A Short Guide to Inclusive Language

Why is this Important?

Language is an important part of building a company where everybody feels welcome and included. It costs us nothing to incorporate inclusive terms into our daily lives, but goes so far in showing care, understanding and empathy for the diverse experiences of our colleagues. 

This is nowhere more true than when it comes to menstrual, sexual and reproductive health, where you'll find that the language we use - often unintentionally - contributes to negative attitudes and misconceptions.

Reminder: This is just a short-introduction to the vast curriculum we have created to foster inclusive workplaces. If you would like to learn more about our full programs, contact us here.

Positive Reinforcement

Marketing and industry terms have propagated negative attitudes towards menstruation for decades. For example, words with negative connotations like 'sanitary' or 'hygiene' are commonly used. Rather than position menstruation as a crucial part of health and wellbeing, these words suggest that menstruation is inherently ‘unsanitary’ - an experience that can only be made ‘hygienic’ through the use of certain products.

While the products we use can enhance our comfort, they in no way 'sanitise' an inherently unhygienic experience. Therefore, we want to use words and phrases that highlight menstruation as being a natural and healthy part of life. 

 Instead of using phrases like:

  • Feminine hygiene
  • Sanitary products
  • Sanitary napkins

Try replacing them with:

  • Menstrual care
  • Period care products 
  • Menstrual health products

Gender-Neutral Language

Not all cisgender women (assigned female at birth) have periods. This could be for a number of reasons, including stress, menopause, illness or a hysterectomy. 

There are also people who menstruate who aren’t cisgender women. This can include trans men or non-binary people.

It's important that we use gender-neutral language to be truly inclusive. Rather than using terms such as:

  • Female staff
  • Women (when used in isolation)

Try replacing these with:

  • Women and people with cycles
  • Menstruators
  • People who menstruate
  • Or where possible, use phrases like: "we provide period products for anyone who needs them."

Other Key Steps for Employers:

For employers wanting to implement inclusive language around menstruation, here are some steps we recommend you follow:

  1. Choose Diverse Ambassadors: Choose ambassadors who have diverse experiences of menstruation. Engage them early in discussions, ensuring that you take an intersectional approach to menstrual equity. 
  2. Create an Inclusive Language Guide: Build an inclusive language guide around periods and hormonal health. Circulate it somewhere easily accessible and invite people to share questions privately with a designated leader. This makes it easier to consolidate questions and also avoids potentially harmful comments arising before training has begun. Then circulate a comprehensive FAQ that addresses all questions and feedback, alongside relevant resources to support self-guided learning.
  3. Internal Materials: Signage, such as bathrooms materials, should reflect inclusive language. For example, promoting the provision of period products could read 'Free Period Products for Anyone Who Needs Them,' rather than 'Free Sanitary Products for Female Staff.'
  4. External Materials: Talk about your menstrual and hormonal care benefits in job descriptions and external company materials, making sure to use inclusive language to attract the very best talent.

Through our pioneering equity and wellbeing programs, LUÜNA has earned the trust of companies, schools and universities across Asia and the world. 

Contact us to learn more now.

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