Re: Generic "he"

Subject: Re: Generic "he"
From: JANET KAY RODINA <jkrodina -at- OURAY -dot- CUDENVER -dot- EDU>
Date: Sun, 10 Dec 1995 12:50:19 -0700

This is such an important issue for anyone creating written language
that I felt compelled to echo what Mercedes and Marci have said!

In the process of becoming mature adults, we absorb much tacit understanding
about how the world works.

I am a forty-something woman who is just now struggling to establish herself
in a professional career. In my formative years, I don't remember even
considering the possibility of becoming a lawyer, doctor, professor,
religious or political leader. I must assume that a significant factor
contributing to this underestimation of my abilities and potential was
that I never knew of any females in these careers and because everything
I ever read about these kinds of professions in general terms used
the generic "he" or "his."

Yes, things are changing, but as "the bridge between those who create
ideas and those who use them" (see STC "Code for Communicators"), it
seems that we shoulder particular responsibility to understand the tacit
assumptions that we convey in our written communications.

On Sun, 10
Dec 1995, Mercedes Abels wrote:

> I never fely hate, exactly, more like bewilderment that for the authors
> of so many books girls didn't seem to exist except to be rescued by a
> male. Women never _did_ anything bright; doctors, lawyers, heros were
> always male. It does send a subtle message, despite out reluctance to
> admit it.

> As someone who works with words, I dislike the cumbersome "he or she"
> substitution, but as a member of the gender so often left out when we
> take the shorter path, I opt of gender-inlusive use at all times.

> Marci Abels

> On Sat, 9 Dec 1995, Barbara Weiss wrote:

> > When I was a young girl, reading everything I could get my hands on, I
> > remember feeling a door slam in my face every time the generic "he" was
> > used. It was cruel and faceless and ubiquitous and it made me hate my
> > gender. I thought that I was the only exception to the rule that women
> > don't think.
> >

Janet Rodina
Graduate Student
Master of Science in Technical Communication
University of Colorado at Denver

There is a mandate for any group with enormous powers of communication to
show people how to be better. --Marya Mannes, "A Word to the Wizards"

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