Is it “folx” (now) instead of “folks”?

23 Oct

A colleagues recently asked me about the word “folx,” and whether “folks” is now incorrect.

Here’s my response:

I too discovered folx, recently! In my understanding, yes the x is indeed like that in Latinx. (I’m linking an article from the site x. for folx sake here.) While folx is intended to be more gender inclusive, the argument doesn’t seem to be that folks is specifically or particularly gender-exclusive (like, for instance, “guys”), but that our dominant culture is. So, to be inclusive of the gender spectrum requires additional intention in our everyday systems, practices and language, and “folx” is (in my opinion) a high-usage, phonic opportunity.

Myself, I’m adding folx to my vocab, but have not replaced “folks” (as wrong) with “folx” (as right). I typically still write “folks,” although now more consciously (not as in: to make a point, but as in: with an opportunity to reflect).

Assuredly, you will find folx and folks who have other opinions.

And this goes beyond your question, but in the realm of ever-evolving lexicon, and my discernment of what’s “right”/”wrong” versus how else I may say something in my ongoing growth:

* I have consciously committed to not using “crazy” and other formerly mental health-describing words in contexts like: that meeting was crazy

* I took longer to digest the critique that “blind spot” is able-ist language. After many conversations, in one of which I posed myself the question: could I communicate “blind spot” in other words just as clearly, without invoking able-ism? I’m piloting “invisible spot” now.

* “Cultural competency” has been critiqued and replaced with other frameworks (including cultural humility, equity literacy…) and I ultimately developed my concept of DEI fluency, which is a hybrid of definitions of cultural competency, cultural humility and equity literacy. But in the evolution of all these words (which share some elements, even as they also signify differences with each other), I have continued to use “cultural competency” to help folks bridge to the concept of DEI fluency that I anchor my work in. .

If I may ask: What are you deciding (for now)?

Update on that email:

  • In my initial response, I elided over an additional dimension of “folx” shared in that article:

The reason we need “folx” in addition to the gender-neutral “folks” is to indicate inclusion of other marginalized groups including people of color (POCs) and trans people [underline added].

This was news to me, and it’s not universally “confirmed” that folx was originated or intended, or is experienced as inclusive of POC. Even in this post, “the origin of folx and why we should all use it.”

The point being, folx is a great example of something you may want to get “right.” And there’s no clear, one “right” meaning for it (as with BIPOC, and even “indigenous people.”) I’m all for speaking from a reasonably informed basis, so let’s keep learning about language. But this isn’t a research project. It’s real-life inclusion and equity. And people’s lives depend on it.

Let’s reserve “right” and “wrong” thinking for language that is clearly, exclusively or primarily hateful, demeaning and dehumanizing.

For other language (ex. “folks,” for which there does seem to consensus that the word isn’t itself any more gender-exclusive than the culture in which it’s used) let’s recognize when we have options and opportunities and practice.

Let’s be prepared to learn and acknowledge when our words aid and abet oppression that we oppose.

Let’s allow time to discern and grow. Keeping up with what other people say you “should” say is exhausting, disempowering and ultimately not helpful. We’ve got to own the words we use and what they mean.

5 Responses to “Is it “folx” (now) instead of “folks”?”

  1. Larochelle April 22, 2021 at 2:06 am #

    Interesting article – thank you for sharing. I guess I am just trying to get my head around which part of ‘folks’ was not inclusive to begin with, both in terms of gender expression and racialisation.

    I’m a Black woman and I assumed that ‘folks’ without the x would already include people like me in its designation.

    Is it not problematic to assume that ‘folks’ was a designation orginated presumably for white, cis, straight people?

    I’d be keen to hear what you think!

    • blinkconsulting April 23, 2021 at 4:58 pm #

      Hey, thanks for thinking with me…
      I’m not sure there’s something you have to “get” here. As far as I can tell, this isn’t about “folks” being a clear slur. At least part of the impetus for “folx” seems to be the agency to self-name, rather than just accepting words that already exist in the lexicon – some other examples include: people of color and BIPOC, gender fluid and “with disabilities” (instead of handicapped or disabled)… all of which have (re)named and reframed identity. While the impetus for folks —> folx may not be as clear as women —> womyn, perhaps latent assumptions about who we think of when we think of “folks” is part of it. And as a woman of color, I’m with you: I’ve never read “folks” as exclusive of me (or “folx” as inclusive of me, for that matter). One interesting perspective a colleague mused on and shared is that perhaps “folks” evokes the German noun “volk” and… the ethnic, nationalist Völkisch movement. Had never thought of that.

    • Adam1104 June 9, 2021 at 8:36 am #

      I was actually wondering the same you’re trying to figure out, Larachelle!

  2. JL June 13, 2021 at 12:13 pm #

    It’s all going a bit too far. Folks is an inclusive term already, it has no gender association and no racial association, because if I use it in relation to any group of people, that group at that time defines the word. In other words, I could refer to a group of people as “the folks in this room,” and if the room includes LGBTQ, white, black, brown, asian, men, women, etc it refers to all of them and does not exclude any of them.
    On the other hand, if the x in folx is the same as x in Latinx (instead of Latina or Latino) it’s gender inclusive, but it is not race specific . . . or in other words, exclusive?

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