Re: Gender Bias in Pronouns

Subject: Re: Gender Bias in Pronouns
From: "Huber, Mike" <Mike -dot- Huber -at- SOFTWARE -dot- ROCKWELL -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 1995 13:25:54 -0500

I've found the awkwardness of trying to work around gender pronoun
problems improves my writing. Whenever I can, I skip the pronoun
and use a more specific identifier.
Not "he," or "she" or "they," but "the operator" or "the designer."
Less politics, more information.

From: George Allaman[SMTP:gallama -at- LOOKOUT -dot- ECTE -dot- USWC -dot- USWEST -dot- COM]
Sent: Monday, December 11, 1995 12:11 PM
To: Multiple recipients of list TEC
Subject: Gender Bias in Pronouns

On Fri, 8 Dec 1995, Kris Olberg wrote:

> I'm 35. I put myself in the age group you describe above. But "he" and
> 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
> sensitive to use of "he," "she," "him," etc.

> When I write something to be published, I avoid introducing gender bias
> rewriting 100% of the time. Sometimes when writing a memo or other
> 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
to learn German once. What a pain! Then I started to realize how much
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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