A core value at Seed&Spark is belonging. In order to foster a community where everyone belongs, everyone in the community must participate. Language is a crucial component of how we share our work and get our stories told, as creators and filmmakers. Words matter. How we communicate to each other and our audiences has a significant impact on our intent to move our culture forward. In an effort to promote equity, inclusion, and respect across our community and beyond, Seed&Spark is invested in continuously educating ourselves on how to use language that reflects our mission and values, while removing words from our vernacular that are insensitive and exclusionary.
These guidelines will apply to all of our own content, as well as interactions with creators, supporters, partners, sponsors, DEI clients, and event attendees. We invite you to join us in making a commitment to using inclusive language in your personal and professional lives as well.
As language preferences are ever-evolving, these guidelines will be updated on a recurring basis. The below is not an exhaustive list of inclusive language, so we encourage you to check out the additional resources linked throughout to continue the work of being mindful of the words you choose.
Some people within the same community will have different feelings about different words. What is most important is that the language you use reflects the needs of the people you’re interacting with who are from the communities that a particular word or phrase pertains to.
Language is an important first step to becoming more inclusive, but to create truly inclusive environments, it cannot be the last step. In addition to using more inclusive language, we encourage you to do your own research for ways to back your inclusive language up with action.
What is Inclusive Language?
Inclusive language is language that avoids the use of certain expressions or words that might be considered to exclude particular groups of people. This term is used for traditionally underrepresented groups, such as racial and ethnic minorities, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, people with disabilities, or in a socio-economic context. The words you use, and the way in which you use them, have a direct impact on others and their sense of belonging.
Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Non-binary people are non-binary. It’s rarely necessary to acknowledge someone’s transness. At Seed&Spark, we avoid words and phrases like "womxn" and "female-identifying" because many trans people feel they actually do more to exclude than include them as intended. If the goal is to include trans women, the best term to use is usually just “women.” This article helps explain why the word “womxn” could be offensive to trans women and non-binary people. If you’re worried that trans women won’t know they’re included by using the term “women”, the behavior of your organization will speak directly to that. If trans women are a part of your community, it will be obvious that your definition of women includes them.
Gender pronouns are part of learning how to address someone, just like learning their name. Always ask for someone’s pronouns instead of assuming, and share your own! Important note: Don’t use the term “preferred pronouns” when you ask for someone’s pronouns. It makes it sound as if using someone's correct pronouns are optional, when it’s really a way to acknowledge a person’s identity and not a preference. See additional examples below, and find more examples here.
Similar to gender-inclusive language, racial-inclusive language has varied preferences by different racial and ethnic groups. While there’s a continuous debate around whether BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), POC (People of Color), or related terms are most appropriate (NPR’s Code Switch dives deep on this topic here), the most important thing to keep in mind is to respect how someone from a different background than you wants to be identified. See examples below, and find more examples here.
Ability-Inclusive and Mental Health-Inclusive Language
Ability-inclusive and mental-health inclusive language preferences are also contingent on personal preferences of the group or identity being described. A general rule of thumb is to choose people-first language, which avoids defining a person in terms of their disability (ex: “person with a disability” rather than “disabled person”). However, in some cases (most notably in the Deaf community and among autistic people), identity-first language is preferred. See examples below, and find more examples of ability-inclusive language here and more examples of mental health-inclusive language here.