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Everyone's a woman: how do you show that through gender-neutral language?


In my latest short story I'm playing around with common gender misconceptions. It's set in a near future society were men have disappeared, and all roles are taken up by women. The theme is played upon, but never outright stated until the last paragraph.

In the first draft of the short story, written in my mother language, I used gender-specific job titles to foreshadow the fact that every single character presented is a woman. In English this is more difficult to achieve, as job titles are generally more gender-neutral (exceptions may apply).

My main character finds herself speaking with researchers, CEOs, journalists, news reporters, students and so on. Without further information, they might be men as well as women.

While I am happy that English is more gender-inclusive, I wonder if I should take action to preserve the foreshadowing in my translation, and if so, how.

So, either

  1. I try to circumvent gender-neutral job titles
  2. I emphasize other clues, e.g. names, physical descriptions, and so on.

TL;DR: Everyone's a woman: how do you show that through gender-neutral language?

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1 comment

Seveneves has that situation for part of the book, but it is in the middle so explained as things move along. manassehkatz about 1 month ago

1 answer


My answer will be simple but hard to execute

  1. Show to world around them. For example toilets would be "seaters" only (dunno name in english), no man toilets at all - It would all be just one door WC with one type of seating toilet..

    I am not sure how much is that truth but I heard that women synchronize period - how about make it one week in a month, that whole your settings tries to accommodate women with pain and discomfort.

    I would also imagine society built to accommodate only one gender would have specific need products only in malls and streets

  2. One way to inform your readers about world being populated by "women only" would be tackling reproduction as one of topic in story.

    Second way would be that one scene would happen in National History Museum at Men repository called "When there were men" or something like that

    -To avoid infodump, make it part of scene where plot progress is happening in a way they do not wonder about it, it is just how life always was for them

  3. About language, I am not much English speaker, sorry.

In summary, show it by the way the society function. If it is recent change there would be phrases like "Unlike when there were men" if it happened many generation ago it would be wise not to mention men at all, except perhaps some museum or new way of reproduction without need of male chromozomes (or perhaps way how to replicate them). Discard anything related to gender in the world - that word is ubiquity and if you have mind for it (I do not) invent even new words which would this type of society definitely have. Perhaps get some inspiration in communism where everybody was "comrade". So perhaps "citizen, codweller" and such as. Make it part of your narrative and people will accept it


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