All gender-specific terms will be removed from Scituate’s bylaws after a Special Town Meeting voted to make all identifying terms gender-neutral.
The Board of Selectmen becomes the Select Board, for example, and chairmen become chairpeople. References to “he” or “she” will be changed to “them.”
The vote at the Nov. 16 meeting generated considerable discussion.
Some people argued that the change was needed to keep up with the times. Select chair Karen Canfield, for example, noted that 86 other communities in the state had switched to gender neutral terms -- as had the Massachusetts Selectmen’s Association, which in 2020 became the Massachusetts Select Board Association.
Others argued that using neutral terms was confusing or a disservice to women. “If anything we should be adding ‘she’ and not taking it away,” one woman said.
The final vote was 49 to 18 in favor of changing gender-specific terms to neutral ones.
Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.