Gender Bias in Pronouns

Subject: Gender Bias in Pronouns
From: George Allaman <gallama -at- LOOKOUT -dot- ECTE -dot- USWC -dot- USWEST -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 1995 10:17:31 -0700

On Fri, 8 Dec 1995, Kris Olberg wrote:

> I'm 35. I put myself in the age group you describe above. But "he" and "him"
> still imply "male," no matter how you slice it. They most surely are
> gender-biased words. In fact, awareness of gender bias has made me even more
> sensitive to use of "he," "she," "him," etc.

> When I write something to be published, I avoid introducing gender bias by
> rewriting 100% of the time. Sometimes when writing a memo or other quick
> thing, I cheat and let my subject and verb disagree.

I'm 43. I admit, when this silly business first started about using
"they" in place of "he" and "them" in place of "him", I thought it was
about as equitable as affirmative action (<-- sarcasm). Just bloody
awkward and grammatically incorrect most of the time, as in "when a user
blah, blah, blahs, THEY can..."

However, because of the awkwardness, I started to realize how biased the
language usage really is. I'm GLAD we don't have a neuter gender - I tried
to learn German once. What a pain! Then I started to realize how much more
awkward other languages are for the sake of showing respect, as in "Como
sta usted?" (literally "How goes him?" for "How are you?") and "Comment
allez vous?" (literally "How go you[plural]?" for "How are

The awkwardness in English is simply a result of what we are used to, not
an intrinsic bias in the language. It is not at all out of the ordinary,
on a multi-lingual basis, to have these grammatical inconsistencies. In
fact, they serve to emphasize respect for the listener(s) rather than to
obfuscate or confuse.

|George Allaman | |
|Tech Writer | <clever, meaningful |
|Denver, Colorado | quip which somehow |
|Office (303) 624-1619 | summarizes my life |
|Home (303) 771-8060 | philosophy> |
|Alternate: georgea -at- csn -dot- net | |
|---> New address as of 1/2/95: gallama -at- uswest -dot- com <---|

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