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Addressing each other: "He" and "She"
Posted 1/24/14 , edited 1/24/14
Hierarchies, as we understand them, has been factors to inequality for as long as we can remember, and they are slowly ending. In some regions of the world, influence takes longer, but progress is no less inevitable. And language, as we understand it, is always adapting; becoming simpler in areas where we need it to be, and more complex in others. Modern societies are reaching a point in time where terms such as gender (not to be confused with reproductive organs) becomes insignificant; when referring to a person in conversation, pointing out their gender role is unnecessary because there are none, and in some cases, it is unnecessary to point out the function of their genitals unless the conversation is explicit. But we have not yet come up with a way to refer to people without using "he" or "she". For instance, when interacting with people on the internet, you may not always be notified of the gender-pronoun that the person you are having a conversation with prefer, because they have not revealed it, and do not intend to, for reasons that this topic is not about, by the way. Needless to say, though, a certain chain of events occur, from assuming the gender-pronoun and correcting it. It is unnecessary for this to happen, and is not the fault of a single individual, but our language, which is limited and not up-to-date, yet.

So I ask you, what do you think the combined version for "he" and "she" will be in the future, or will we begin to refer to each other as "it"?


Edited a typo.
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Posted 1/24/14
Oh God, I hope not. I don't get what the big deal is, unless you're ashamed of your gender or something. I'd kill myself before being forced to avoid using easy identifying markers such as "that black man over there" or "this woman who..."

And you question if we'll change it in the future. How far in the future do you imagine? Since I said I won't change and I honestly doubt many other will either, you might be talking far future, and if that's the case I don't think I'd care if I was dead. Either way, this thread was great bait and I raged hard at that idea.
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Posted 1/24/14 , edited 1/24/14
Well, whenever I don't know someone's sex online, I generally do an FFIX and use s/he.

Language itself will never outlive gendered pronouns. English is actually a pretty gender-neutral language; most other languages give even objects assigned genders. Spanish, for instance, considers all nouns feminine or masculine via "la" and "el;" if an object begins with "la" (e.g. la mesa; yes, all tables are female in Spanish), it's considered feminine and vice versa (el juguete; all toys are considered masculine by default). Compare to the English "the," an article that can be used to refer to practically anyone or anything except specific human beings (which is where the s/he comes into play).
antx0r 
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Posted 1/24/14
I actually don't think hierarchies are slowly ending. It may seem like we're moving more and more towards a society of "gender equality" but I think the world is shifting in the other direction. Unfortunately, men and women ARE different. The biggest flaw to arguments on gender equality is the notion that men and women are equal. They are not. Men and women are biologically and psychologically different. This doesn't mean that men and women shouldn't have equal rights, opportunities and treatment. I also don't believe people should be stereotyped based on their gender.

I don't think gender specific terms will go away nor do I believe it should. Imagine how convoluted, not to mention annoying it would be without gender specific terms and descriptors. For example, here's gender neutral sentence "That person, who is female, is wearing a white shirt" vs. gender specific "She is wearing a white shirt".
Phersu 
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Posted 1/24/14 , edited 1/24/14


I mostly agree, except when it comes to the military. If the military has to lower entry standards to let women in, then no. If women can get in with the standards as are, then yes.

Call me crazy, but I want the most skilled people possible in a job where they're protecting lives. Please note, I don't mind if women become soldiers if they can do so on.

Ahem. Well, aside from that little notification, I don't really care if it changes or not. I'll find an easy way to refer to a person regardless. Even if that way is throwing rocks at the people I am talking about.
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Posted 1/24/14
As a habit, I almost never use "he" or "she", I simply say "they"
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Posted 1/24/14 , edited 1/24/14

dankuuwut wrote:

So I ask you, what do you think the combined version for "he" and "she" will be in the future, or will we begin to refer to each other as "it"?


