Inclusive language: Appearance
Personal looks can often be the subject of judgment from others. Sometimes these judgments are positive or neutral, but occasionally they may be based on prejudices against certain body types. Being mindful of some of these prejudices and the non-inclusive language associated with them can improve the inclusivity of your content. In this article, we’ll give tips on making your content more inclusive.
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One normalized and prevalent bias is an anti-fat bias, also called fatphobia. According to this bias, those who do not look thin are perceived as being lesser in some way. To reduce harmful language in your content, consider these examples:
- Non-inclusive: fat person/people, obese person/people, overweight. Note that it is okay to use these terms if you are referring to yourself or someone you know who specifically uses these terms to describe themselves.
- Inclusive: person/people who have a higher weight, higher-weight person/people, person/people in higher weight body/bodies, or heavier person/people.
Other attributes of appearance
There are many aspects of people’s appearance that can unintentionally be described in a non-inclusive way. Take a look at these examples.
- Non-inclusive: vertically challenged, or midget to refer to those of short stature.
- Inclusive: little person, has short stature, or someone with dwarfism.
- Non-inclusive: harelip (it is an outdated and offensive word.)
- Inclusive: cleft lip or cleft palate (note: these terms refer to two different conditions – use the specific condition if it is known).
- Non-inclusive: an albino or albinos (unless you are using it for yourself or someone you know who uses this term to describe themselves).
- Inclusive: person/people with albinism (this centers on the personhood of those with albinism). While it is less preferred, using an albino person may also be acceptable to some people with albinism.
To learn more on these topics, consider reading through these sources:
- Anti-Fat Bias: the Normalized Prejudice
- The “M” Word
- Cleft Lip and Palate Association
- What Do You Call Me? Information on Albinism