KARACHI: The Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) has decided to embark on a feminist linguistic transition. The official term of reference for the incoming class at LUMS will no longer be ‘Freshmen’, instead they will be referred to as ‘First Years.’
Cutacut reached out to the woman behind this change, LUMS professor Nida Kirmani, who told us,”It is something that had been bothering me for some time, and last week when I saw an email from the Dean’s Office in which the word ‘freshmen’ was used, I thought it was a good opportunity to suggest that we might start using a more inclusive term. I knew the Dean would be open to this as he is a staunch supporter of gender equality and inclusiveness, and he was. In fact, he said he had been meaning to make this change himself for some time. There was no campaign involved, just an email.”
Nida Kirmani is also a staunch feminist, and the Faculty Director of the Saida Waheed Gender Initiative at LUMS. When asked why language is important to the feminist movement, she said, “Language has always been an important issue for the feminist movement because of the awareness of the role that language plays in structuring our world. Language is the lens through which we see and experience the world. When people use ‘man’ or words with ‘man’ in them to include all humans, it turns ‘man’ into the standard and ‘woman’ into an add-on or a deviation. Many argue that it is understood that words like ‘freshman’ include people of all genders, but these are the subtle ways in which women are told that they are subsidiary human beings. A small change like ‘freshman’ to ‘first year’ gives a message that the institution is serious about equality and inclusivity.”
Areeba Fatima, a first year student at LUMS, spoke to us about the change and said, “When the policy was announced there was a surge of polarising opinions in the campus community. People who were never outright misogynistic in their opinions indulged in nonsensical humour about how this policy is stupid. The importance of language is heavily undermined in our society. The way we address women and how we talk about them translates into our conscience and hence our routinely behavior also reflects the same.”
LUMS has yet to release an official statement regarding the matter.