Re: Checking assumptions at the door?

Subject: Re: Checking assumptions at the door?
From: bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 04 Jun 2001 08:52:39 -0700

"Hart, Geoff" wrote:
> Opinions to the contrary notwithstanding, "he" _is_ considered inclusive in
> modern discourse because it's become, for better or worse, the default.
> That's emphatically _not_ to say that this makes the decision to use "he" a
> neutral decision; it has important consequences for one's audience, since a
> large proportion of women (perhaps the majority) now consider "he" to
> exclude them.

Not that I'm trying to take you personally to task or anything, but this
passage seems contradictory. If people are questioning the masculine
personal pronoun and trying to avoid using it, then obviously it's not
considered universally inclusive or the default.

In fact, simply to say that it's become the default sounds as if
language just happens, without any agency whatsoever. In fact, language
always reflects the concerns and the assumptions of whoever is using it.
In this case, "he" is probably used for no better reason than the fact
that, in the 18th century, when the usage became officially sanctioned,
writing and publishing was generally a male area (Austen and Radcliffe
notwithstanding), and to be male was considered the norm.

Personally, I don't see any reason to preserve this bit of history, any
more than bloodletting or public hangings.

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177 bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com

"He did like the ladies, the rise and the fall
Of their ankles and dresses out on the dance floor,
The roll of the dice, the turn of the wheel,
But he took most delight in those slip jigs and reels."
-House Band, "Slip Jigs and Reels"


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