Reading the boilerplate

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/06/08 03:00 -04:00, original URI:

How often do we actually read the boilerplate text?

It is funny, I was thinking about this the other day.

I have belonged to Linguist List for a little while now, though quite definitely as a lurker (even if I can upgrade myself from delusions of linguistic aptitude to notions of it, I am still by no means a linguist, even ignoring the many years of education I am missing!).

All kinds of interesting mails go by though, and sometimes there are very interesting post and announements as well.

Though I couldn't help noticing their boilerplate that is prepended to any "job listing" that is sent:

The LINGUIST List strongly encourages employers to engage in non-discriminatory hiring practices. We urge employers not to discriminate on the grounds of race, ethnicity, nationality, age, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. However, we have no means of enforcing these standards.

(the last sentence, in red, is only in the email version, not in that site post I linked to -- putting it in red is just me though, not the email!)

In any case, I can't help feeling like there is an item missing there. One that theoretically impacts me.

Technically this is not such a huge deal for me, since I wouldn't be qualified for any of the positions they list anyway. But I can't help wondering if anyone who was qualified saw this and decided not to respond? It is easy to be an introvert in such cases....

Probably not, though. Like I said, I think I am oversensitive to it. I mean, just about every university I know of has such policies -- including Wayne State University and Eastern Michigan University, the sponsors of Linguist List. So it is probably covered even without the boilerplate disclaimer. :-)

Which actually brings up a bigger question -- how many people actually tune out once the paragraph about non-discrimination starts, since they know what it is going to cover? I mean, even in this one particular case I can't say I noticed an issue even after it appeared on hundreds on mail messages. Perhaps I would have been looking harder if I were hunting for a linguistic job, but it is more likely that I would be skipping past it to look at the actual jobs.

Do people actually ever read the boilerplate text?

# Gabe on 12 Jun 2006 2:14 AM:

As I understand it, sex refers to a male or female, while gender refers to masculine or feminine (like 'waiter' is a masculine noun and 'waitress' is a feminine noun). There has been a big problem with discrimination based on sex, but I've never heard of somebody discriminated based on their gender, so they probably meant sex instead of gender.

I find it surprising that the Linguist List, of all lists, would get those two words mixed up.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 12 Jun 2006 11:30 AM:

Hi Gabe --

The text looks like standard legalese to me, which does not use the distintion you are referring to. Since the text is clearly referring to legal issues, that makes sense to me....

# errantacademic on 8 Aug 2006 9:07 AM:

The reason why the Linguist List makes the distinction between sex and gender is pretty clear to me, since I live in the strange environment people call academia.  In that environment "sex" is quite different from "gender."  "Sex" here refers to the physical attributes you are born with, i.e. do you or do you not have male/female genitalia?  "Gender" on the other hand refers to how you identify yourself.  So a man who lives as a woman would be female gendered, but male in terms of sex.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 8 Aug 2006 5:58 PM:

So they propoerly distinguish a difference with no legal existence in regard to discrimation law, while at the same time ignoring an entire category.


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