The issue is not language, or at least the English language, but rather social etiquette and protocol. Utilizing certain gender specific titles is considered to be socially correct depending on the situation. Using "Sir" or "Ma'am" is utilized as a more formal way of talking or to directly address a specific person to whom others know whom you are talking to.

In anonymous situations, the social conventions are to use gender neutral terms. Like "You" or "they" or "them". You could utilize something like "He/She" if you were typing, but in general it would not be used in speech. After all in speech you can generally account for gender based on voice. Not always of course, but most people can reliably get it right 9 out of 10 times or better. But again, truly anonymous situations gender neutral is usually called for.

Socially, however, once the veil of anonymity is lifted, then depending on how formal the situation is, some form of gender specific titles or pronouns are considered correct. A journalist can, correct, refer to an "anonymous source" as "They" or "Them". Sometimes, if the source is female, they may also use a male pronoun such as "He" to throw readers off track deliberately. As, depending on the circumstances, male pronouns are considered gender neutral. Those circumstances are a lot narrower though these days. It is considered more correct to be as specific as possible. But as soon as the source is named, it is correct to utilize the correct gender pronoun in reference to the source when not using their name. As the veil of anonymity has now been lifted.

Also, one may use a gender neutral pronoun like "All of You" when speaking to a group of both men and women. But the use of a gender neutral pronoun with a single person or a group of single sex it can be seen as at best putting distance between the speaker and the listener, and at worst being rude. At least in person. Because, unless a person is sight impaired, a person should be able to tell with reasonable certainty the gender a person would want to be addressed as. If a female impersonator looked specifically female, then a female pronoun would be appropriate, at least until corrected. And vice versa.

Frankly the English language already has the words that are needed. Perhaps social convention needs to be updated, but I doubt it. We are already, as a society, about as rock bottom as we can get in terms of general politeness. So it seems anything else is going to just come across as being rude.

One will note the lack of gender specific words in this post except as noted in parenthesis as examples. As , presumably, people of both genders (or possibly people who do not identify with a gender) may be reading this. The veil of anonymity on the Internet serves gender equality in terms of language well. Both in terms of gender specific speech and writing, and gender neutral speech and writing.

Now whether people paid attention enough in grammar class or an etiquette class to know how and when (or whether they even care) to use gender specific versus gender neutral language is a different story. Or possibly language teachers who are not teaching the language correctly. But in any event, an education issue as opposed to language.

I apologize for both wall o text and it probably comes across as preachy. But it also illustrates the difficulty of being totally gender neutral in writing. At least in English. Gender specific pronouns also offer familiarity and give a feeling of being closer to the person being referenced. And so it seems more personable than gender neutral which as I pointed out earlier can be seen as adding distance.
Posted 1/24/14

jordancharacter wrote:

As a habit, I almost never use "he" or "she", I simply say "they"

It's a little like how I preferred to use "you" when I explained things. Then I found that some people thought of it as being directed only at them, or that I excluded myself from the equation. So I began to use "one". Then people got fits because it was too objective, so I began to use "our". My only issue with "they" being used as a gender-neutral word is that people often confuse it with plurality.

In Norway "hin" has been proposed to be the missing gender-neutral pronoun in Norwegian, instead of "hun" (her) and "han" (him), but it might not take root until books in schools are changed.
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Posted 1/24/14
I have no solution to this issue, although I have thought about it more than once. It would be nice if we could refer to an individual without specifying gender. We have "they" and the like, but that implies that one is referring to a group, rather than an individual. I don't think "it" will (ever) be an appropriate way to refer to a person. For whatever reason, "it" is an extremely disrespectful way to address any human being. I avoid "it" when referring to people, although I have no legitimate reason for doing so; aside from my parents telling me it was wrong.

I think that it would be advantageous to develop and implement a way to address a person without gender. When speaking about a person in a sentence where gender is irrelevant, it would be nice to be able to simply refer to a person, rather than a gender. For this reason, I avoid using they (or similar terms) to describe a single person in a sentence.

