Changing our Language

Subject: Changing our Language
From: Maria Hunt <huntma -at- LIMS -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 15 Dec 1995 09:09:52 LCL

I've been reading all the "gender bias in pronouns" messages. Those
responses that state that the use of the generic "he" is acceptable have
really upset me.

I believe that as technical writers we have a moral obligation not to use
sexist language. It's easy to replace the pronoun "he" with "you" or
"they". BTW, I have *never* felt obligated to write an awkward subject-verb
agreement sentence (e.g., the user....they). As a matter a fact, I found
using the "he" pronoun makes the sentence awkward. I would only use
"he"/"him" if I was writing to one-male reader.

And for those who don't see the importance of not using "he", I'd like to
remind you that language *is* culture. Language constructs the world in which
we live. And whether you want to admit or not, our language is patriarchal.
(For a more extensive look at how the English language has been patriarchally
constructed, I suggest reading Julia Penelope's _Speaking Freely: Unlearning
the Lies of the Father's Tongue_. Pergamon Press Athena Series, I believe.)

The only way we can make change in our culture and our world is to make
changes in our language. Of course this means more than just using "they"
instead of "he", but at least it's a start.
Maria Picollelli Hunt, Sr. Technical Writer
(huntma -at- lims -dot- com) (518) 274-1990 ext.174
Laboratory MicroSystems, Troy, NY 12180
My views do not necessarily reflect those of Laboratory MicroSystems.

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