As society has evolved with defined gender roles becoming a thing of the past, the use of language in all areas of American life is slowly catching up with the fact that gender-specific language is no longer fashionable.
So instead of using the term fireman, for example, we now use firefighter, instead of policeman it’s police officer, instead of mailman we use letter carrier or postal worker, and instead of stewardess we use flight attendant. The examples are endless.
While this may sound trivial and unimportant, it’s all about being inclusive and more importantly, being accurate in using the English language to describe a specific role, a title or a group.
This week, a grassroots organization in the town of Hopkinton raised concerns about the phrasing Board of Selectmen, the term used to define the executive arm in small towns mainly in New England. The term dates back to colonial times. The third syllable in the word selectmen is men, and for a single member selectman, the syllable is man. Yet, as anyone who has paid attention to politics in their hometown knows, there are numerous women serving in the role across the six state region. Instead of Board of Selectmen, the group suggests the town start using the phrase Select Board, following the lead of a number of Massachusetts communities that have made the change in the past decade.
To make the change, the group must first petition an article at Town Meeting in May and if affirmed, it would then go on the ballot for voters to have their say at a town election.
In the scheme of things, this admittedly is not the most pressing issue facing Hopkinton.
But time moves on, day-by-day, time moves. What was fashionable yesterday is not so today.
“It is a simple change, but it’s a change worth making,” said Amy Groves, who started a website to promote the change. “It would be sending the right and accurate message.”
We agree 100 percent.
- The MetroWest Daily News