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The next Evanston City Council may not only see a change in who’s filling the seats, but also in the title by which aldermen – er, alderpersons – are addressed.
City Council members introduced a proposal at the April 26 meeting that would amend City Code to allow gender-neutral terms to be used as the titles of elected officials.
Thus, with the transition from the current City Council, the 80th in Evanston’s history, to the 81st Council, which is to take place at the May 10 meeting, staff could stop using the term, “Alderman,” and begin using “Alderperson,” “City Council Member” or “Council Member” instead.
In a memo on the proposed change, Shenicka Hohenkirk, an International City/County Management Association Management Fellow, wrote the “City recognizes that gender-neutral language is a generic term covering the use of non- sexist language, inclusive language, or gender-fair language, that the purpose of gender neutral language is to avoid word choices which may be interpreted as biased, discriminatory or demeaning by implying that one sex or social gender is the norm.
“Using gender-neutral language also helps reduce gender stereotyping, promotes social change and contributes to achieving gender equality. Gender-neutral language is more than a matter of political correctness, but a language that powerfully reflects and influences attitudes, behavior, and perceptions.”
Alderpersons in 2011 rejected a similar proposal, proposed by then-Seventh Ward Jane Grover, that called for a change to a more generic-neutral term.
At the time, Ms. Grover had said she favored “Council member” or even “Alderperson” over “Alderman,” which has been the title for City Council members for more than a century.
Some other members of the Council, which included six women at that time, preferred to stick with the old term, finding the substitutes too generic, and approving a motion “to keep our identity the same.”