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Opinion: Gendered Language on Campus

Updated: Sep 19, 2022

A fountain with the Meredith logo in the foreground and Johnson Hall in the background
Photo by Grayson Morris

Orientation is a huge part of starting at Meredith College. The programming is supposed to welcome students and give them an opportunity to make friends within their class and get familiar with the campus before classes begin. However, orientation can make students feel uncomfortable or alienated because of the use of gendered language and terms such as “sisterhood” and “strong women” in all of the program activities.

Meredith College was established as a women’s college in 1891 and serves as one of the 31 Historically Women's Colleges (HWC) still in operation. While it may be an all-women’s college, that doesn’t mean that all the students who attend the college identify as a woman or use she/her pronouns.

The Herald interviewed Lauren Dixon, a member of the Class of 2026 who uses she/her, pronouns and asked how the use of gendered language at orientation made her feel. She said, “It made me feel very confident in my identity, but also, I am very aware of the possibility of there being people at orientation who don’t necessarily identify as women.”

While there are positives to using phrases aimed to empower women—especially because of women constantly being degraded or bashed because of the patriarchy—it can also be very hurtful to those who don’t use she/her pronouns or identify as a woman.

When Sammi Leggott, a member of the Class of 2024 whose pronouns are she/they, was asked those same questions, their response differed from Dixon’s. They were a part of orientation crew this year for Class of 2026 and said, “The gendered language at orientation can feel really othering since it’s so prominent and ‘woman’ based…it’s so easy to be gender neutral, the College just doesn’t care to.”

Leggott also said, “Many people ask for pronouns, but if you tell them your pronouns are she/they, they usually stick with ‘she’ because it fits inside the gender binary. It completely erases a part of your identity to fit a box that makes others comfy.”

While there are positives to using phrases to empower women, the Meredith community also has to recognize that not all students attending are women. By using gender neutral pronouns, it doesn’t exclude anyone or make anyone feel uncomfortable.

By Kayla Dunn, Contributing Writer

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