City Council amends language, members to be addressed with gender neutral terms

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Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

The Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. “Alderpeople” and “City council members” will now be official alternative terms to refer to city officials.

Yiming Fu, Assistant City Editor

City staff will no longer use the term “alderman” to refer to the 81st City Council, which will be sworn in on May 10.

“Alderpeople” and “City Council members” will now be official terms to refer to elected city officials, a change City Council approved at a Monday meeting. 

Shenicka Hohenkirk, a city management fellow, wrote in an April 26 memo that the current gender-coded term may be interpreted as biased, discriminatory or demeaning. Instead, gender-fair language relinquishes implications that one sex is the norm, she wrote. 

“Using gender-neutral language helps reduce gender stereotyping, promotes social change and contributes to achieving gender equality,” Hohenkirk wrote in the memo. “Gender-neutral language is more than a matter of political correctness, but a language that powerfully reflects and influences attitudes, behavior, and perceptions.”

“Alderman” has been the title for City Council members for more than a century. In 2011, former Ald. Jane Grover previously proposed to change the term to “Council Member” or “alderperson,” but the proposal was rejected because members of the council at the time said they found the substitutes too generic. 

At the state level, the Illinois House of Representatives approved a bill in early April that would change all mentions of “alderman” and “aldermen” to “alderperson” and “alderpersons,” and all mentions of “congressman” to “congressperson.”

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Twitter: @yimingfuu

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