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Re: He/she, Racism, and the Boundless Hipocrisy of the L
On 4 Dec 1996, Alan Dove wrote:
> . . . when I use a gender-specific pronoun in the neutral form, it
> is not, I think, an act of sexism.
I call this the "Humpty Dumpty School of Language Analysis"--"words
mean whatever I say they mean." No, Alan, words mean different
things depending on the receiver. My question for you at this point
is this: Why would you insist on using language that a large portion
of your receiving audience considers sexist?
> I make many language choices, and deliberately avoid terms which I
> know carry sexist or racist implications.
Glad to hear you will no longer be using sexist grammar, since after
reading Bodine's 1975 article from an earlier response you now know
that male referents are a deliberately sexist structure.
> I have considered switching to neutral pronoun forms, but haven't
> found a good way to do it without losing clarity in communication,
> and I also fail to see any benefit in doing so.
I question the seriousness of your "consideration," given your
earlier response that dismissed Sapirian effects research without so
much as a snippet of counter-research. As for benefits, how about:
1) Precision--you don't exclude over half the world's population, or
2) Persuasion--it's hard to persuade those you offend.
> Furthermore, I have seen that focusing a lot of attention on
> such a minor issue can backfire,
See my tag-on to John Sullivan's response to your attempt to classify
this as a "minor" issue. Further, how does it backfire? Does it
offend all those who WISH to be sexist? Good; they need offending.
They're beyond persuasion, and they should either join the party or
> They can be
> re-written, but almost always at the expense of either clarity or style.
> I like good writing, and think it is something of an art form. Why am I
> required to write ugly prose because it furthers someone else's personal
> agenda? If you want to make your sentences awkward and unclear, that is
> your choice - but it doesn't have to be mine. If I choose not to do it,
> that still doesn't make me a bigot.
Maybe, maybe not; depends on what you do now that you know the sexism
inherent in male pronomial use. However, you create the strawfigure
again with your assertions about "good writing." Since 1985, the
National Council of Teachers of English has specifically proscribed
the use of gender-exclusive language. APA, and most other style
journals I know (most Speech Communication journals use APA) not only
proscribe such misuse; they provide numerous pages of examples and
illustrations of how to use elegant prose without sexism. Methinks
you're just bein' lazy here. As for "awkward and unclear"--what's
clear about using "he" or "his" for people who don't think of
themselves as a "he" or a "him"? They should change their
perceptions to accommodate yours? Yours is right? Who says?
Hey, I read one author (sorry, don't have the citation before me) who
said, essentially, "if you really think male generic forms apply to
everyone, try this sentence: 'Since the beginning of time, man has
breast-fed his children.'" OOH. Quite a difference. As my friend
Laura Pagano wrote in a paper we co-authored (available through
ERIC), while gender exclusive male referents usually exclude women,
they NEVER exclude males. Hmmm.
Alan, your position is contrary to the scholarly literature, style
guides of at least the speech communication profession, and common
sense. Your arguments are basically a series of strawfigures, and
you have NO evidence to support your belief that sexist language use
is harmless. Read some of the literature you so carelessly dismiss.
Southern Utah University
Archive created by Jonathan Stanton (email@example.com)
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