Should the common usage "Webmasters" be gender neutered into a separate webmistresses to describe female web site admin professionals?

Specifically why do we really need a term like web mistresses? Is it due to PC standards that say you shouldn't refer to a woman by a inherently male term?

I like to think that common usage comes from the way people prefer to use English. So if they stick to the term Webmaster, they are not necessarily doing so due to an inherent byass towards a male term.

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    I have fixed a few typos, but I absolutely had to leave "inherent byass", it's too cool a word. (^_^)
    – RegDwigнt
    Oct 26, 2010 at 9:16
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    Using webmistress in addition to webmaster is the opposite of becoming gender neutral.
    – Kosmonaut
    Oct 26, 2010 at 13:30
  • @RegDwight, why thankyou. @Kosmonaut why do you say that, I would actually argue the opposite where a second word is introduced soley to counter the gender byass of the first word. Oct 26, 2010 at 21:22
  • I would have thought of the term "master" being more racist than sexist.
    – Dan
    Feb 17, 2011 at 2:35
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    @user744, why would you say that? Master is no more inherently racist than describing the colour of someones skin is racist. Feb 20, 2011 at 21:45

5 Answers 5


There is a strong tendency in recent English to eliminate gender-specific words. For example, most female actors do not want to be called 'actresses' (though there are a few that do want to).

For this reason, and because of Claudiu's point as well, I would suggest not coining any new words in "-mistress".

  • Agreed. I think it would be best if we stop making gender-specific names. Where they are currently specific, keep them, but stop assuming anything about gender. Like, a man who calls himself a ___master would no longer be implicitly saying he is male, just that he is the one controlling ___. If we stop saying that the -er suffix is an indicator of gender, I think a lot of problems will just go away. Consider "controller", "officer", "lawyer", etc. No one assumes any of those is male. So we don't need "controlless", "officess", or "lawyess".
    – Aiken Drum
    Nov 2, 2016 at 15:09
  • Actually, those would historically have been "controlleress", "officeress" and "lawyeress", @AikenDrum. The last two of these are actually in the OED. As it happens, "controlleress" isn't, and "controlless" is - but in the meaning "uncontrolled"! But I am not disagreeing with your point.
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 2, 2016 at 19:00
  • Fair enough. :) I'd say the fact that I'm not even aware of the gendered terms is a good sign that they've fallen into disuse, at least. As an aside, what a horrible construct "officeress" would have been to use and say. No wonder they died out.
    – Aiken Drum
    Nov 2, 2016 at 19:59
  • It qualifies "officeress" as "rare", but it has a citation as recently as 1979, from Norman Mailer, no less. And the NOW corpus contains a single instance, from 2012.
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 2, 2016 at 22:05

Webmaster, to me, can mean a person of any sex. Additionally, 'mistress' has the connotation to me of an S&M mistress, or a concubine, etc., not of a female master, so saying Webmistress sounds pretty strange to me.

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    The British organisation that used to be called the National Union of Schoolmasters and Mistresses has changed its name to the National Union of Schoolmasters / Association of Women Teachers, presumably for this reason. Oct 26, 2010 at 19:51
  • @Brian how interesting. Oct 26, 2010 at 21:25
  • @Brian: You may be confusing the NASUWT with the ATL, formerly called the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association after the merger of the Association of Assistant Mistresses and the Association of Assistant Masters in Secondary Schools
    – Henry
    Apr 27, 2012 at 13:54

In my personal experience working at various web companies, both males and females were referred to as webmasters. Regardless of whether 'webmaster' has gender connotations, the term is becoming obsolete, so this will probably end up a moot point over time.

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    "the term is becoming obsolete": could you provide some evidence of this? Oct 26, 2010 at 10:41

As Kosmonaut said, "webmistress" is the complete opposite of gender neutral.

There is an actual trend toward gender neutrality in occupational terms: flight attendant instead of stewardess, mail carrier instead of postman, that sort of thing. There is also some tendency toward avoiding the -ress form of some occupations; actor for both genders instead of actor/actress is the most prominent example, but people do still use actress.

  • "As the actress said to the bishop" wouldn't work so well otherwise. Oct 26, 2010 at 19:52
  • no I disagree regarding your point of gender neutrality. Sure your examples are all correct, however those examples are for nouns that are already gender neutral, Webmaster is not. The usage of webmistress counterbalances, and would make it neutral, however I think your partially correct in alluding to the need for a new term that gets rid of the "master", and is therefore more inclusive. Oct 26, 2010 at 21:28
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    @Anonymous Type: creating a new gender-specific term makes the language less gender-neutral, not more. Right now, "webmaster" can be used to refer to either a male or a female. If you decide that a "master" can't be female (whyever not?), and thus invent a need for the term "webmistress", then you've created a gender polarity where there didn't used to be one.
    – Marthaª
    Oct 26, 2010 at 21:46
  • true interesting point. thanks for the explanation. Oct 27, 2010 at 21:28

If you look at the International Webmasters Association website I think you'll find they're not an exclusive group.

The dictionary defines master as :

a person with the ability or power to use, control, or dispose of something:

a person eminently skilled in something, as an occupation art, or science:

I think it's fairly clear that a webmaster is not a gendered term.

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