Are they ‘firemen’ or a ‘fire tenders’? Are you a ‘freshman’ or a ‘first-year student’?
These are the kinds of questions Washington State lawmakers will consider as they decide whether to make the Revised Code of Washington to become more gender neutral.
State Bill 5077 aims at making technical corrections to certain gender-based terms in the code by not only changing dozens of words (including the word ‘man’), but changing terms from ‘him’ to ‘him or her’ and rewriting the oath to become a lawyer for example.
Since 2007, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle) has introduced and successfully passed six other bills that have changed the language of the law bit by bit. But State Bill 5077 would make 100% of the state’s RCW gender neutral.
“Society has changed,” says Thalia Syracopoulos, president of women’s rights group Seattle NOW. “Women are in high places and language is a very important expression of the changes in society.”
Not every lawmaker agrees however. In 2012 a similar bill passed through the House with 66 votes for and 32 against. During the 2011 session, the vote was 76-21.
The bill is scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Committee on Commerce & Labor on Monday.