Gender vs Genderless Titles

  • Waiter / Waitress
  • Actor / Actress
  • Doctor / Doctress?
  • Lawyer / Lawyess?
  • Nurse / Nurser?
  • Author / Authoress (that one is real)

Why are some titles/occupations gender based and others not? I got to thinking about such things and attempted to derive a pattern.

The only rationale I could come up with is that during the gestation of each of these occupations, if there were both male and female participants, then dual occupational titles were created. This may not hold water, but let’s see…

When did restaurants really come into their own? At the end of the 1800’s? Ergo waiter/waitress. What about film and the occupation of acting? Early 1900’s? Actor/actress.

If this concept holds true then the fact that both men and women starting out in the same field needed different names. Host/hostess? Both were necessary as both came to be when the need arose. How about: prince/princess, barman/barmaid, or steward/stewardess. Were each of those name-pairs created at the same time (because both genders were doing the same job)?

Engineer, doctor, lawyer, surveyor, conductor, tailor, sailor and so and so forth, all were originally male-filled jobs. All got names that only have the one gender.

And then there are the occupations where females originally dominated the position, like nurse, midwife, model. There weren’t male versions of those created when they came to be, women exclusively filled those positions.

These days, new occupation titles are always genderless: programmer, copywriter, consultant, developer, designer, controller.

Gender oriented titles are pretty much gone these days. And if not gone, then frowned upon: “I’m not a stewardess, I’m a flight attendant!”

What do you think?