on you. And actor is someone who acts. We used to use "paintress" and "sculptress" for a female painter or sculptor, but now everyone is a painter or sculptor regardless of gender. The words don't contain the blatantly gendered "man" particle, so declare them neutral and use them.

You can do the same thing with words like "stewardess." Instead of stuffing "flight attendant" into your mouth, go back to the original "steward" and call everyone that, regardless of gender. There you go, back to two syllables.


maddox said...

As a gender-variant person I don't particularly mind the use of neutral terms, which also happen to be masculine, like guys, waiter, actor, etc.

I *do* mind when people call me ma'am or sir or ladies, because *that* is a) purposefully gendering someone, and b) it is a completely unnecessary gendering. The server who says "what you would like to eat ma'am" as already gone out of their way to gender me, when it could just as easily (or more) have been avoided.

Thanks for your videos Lee (and Lucy)!