It’s no secret that the tech industry has reshaped how society behaves – technology impacts everything from the way we gather information, communicate with others, and operate our businesses, to everything in between.
With this in mind, the industry creating these ground-breaking solutions must represent the society that uses it so readily – and currently, it does not.
Sprout Studio is a CRM and gallery software made for professional photographers who want to grow their businesses. At the time of writing this article, we are the only CRM that offers custom pronoun fields in our software.
Simply having this feature and acknowledging its existence is not enough; we felt a responsibility to help educate our community on the importance of pronouns and to encourage their usage, not only in your photography business but in your everyday life.
This article is intended to help you:
- Understand the significance of pronoun usage in business and society
- Cultivate a safe and inclusive environment for your clients, where all identities are welcome
As an entrepreneur, it’s your responsibility to understand why including and honouring personal pronouns in your business is important. You create the foundation for an inclusive environment and it starts with awareness – so kudos to you for taking the first step by reading this!
Gender Identity in Society
It’s common to perceive a person’s gender based on outward appearances like their hairstyle, clothing, or mannerisms. However, it’s also common that our interpretation of how someone presents themselves externally is not aligned with their true gender identity.
Gender is a social construction that people typically describe in terms of femininity and masculinity. While this social construct varies across different cultures, the terms “sex” and “gender” are often interchangeably misused. A person’s sex and gender identity do not have to be the same, so it’s important to know the difference between the two.
A person typically has their sex assigned to them at birth based on physiological characteristics, which is called a person’s “natal sex.” Unlike natal sex, gender is not divided along binary lines.
Gender is a broad spectrum that a person may identify at any point within, or entirely outside of. People may identify with genders that are different from their natal sex, with multiple genders, or with none at all. Some of these identities may include transgender, nonbinary, or agender, just to name a few.
Gender identity is internal; only the person themselves can determine what their gender identity is. This means that we don’t know a person’s correct pronouns by simply looking at them, we are assuming them.
Gender also exists in social constructs of gender “roles” or “norms.” These are the socially constructed roles, behaviors, and attributes that a society considers appropriate for men and women. When individuals stand out from or oppose these traditional gender norms, they often feel scrutinized and unaccepted in a society that has not yet made room for them.
How Media Reinforces Gender Norms
The prevalence of society’s gender binary mindset is also reflected in our media. There are countless examples of jokes at the expense of those who are gender non-conforming in pop culture, which only further reinforces the binary way many of us think about gender.
For example, Saturday Night Live’s It’s Pat (1994), the film Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), and Tyler Perry’s “Medea” all reinforce society’s adherence to strongly held gender norms by placing androgynous characters (who do not visually conform to accepted male or female standards) as the center of the joke.
The same is seen for the transgender community. In movies like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) in which the title character, played by Jim Carrey, is so disgusted with himself for kissing a transwoman that he becomes physically ill. Or in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) when the protagonist, played by Steve Carrell, rejects a transwoman and describes her to his friends as inhuman and repulsive. Both are comedic movies that use gender norms as the basis for humor.
There are many more examples similar to these seen throughout pop culture and society, where the prevalence of gendered assumptions and the display of transgendered characters are used for comedic purposes.
How do we expect those who do not identify with traditional gender norms to feel accepted if we do not give them proper representation – in pop culture and in business?
Pronouns in the Workplace
A standard form of mutual respect – for anyone – is to recognize a person by their chosen name. If you were to continuously call someone by the wrong name during a shoot, it is likely they would feel unacknowledged and unwelcomed.
The same can be said for pronoun use. Transgender and gender non-conforming people may be subject to misunderstanding, bias, and discrimination simply because they identify with pronouns that they weren’t born with.
There needs to be room in the workplace for both employees and clients to state their pronouns so others can acknowledge and respect them accordingly. Similar to the way we state our preferred names in emails, business cards, name tags, etc.
It’s important to properly gender your clients to avoid being hurtful, disrespectful, or discriminatory. The experience of accidentally misgendering someone can make both parties embarrassed, create tension, and limit communication – none of which make for a healthy client experience.
Cultivating a business (and society) that readily asks for and provides pronouns is one committed to inclusion, acceptance, and an understanding that gender identity is internal and not based on the perception of someone’s expression.
LGBTQ+ allies understand the importance of practicing gender-inclusive pronouns such as they/them/theirs in their business. Some clients may even have an expectation. When you include your pronouns in your emails, contact forms, website, and other areas in your Sprout Studio account, you are saying to potential clients that you will not make assumptions about their gender identity and that you accept non-traditional gender norms.
So, Why Add Pronouns to Your Photography Business?
Photographers seeking to be inclusive must be aware of the importance that pronouns hold for the progress of their business, the industry, and society at large. The bottom line is: everyone deserves to have their identity respected, especially in a professional and often vulnerable setting such as a photoshoot.
Being a photographer is about capturing someone else’s story and individuality. Your best shots are when clients are able to stay true to who they are. In front of a camera, you can’t hide, and if you’re uncomfortable – it shows.
Photographers take many other aspects of personal comfort into consideration; you wouldn’t want to shoot family portraits in -20° degree weather or ask your client to do a boudoir shoot when they booked a portrait. You want your clients to feel comfortable, so why wouldn’t you do everything you could to make that happen?
Clients who know they can share all of themselves, including their gender identity, will better provide the authentic moments that photographers strive to capture. When someone shows no signs of gender inclusivity in their business/website/portfolio, especially with the added pressures from societal ideologies, clients may limit how open they are willing to be.
When potential clients see pronouns listed on your website, email, etc., it tells them “I welcome and accept you, no matter your gender identity”. Taking the time to ask clients for their proper pronouns shows them you want to respect their preferred form of address and helps normalize the use of pronouns overall.
When pronouns aren’t listed, how can gender non-conforming clients tell the difference between a photographer who wants to be an ally and just hasn’t gotten around to including their pronouns yet – or a photographer who purposefully didn’t add them out of hostility?
Additionally, clients who are allies of the LGBTQ+ community may look for photographers who demonstrate compassion and understanding – the best and easiest way to do this is by including pronouns where you can.
Just as we encourage you to add pronouns to your Sprout Studio account, we encourage you to continue learning about perspectives that may differ from how society has taught you to see the world.
And after all, you are a photographer – you know how important perspective can be.
Empowering Sprout Users with Pronouns
So, we’ll leave you with this; don’t add your pronouns because it’s good for your business, do it because it benefits the progress of our society toward a more inclusive, welcoming, and compassionate space for all humans to be just that – human.