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Report: Google employees furious over use of the word 'family' during company meeting, call it 'homophobic'

One employee stormed out of meeting

Leon Neal/Getty Images

Google employees were angry when an executive at the tech company used the word "family" during a weekly companywide presentation, The Daily Caller reported.

The word was reportedly used during a discussion about the Unicorn product for children. The use of the word led one to call it "offensive, inappropriate, homophobic, and wrong," on a company message board. That led to about 100 up votes by other employees and a chorus of support for the criticism.

Many employees were offended because they believe the word suggests that all families have children, documents obtained by the news outlet showed. A source reportedly gave the news outlet the documents on the condition of anonymity.

The backlash prompted a Google executive to apologize and ask the employees for feedback on how the company can be more inclusive.

During the March 2017 presentation, one employee stormed out of the meeting and later posted a lengthy rant on the company's the internal message that stated, according to The Daily Caller:

This is a diminishing and disrespectful way to speak. If you mean "children," say "children"; we have a perfectly good word for it. "Family friendly" used as a synonym for "kid friendly" means, to me, "you and yours don't count as a family unless you have children." And while kids may often be less aware of it, there are kids without families too, you know.

The use of "family" as a synonym for "with children" has a long-standing association with deeply homophobic organizations. This does not mean we should not use the word "family" to refer to families, but it mean we must doggedly insist that family does not imply children.

Even the sense, "suitable for the whole family," which you might think is unobjectionable, is totally wrong too. It only works if we have advance shared conception of what "the whole family" is, and that is almost always used to mean a household with two adults, of opposite sex, in a romantic/sexual relationship, with two or more of their own children. If you mean that as a synonym for "suitable for all people" stop and notice the extraordinary unlikelihood of such a thought! So "suitable for the whole family" doesn't mean "all people," it means "all people in families," which either means that all those other people aren't in families, or something even worse. Use the word "family" to mean a loving assemblage of people who may or may not live together and may or may not include people of any particular age. STOP using it to mean "children." It's offensive, inappropriate, homophobic, and wrong.

In addition to the up votes, other employees reportedly wrote:

  • "Using the word 'family' in this sense bothers me too."
  • "It smacks of the 'family values' agenda by the right wing, which is absolutely homophobic by its very definition. [I]t's important that we fix our charged language when we become aware of how exclusionary it actually is. As a straight person in a relationship, I find the term 'family' offensive because it excludes me and my boyfriend, having no children of our own."
  • "My family consists of me and several other trans feminine folks, some of whom I'm dating. We're all supportive of each other and eventually aspire to live together. Just because we aren't a heterosexual couple with 2.5 kids, a white picket fence, and a dog doesn't mean we're not a family."
  • Another employee wrote that "using 'family' to mean 'people with kids' is also annoying to me as a straight-cis-woman who doesn't have or want kids. My husband, my parents, and my pets are my family."

According to the report, Google Vice President Pavni Diwanji wrote that he acknowledged the use of the term "family" led to "concerns."

"Hi everyone, I realize what we said at tgif might have caused concerns in the way we talked about families," Diwanji wrote, the Daily Caller reported. "There are families without kids too, and also we needed to be more conscientious about the fact that there is a diverse makeup of parents and families."

"Please help us get to a better state," Diwanji added. "Teach us how to talk about it in inclusive way, if you feel like we are not doing it well. As a team we have very inclusive culture, and want to do right in this area. I am adding my team here so we can have open conversation."

One last thing…
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