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Gender-fair language consists of the symmetric linguistic treatment of women and men instead of using masculine forms as generics. In this study, we examine how the use of gender-fair language affects readers' support for social initiatives in Poland and Austria.
While gender-fair language is relatively novel in Poland, it is well established in Austria. This difference may lead to different perceptions of gender-fair usage in these speech communities. Two studies conducted in Poland investigate whether the evaluation of social initiatives Study 1: quotas for women on election lists; Study 2: support for women students or students from countries troubled by war is affected by how female proponents lawyers, psychologists, sociologists, and academics are referred to, with masculine forms traditional or with feminine forms modern, gender-fair.
Study 3 replicates Study 2 in Austria. Our results indicate that in Poland, gender-fair language has negative connotations and therefore, detrimental effects particularly when used in gender-related contexts. Conversely, in Austria, where gender-fair language has been implemented and used for some time, there are no such negative effects.
This pattern of results may inform the discussion about formal policies regulating the use of gender-fair language. These lyrics by Dylan capture a rarely examined phenomenon in social psychology, that is, social reality changes over time and may do so even within a fairly short period. Here, we will look at socially motivated changes in language such as language reforms introduced to instigate and promote changes in social reality.
To our knowledge, such language policies' effectiveness has never been examined. Such an examination would require a longitudinal approach with measurements being taken over several points of time.
The disadvantage of such an approach is that the time within which changes are to happen is unspecified, which constitutes a serious challenge to the budgetary and time framework of any research. We tried to overcome this disadvantage by using cross-sectional research that compares different speech communities at different stages of implementing a specific language reform. In languages where gender-fair language was or is still a matter of debate English in the s: McConnell and Fazio, ; Polish and Italian in the first two decades of the twenty-first century: Mucchi-Faina, ; Merkel et al.
However, this conclusion may be premature as we still do not know the popular reaction to politically correct language after it has been implemented for a longer time. Positive effects of gender-fair language have been reported only for Germany, where this usage has been in practice for a longer time Vervecken and Hannover, Hence, over time, politically correct language can be reasonably assumed to become a linguistic standard and thus may then trigger positive evaluation among its users.
We tested this assumption by comparing two speech communities where grammatical gender languages are spoken Polish in Poland and German in Austria , which substantially differ with respect to gender-fair usage.
While pertinent language reforms have been implemented and acknowledged in Austrian German, gender-fair language is rarely accepted and is often rejected in Polish.
Using the same research paradigm to examine these two countries and languages representing different stages of linguistic reform, allowed the indirect study of the longitudinal effects of socially motivated language reform.
In languages with grammatical gender such as German and Polish , most human nouns and pronouns are differentiated as feminine or masculine. Therefore, the principle strategy employed to make a language gender fair is to have feminine forms of human nouns used more frequently and systematically to make female referents visible.
This means masculine generics, that is, grammatically masculine forms meant to represent both genders e. Additionally, feminine role names or job titles are introduced to designate female job holders explicitly e. However, across the two countries and languages, differences persist in the adoption of gender-fair language. Two main reasons account for these differences. The first concerns the time of implementation. Since then, official regulations have been adopted in German-speaking countries.
The implementation of gender-fair language has progressed so far that there is even a special Microsoft add-in for gender-fair German 1. In Austria, almost all universities and government institutions have their own guidelines for gender-fair language e. Presently, job advertisements must be phrased in a gender-fair way, e. However, in Poland, official regulations or guidelines for gender-fair language are absent and its use is rare.
According to numerous researchers, the implementation of gender-fair language has reached different stages in Austria and Poland. While creating feminine human nouns is fairly easy in German mostly by adding the feminine suffix - in to the masculine form, e.
In Polish, feminine forms of some role nouns can easily be derived with the suffix - ka e. Moreover, some feminine forms of job titles denote not only a feminine job holder but also an object e. Considering these differences, we hypothesized that reactions to gender-fair language would differ in Poland and Austria. In line with earlier findings, we assumed that reactions to gender-fair language would be more negative than reactions to traditional masculine forms in Poland, where gender-fair usage is still novel.
However, in Austria, where gender-fair language is well known and fairly established, we expected gender-fair forms to trigger highly positive reactions than the traditional use of the masculine. We conducted three studies Studies 1 and 2 in Poland and Study 3 in Austria with a similar design to examine how the use of gender-fair language or masculine forms affected respondents' support for social initiatives Studies 1—3 addressing gender-related Studies 1—3 , or non-gender-related topics Studies 2 and 3.
Study 1 was conducted in Poland via Internet. The website hosting the study was accessed by individuals, of whom left the first page without completing it. All of the described research was conducted according to the recommendations for online research of Eynon et al. Participants were anonymous, expressed their consent to participate in the study, and were provided with the opportunity to obtain additional information on the study.
The first study was a pilot study, and at the time, no institutional approval was needed in Poland for pilot studies. As the study yielded interesting results, we decided to include them in the manuscript and applied for ethical approval for subsequent studies. The study was conducted shortly before the elections of regional authorities in Poland and immediately before the deadline for the parties to submit lists of candidates to the Election Committee in October The elections were preceded by a nationwide debate about introducing quotas for women for the election lists.
