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Can we use the word "coed" to describe any activities or facilities available for both men and women, or should it only be limited to something educational or youth related? Also, any suggestions for alternatives?

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    co-ed means Co-educational right? I have heard it being used only for educational institutions which admit both the genders. – Nagarajan Shanmuganathan Mar 21 '16 at 4:55
  • It is commonly used, in an informal sense, for a mixed-gender arrangement that is not related to educational activities (and probably even occasionally used metaphorically, in cases not involving gender). Eg, "The Jones City Businessmen's Club is coed." Formally, though, it should only be used to describe educational arrangements. – Hot Licks Mar 21 '16 at 12:52
  • If you read texts from the 1960s or 1970s, there is an old-fashioned use of "coed" as a noun, meaning a female student at a formerly all-male college or university which recently became a co-educational institution (admitting both male and female students). This use of "coed" as a noun is outdated and many would consider it sexist. Note that the "ed" in "coed" or "co-ed" refers to "education" or "educational", so it refers to educational institutions like universities. For this reason it is almost always related to young people. – ghostarbeiter Mar 21 '16 at 18:04
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‘Coed’ is a contraction of ‘coeducation’ or ‘coeducational’, specifically referring to the teaching of males and females together. (See Merriam-Webster.) In the present-day this might seem a redundant term. In western culture it became significant in relation to the women's movement (this Wikipedia article provides some context), and the growing access to (notably higher) education for girls.

(The term is typically associated with youth, incidentally, but it need not be: students can be any age.)

In principle there is nothing to stop you using the word for realms beyond education, in the same way that the word ‘ecumenical’ originally signified relationships between religious communities, but is now used simply to mean even-handedness across any boundaries. The ‘ed’ part is a bit on-the-nose, however, and could make such usage seem rather forced.

One alternative (as the Wikipedia article makes clear) is ‘mixed-sex’. Slightly less awkward is ‘unisex’, which tends to indicate an active concern not to discriminate between the sexes.

  • The problem with "unisex" and "mixed-sex" is that they unduly emphasize "sex", when usually the intent is to say that gender is irrelevant. – Hot Licks Mar 21 '16 at 12:54
  • @HotLicks I agree entirely. That's why I feel that 'mixed sex' comes with an inevitable oo-er flavour, and that by comparison 'unisex' sounds more technical. I'm not particularly keen on either. It's a bit like the discourse on gender parity: calling it 'feminism' seems to create a problem of distinction that works against its basic spirit. – Captain Cranium Mar 21 '16 at 13:02
  • One could always stretch things and say something like "gender-irrelevant". – Hot Licks Mar 21 '16 at 13:03
  • @HotLicks Does this not resolve into another way of violently drawing attention to the founding problem, in a 'PC gone mad' kind of way? In concocting my answer I playfully (and only briefly) contemplated suggesting 'sexless', but eventually rejected it as too-flippant on similar grounds. – Captain Cranium Mar 21 '16 at 13:43
  • As has been already determined by interminable discussions here, there are no good "gender-neutral" terms for many common English words which carry an implicit gender association. Short of some neologisms (which, alas, will implicitly have the "PC gone mad" label slapped on them), there is no obvious way to get out of this box. – Hot Licks Mar 21 '16 at 18:59

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