Inclusive language is necessary in academia 

As I continue into my last year at James Madison University, I want to take the time to explore how the implementation of inclusive language in my courses has positively impacted my understanding of feminist discourse. I grew up in an extremely conservative family, where Christianity led the forefront of all levels of decision-making. This ideology comes with implicit understandings of gender, sexuality, race, etc. I did not think using inclusive language, or even bothering to learn, was worth the time. 

However, one of the classes I took as a first-year was an introductory-level writing class, WRTC 103. In this class, I learned the importance of writing to include personal pronouns. At the time, this idea seemed irrelevant to my ideology, however, after discussions with my professor and writing partner of the class, I decided to educate myself on how to write inclusively and respectfully. 

After this class, I picked up my major study, WRTC. I was introduced to a class entitled Studies in Literacy. I studied the importance of understanding the literary discourse used by certain communities, like the level of understanding needed to join a pottery class. While this is a silly example, I learned how certain language communities have taken on specific practices to integrate non-native speakers into their culture. Inclusive language is important in this example to not assume someone’s level of understanding when it comes to cultural practices. This view of language made me consider how language is used in academia to exclude many different marginalized groups. 

Advanced editing taught me the Principles of Design, which includes making design accessible and usable by all. I was asked to do extensive research on inclusive, professional writing in accordance with accepted grammar rules. I learned the most from other editors who provided their personal experience to support the need for inclusive editing. I then produced a style guide for inclusion in JMU’s deliverables for race, gender, sexuality, ability, etc. Learning to edit documents for universal usability encouraged me to implement this in my personal work and other classes. 

After these courses, I picked up my Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies minor, where the coursework was fully focused on broadening the understanding of feminist discourses. I had the privilege of taking a course that dissected the Western imposition of ideas of gender and sexuality onto historic and current Islamic texts. The class looked at what Muslim scholars and philosophers had to say on the Western Feminist lens of the Muslim experience. This class helped me understand the bias used in feminist discourse in Western academia. 

I began to redefine my beliefs and understandings of what it means to be an ally, in the contexts of all marginalized groups. I began researching from scholars, like Lila Abu-Lughod and Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, on how to implement an intersectional approach to academia. I have since worked to change the course of conversations in my classes when they seem to speak over marginalized voices and experiences.

I am by no means trying to praise myself for becoming educated in these topics; my goal is to highlight the good these classes and conversations have had on my personal growth. I hope I can be an example to JMU faculty that this curriculum can and will benefit at least one student while studying here. Some disciplines think the promotion of inclusive language and feminist discourse is a waste of time. However, my experience at JMU has proven that students who are given the opportunity to learn this will improve. They will become better students, professionals, and citizens. 

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