This was supported with over , signatures from Polish citizens. At the time of the study, no quota system had been legally introduced; however, the topic was very popular. On the website, the study was announced as a 3-min survey concerning democracy. The introduction read as follows:. According to this initiative, including women in the election lists would signal genuine support for gender equality in a modern Poland.
The introduction contained the following manipulation. The original version of this manipulation as well as of Study 2 and 3 is presented in the Supplementary Material available online. As women and men sometimes react differently to linguistic forms e.
The slider was preset to the mid-point position and the answers were recorded at 1-point intervals ranging from 0 very negative to very positive. This scale served as a dependent measure indicating the evaluation of the gender equality initiative 2. To assess participants' actual support for the quota, they were also asked whether they had signed the support sheet for the quota act during the previous months. Finally, the participants who provided demographical data were asked for comments and were provided with debriefing information about the study.
E—in the correlation matrix refers to the Evaluation of the Initiative that is the main Dependent Variable used across the three studies. To test our assumptions, we conducted a regression analysis with evaluation of the social initiative as a dependent variable. In the first step, we used linguistic form coded 0 for masculine and 1 for feminine and participant gender 0 for male and 1 for female as predictors, and support for the quota by signing the support sheet 0 for no and 1 for yes as a covariate variable in the analysis 3.
The reason to use political attitudes as a covariate in our analysis was that political views can have an impact on the main dependent variable used in our studies, that is support for social equality initiatives. This assumption stems from the fact that liberals do support social equality much more than the conservatives Jost et al.
In the second step, we added an interaction term linguistic form and participant gender , since the effects of gender-fair language may be affected by this factor e.
The results indicated that the effects of linguistic form were moderated by participant gender. In other words, while women's evaluations of the gender equality initiative were independent of the linguistic form employed, men's evaluations were less favorable when the proponents were referred to in the feminine than in the masculine.
Means and standard deviations of evaluation of initiatives presented with masculine or feminine forms for gender and non-gender related initiatives according to participant gender across all three studies.
All means were adjusted for the covariate used in the analysis namely political views. Study 1 showed that the gender-related social initiative was evaluated less favorably by men when framed in a feminine than in a masculine form. However, no such difference was observed for women. Earlier studies on gender-fair language already observed that men are less supportive of gender-fair language Jacobson and Insko, ; Matheson and Kristiansen, ; Parks and Roberton, , , and our results are consistent with these findings.
Moreover, it must be emphasized that Study 1 was performed at a time when a heated debate on quotas was ongoing in Poland. Several issues regarding gender equality were raised at the time, and gender was a salient concept.
This may have increased the intergroup divides between men and women as well as men's opposition to gender-fair language, which is often mediated by attitudes toward women in general Parks and Roberton, However, a serious limitation of Study 1 is that the social initiative presented was about gender equality.
This topic may have reinforced the effect of feminine forms in the description. Language reform in the direction of gender-fairness was indeed a political act and originated from the feminist movement Pauwels, Thus, novel feminine forms used in a gender context may be perceived as signaling feminism.
In general, if gender-fair language is perceived as questioning traditional gender arrangements, negative effects should occur mostly in connection with gender issues. However, if gender-fair language is rejected solely because of its novelty, then the effect observed in Study 1 should be independent of the goal of an initiative. In Study 1 the support for a social initiative might have been influenced by both, the linguistic form and the readiness to accept gender quotas.
Study 2 was designed to address this possible confound. Study 2 aimed to replicate the effect of linguistic form found in Study 1. In addition, it examined the question of whether the goal of the initiative, a gender-related vs.
To avoid associations with in-group interests and to stay clear of ongoing debates about quotas, the gender-related issue in Study 2 involved women professionals helping young female students. The non-gender-related goal was helping students from countries affected by war. Study 2 was again conducted online in Poland and was advertised in the academic forums of two universities in Warsaw.
The website of the study was accessed by persons. Participants were to evaluate a grassroots campaign that concerned the system of higher education. To support the cover story, the initiative was described in the layout of a popular opinion magazine in Poland.
The initiative supported affirmative action either for women or for students from countries affected by war. The initiative was presented as follows:. According to psychologist Magda Leska, initiator of the campaign, this would promote the development of economic life, science, and factual gender equality [gender goal] vs.
After reading the introduction, participants were asked to evaluate the proposal by answering seven questions. Participants indicated whether the initiative 1 was generally popular, 2 was governed by genuine concern for other people, 3 was good for the system of higher education; and had the potential of increasing 4 the prestige of higher education in Poland, 5 the quality of schooling, 6 the competitiveness of Polish institutions of higher education, and 7 should be implemented at all Polish institutions of higher education.
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Gender-fair language consists of the symmetric linguistic treatment of women and men instead of using masculine forms as generics. In this study, we examine how the use of gender-fair language affects readers' support for social initiatives in Poland and Austria. While gender-fair language is relatively novel in Poland, it is well established in Austria. This difference may lead to different perceptions of gender-fair usage in these speech communities.
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This pattern of results may inform the discussion about formal policies regulating the use of gender-fair language. Login using Several issues regarding gender equality were raised at the time, and gender was a salient concept. According to numerous researchers, the implementation of gender-fair language has reached different stages in Austria and Mktivation. To support the cover story, the initiative was described in the layout of a popular opinion magazine in Poland.
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