The growing number of companies now encouraging the use of pronouns in email signatures – and several social networks, including Instagram and LinkedIn, which have added pronouns to user profiles – is a good thing.
After a slow start, the growing number of companies now encouraging the use of pronouns in email signatures – a fundamental building block that guards against misgendering in all communications, including face to face – should therefore be acknowledged as a positive thing.
And the momentum is now set to continue, data from the Wunderman Thompson – the agency I work for – suggests.
People are getting more curious
So far in 2021, online searches for and around pronouns is up 52% year on year – a more than doubling since 2016. From these searches, the top three were for pronouns themselves, with people searching for “they/them pronouns”; “she/they pronouns”; and “she/her pronouns”.
Curiosity around how we should identify personally is increasing too, with the fifth most asked question on Google being: “what are my pronouns?”
Celebs are steering (and stirring) the conversation
Since Eddie Izzard publicly announced her pronouns, we have seen queries about the topic rising. Sam Smith’s pronouns also feature heavily in searches, and they’re also the most followed person on Twitter and Instagram to feature pronouns in their bio.
In fact, those in the public eye are far more likely to use their pronouns than the general public.
Verified users globally on Instagram are more than twice as likely to include their pronouns in their bios than non-verified users. This difference is even greater in the UK, with verified UK users 12 times more likely to include their pronouns in their bios than non-verified UK users.
Some conversations are more helpful than others, of course.
When singer Demi Lovato spoke out about their own pronouns, former Good Morning Britain co-anchor Piers Morgan quickly took to Twitter with a tweet that mocked Lovato’s gender identity, implying that they were an “attention-seeking celebrity”.
When Piers Morgan posted, we saw negative sentiments around the topic increase by 9%, with many tweeting about pronouns being “stupid” and “confusing”.
Privilege might be influencing perceptions online
Whilst the majority of people on social media would never want to offend intentionally, those with lived experience of exclusion or oppression are more likely to empathise with others who may feel excluded or oppressed and are more likely to act as allies online.
It also explains why the most active supporters of pronouns tend to include rainbow flags and words such as “lesbian”, “BLM”, “bi”, “gay” and “queer” in their bios.
When we looked at privilege more closely, Caucasian people made up 66% of those using negative sentiments around pronouns, showing that perhaps people’s white privilege (and possibly lack of awareness about their own biases) could be impacting marginalised groups more than expected.
Caucasian people were also 5% less likely to discuss pronouns on Twitter, compared to Asian people, who are 72% more likely to discuss the topic.
There were similar themes between those who identify as male and female. Those who identify as female were 37% more likely to be driving conversations around pronouns than the Twitter average.