I apologize in advance for any grammatical mistakes that I have made in this post. I am drunk, but I was so excited to see an interesting post pop up on CR that I had to comment on it. Well done sir! I look forward to the day that English finds a solution to this issue and is able to address/refer to an individual while disregarding gender. I do not think that he or she will ever be disregarded when referring to a girl/female or a boy/male. But, it would be convenient to have the option to properly refer to an individual without specifying gender.

antx0r 
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Posted 1/24/14

Phersu wrote:



I mostly agree, except when it comes to the military. If the military has to lower entry standards to let women in, then no. If women can get in with the standards as are, then yes.

Call me crazy, but I want the most skilled people possible in a job where they're protecting lives. Please note, I don't mind if women become soldiers if they can do so on.

Ahem. Well, aside from that little notification, I don't really care if it changes or not. I'll find an easy way to refer to a person regardless. Even if that way is throwing rocks at the people I am talking about.


Exactly what I was saying. Lowering standards for women in any profession, military or otherwise, actually does a disservice to women. It's a tacit acknowledgement that women are "inferior" and can't hack it unless we change the standards. That's giving them unequal treatment in the guise of giving them equal opportunities. Such practices start to make people question why we give women any opportunity to enter at all.
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Posted 1/24/14 , edited 1/24/14

dankuuwut wrote:


jordancharacter wrote:

As a habit, I almost never use "he" or "she", I simply say "they"

It's a little like how I preferred to use "you" when I explained things. Then I found that some people thought of it as being directed only at them, or that I excluded myself from the equation. So I began to use "one". Then people got fits because it was too objective, so I began to use "our". My only issue with "they" being used as a gender-neutral word is that people often confuse it with plurality.

In Norway "hin" has been proposed to be the missing gender-neutral pronoun in Norwegian, instead of "hun" (her) and "han" (him), but it might not take root until books in schools are changed.


Of course even 'our' has similar problems to the others since 'our' refers to a group which includes yourself, and also can be read to include the reader. It may not have happened yet but using 'our' when people disagree with what's written will result in "Speak for yourself" type responses eventually.
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Posted 1/24/14
Makes sense, but would a person really rather be called "It"?
I know I would rather be called "She" "Her" "Ms." "Mrs.", or "Lady" , than "It".
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Posted 1/24/14
The combined term will be butt since we all have butts. That butt over there is wearing a white shirt. Butt was all up in my business. Butt is a very nice person. One butt to rule them all, one butt to find them, one butt to bring them all and in the darkness slap them.
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Posted 1/24/14
I wouldn't like it if language becomes entirely gender-neutral. Although non-gender specific pronouns don't reinforce a division of people via sex, they feel like they have less interpersonal merit, to me. Words like "he" and "she" aren't as direct as saying someone's name, of course, but they tend to establish a higher personal connection than purely neutral terms.

I feel as though "it" is one of the worst non-specific pronoun candidates, due to how demeaning the word can sound. I feel that a decent candidate should be more than simply an all-inclusive blank slate. I propose terms that have a positive and/or deep meaning. It may sound cheesy, but I would like to see words that have meanings like, "those who live under the watchful sun." That sounds significantly more welcoming than the scant meaning of a term like "it."

Perhaps pronouns that hold varying levels of sexual identity (and lack thereof), instead of the black and white picture that is painted by "he" and "she." Also, us not simply having a neutral third option. I don't see why we have to limit this with simply A, B, or C choices. Why not open ourselves to the entire alphabet-- and beyond?
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Posted 1/25/14
If anything, English has gone backward over the last few centuries.

They and them was commonly used a gender neutral term centuries ago.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they

It should probably come back into fashion imho (I thus use it myself). There are also invented alternatives out there in use though. If you look at the transgender community, you'll find all sorts gender neutral pronouns, including ze, zhe, per, jee, vee, and xe.
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