North Myrtle Beach City Council will vote Monday on an ordinance switching its predominately masculine pronouns in city ordinances to gender-neutral terms.
Most cities, including North Myrtle, primarily use masculine nouns, the city’s ordinance background states.
“This is not because cities wish to perpetuate gender bias but because most ordinances precede the strong contemporary awareness of gender bias and a desire to eliminate it,” the ordinance states.
City spokesman Pat Dowling said the staff at Municode, who maintain the city's online ordinances, has the authority to look through codes and see if the terminology could be brought up to date. But any changes need approval from city council.
Mayor Marilyn Hatley said the ordinance was a "housekeeping" issue and she's fine with the change.
"Never have we chosen somebody for a position because they’re a man or because they’re a woman," Hatley said. "We choose people for their positions for their ability. If it needs to be changed, it needs to be changed."
In several dozen sections of the city code, masculine pronouns including “him,” “his” and “himself” are used. Some sections include just “her” or “herself.”
To remedy that, the city is altering the language as shown below:
• Changing the term “he” to “he/she”
• Changing the term “his” to “his/her”
• Changing the term “her” to “his/her”
• Changing the term “him” to “him/her”
• Changing the term “himself” to “himself/herself”
• Changing the term “herself” to “himself/herself”
• Changing the term “fireman” to “firefighter”
• Changing the term “firemen” to “firefighters”
• Changing the term “chairman" to “chairperson”
• Changing the term "vice-chairman" to "vice-chairperson”
The city ordinance states that “amending the code of ordinances to include gender-neutral pronouns by eliminating any gender preference language within the code will promote equality.”
"In today’s time, we need to make it general," she said. "It really doesn’t matter if it’s a he or a she for anyone in our city. It’s just whoever can do the job, and whoever’s best at doing the job."
Dowling said older generations often didn't notice the heavy use of masculine pronouns.
"And you have young people who are generally more interested in local politics because they see it as a place where they can most directly effect change, yet when you see young girls read city codes, it’s all about masculine pronouns," Dowling said.
The proposed change, he added, "makes them feel more welcome and they can imagine themselves in elected positions in the future."
The council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at city hall.