Arkansas’ Republican governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, known for her staunch conservative values and her role as White House press secretary under Donald Trump, has recently taken a controversial step. She signed an executive order that bans the use of certain inclusive language in state documents, sparking a debate on gender identity and inclusivity.
Banning “Woke” and “Anti-Women” Terms
The executive order, which Sanders claims is aimed at preserving gender distinctions between men and women, effectively bans twelve terms that she deems “woke” or “anti-women” from official government use.
Sanders, who previously served as the White House press secretary under the Trump administration, has been a vocal opponent of gender-neutral language, particularly terms designed to include transgender and non-binary individuals, such as ‘pregnant people’ and ‘chestfeeding.’ She has labeled these terms as “exclusionary and sexist.”
Research on Gender-neutral Language
However, research from a 2019 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that the use of gender-neutral language can have positive effects on gender equality and promote more inclusive attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community.
Replacing Banned Terms with “Female-Affirming” Alternatives
The executive order directs the state government to replace the banned terms with what it deems “accurate, female-affirming alternatives.”
Prohibition of Twelve Terms
For instance, ‘breastfeeding’ is to replace ‘chestfeeding,’ and ‘birth mom’ will replace ‘birthing person.’ This change is effective immediately.
Following the signing of her executive order, Sanders faced questions about her motivations.
She defended her stance by asserting that inclusive language is “demeaning to women” and must be stopped. She referred to the now-banned words as “nonsense terms.”
Defending the Executive Order
A spokesperson for Sanders indicated that they hadn’t kept a tally of instances where the banned terms had been used.
One Example of “Pregnant Person”
Still, they cited one example where the term “pregnant person” appeared in a Department of Health newsletter.
The spokesperson did not confirm whether any complaints were lodged against the term’s usage.
Governor Sanders’ Track Record
This isn’t the first time Governor Sanders has been at the center of divisive legislative actions.
Barring Transgender Children
In March, she signed a law that barred transgender children from using school restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.
The move was widely criticized and viewed as discriminatory against transgender students.
Transphobic Backlash Against Bud Light
Sanders also seized on a transphobic backlash against Bud Light in April after the beer company partnered with trans-TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney.
In response, she introduced a line of beer “koozies” featuring images of “real women” in politics. To promote her merchandise, she posted an advertisement with the slogan: “Real women don’t have to fake it.”
The Impact of the Executive Order
The governor’s latest executive order has sparked a fierce debate about the role of government in shaping language and the potential consequences for marginalized communities, particularly the LGBTQ+ community.
LGBTQ+ Community Concerns
Critics argue that such measures are regressive and harmful, while supporters believe they protect traditional values.
“Misappropriation of Government Funds”
One voter took to X, formerly Twitter, to write, Are “misappropriation of government funds” woke words?
Another wrote, “Wow! Arkansas takes away free speech. Is Arkansas the first to institute these fascist laws?”
Ongoing Debate Over Gender Identity
The executive order, along with Sanders’ other policy decisions, has rekindled the ongoing debate over gender identity, inclusivity, and individual rights within the state of Arkansas.
As the nation watches, this decision promises to have far-reaching consequences and will continue to be a point of contention among policymakers, advocacy groups, and the general public.
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Joe Lysikatos is a distinguished writer, highly regarded for his in-depth coverage and analysis of politics, human rights, equality, and freedom. His work is characterized by a deep understanding of these critical issues, often highlighting the interplay between political decisions and their impact on civil liberties and social justice.