Re. Gender neutrality yet again!

Subject: Re. Gender neutrality yet again!
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 1995 12:35:12 LCL

I don't understand why gender neutral writing remains an
issue! What's past is past, and can't be undone... you're
not going to change anything already in print until it
comes time to revise it, and if we're talking about
fiction, even that revision is ethically questionable
without the author's consent.

On the other hand, the debate about this issue on the list
reveals at least one important thing for those of us who
remember that we're writing for an audience, not for
ourselves: a significant and vocal group _is_ offended by
chauvinistic use of pronouns. In this context, what
possible beneficial purpose could be served by offending
that portion of our audience?

Moreover, if our choice of pronouns harms the self-esteem
of female members of our audience, which several of our
techwhirlers have noted based on personal experience, this
provides strong anecdotal evidence that the effect is real.
I'm not going to push any statistics on you, as I have none
to defend, but is it ethically defensible to risk harming a
young woman's self-esteem simply because we're too lazy to
correct an old, bad habit?

We argued this point long ago, and I believe the results
are preserved in the FAQ, but the bottom line to me is
simple: if you can write around the "he/his" construction
without making the text tedious or unclear (and it's truly
rare that you can't do so), why not do it? It's an easy
skill to learn, and once learned, it becomes second nature.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of our
reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.

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