[Art: “Female swordsman” by redpeggy]
Women represent almost half of the population, but when a content gets localized into other languages they still end up getting addressed as men
‘Welcome’, ‘user’, ‘player’, and many other words are kept in the masculine because translators were once learned this would be enough to give a sense of ‘anyone’.
But is it really enough?
People want more and more diversity, and yet they forget the content they create can be responsible for attracting or driving people away. When using terms in the masculine, your content may be indicating, indirectly, that women are not your company’s priority/target/preference, that they do not belong there, that they’re not welcome.
Walking a mile in my shoes
Genders, languages, content. I know for some it may sound overwhelming — especially if you are born in a different culture, different language, different gender.
So I learned the best is to tell stories on gender issues as a consumer and a woman, and how I felt.
Gender issues in Games — Clash of Queens (fail)*
I love playing casual games. One day, I found this game called Clash of Queens: Dragons Rise.
‘Be a queen, marry one or do whatever you want’ was the game’s description — fair enough for a badass almighty queen game. Let’s try it out. After a long cinematic of fights, a pretty lady shows up and talks to me:
My Lord, we can explore the world now.
My… what? So that’s the queen? Is she… my wife? I’m not the queen here? Then quit the game.
I don’t know what happens afterwards in the game. I don’t know if my ‘Lord’ character goes through a sex change later on and then I would start playing as a queen. They lost me there at that very first sentence and I believe I wasn’t the first and only.
*Note this issue also occurs in English
Airbnb case (fail)
I rented a space on Airbnb. The entire application and every single email I got from the platform addressed me as a male host* (*in Portuguese, ‘host’ is a gendered noun, has a feminine and a masculine version), because there are only men managing rentals on Airbnb, of course…
I understand they opted to use this form to address all hosts, including me, a woman, because it’s a grammatically acceptable way to give a sense of anyone.
But how can I accept such generic approach from a company that takes 12% of my earnings as profit when I rent my space?
How can I accept giving all my efforts to represent the company, providing an excellent, personalized experience to my guests and feeling they don’t care to do the same in return?
I don’t accept and even sent them my feedback on this — they ignored.
Wedding planning agencies
But fear not — not everything is lost!
Wedding planning agencies seem to be a step ahead of many business and can serve as an example on how to be gender-inclusive.
Not too long ago, same-gender couples had to deal with awkward situations like signing the official wedding papers as a different gender and hear ‘jokes’ like ‘who is the bride/groom of the couple?’
Some agencies realized how offensive and non-inclusive this can be to many couples and completely changed how their services were offered.
Needless to say these were the ones that would get referred.
Facebook — an example to be followed
Facebook is an excellent example of gender-inclusive localization!
They started adding a feature where users would write their thoughts, add an emoticon and ‘feeling…’ something.
The adjectives were not only translated/localized, but they would adapt to the gender of the user.
And if it wasn’t amazing enough, the new feature added — a camera icon on the top left of the application — gave me the most beautiful ‘welcome’ I’d ever seen!
It wasn’t in the masculine (Bem-vindo), nor a generic one (Boas-vindas or Bem-vindo(a)), but a specific Welcome directed to me.
Today, internet and social media is overwhelmed with content, and in order to stand out, it’s necessary to personalize your website/apps/product to reach a greater crowd and turn them into advocates
Below, you’ll find some tricks on how to create and localize a gender-inclusive product:
- Don’t assume your consumer’s gender: I know you have a target audience. But don’t throw the dice on a high quality lead. The risk of addressing them as the wrong gender is 50%. See more: 2016 Trends in Personalization Survey.
- Communicate: Instruct your copywriters, agencies or localizers on your objectives, tell them you WANT a gender-inclusive content and work together to achieve it.
- Gender selection box: Start by including a gender selection box or body selection screen right at the beginning of your website/app/game. Then link it to your text files and switch between genders at run time to receive your gender-inclusive texts and localization.
- Gender neutrality: Use gender neutrality whenever possible.
Sometimes, in some languages, gender neutrality can be complicated or impossible.
So I recommend:
- Tags: Program your website/app/game to support tags and add both masculine and feminine forms. This will give everyone the freedom to modify the text whenever necessary to create a gender-inclusive content.
Code or tags is a great alternative to avoid gender issues:
2. Parenthesis: Use parenthesis after words to indicate the masculine and feminine form. This may break the immersion (not a big deal if it’s a website), but it’s still inclusive.
This is a much better gender-inclusive alternative. It can be used in surveys, on websites, etc.