The GUARDIAN Books Section: ‘They:’ The singular pronoun that could solve sexism in English
The English language presents its users with a conundrum when referring to the singular “he” or “she.” It is fine to refer to a person with a gendered pronoun if the writer or speaker knows the gender, but what to do with if someone is writing about a generic human being? Or what of those who don’t identify with maleness or femaleness?
In this article for The Guardian, Lorraine Berry explores how other languages have never had this problem. Their words for the generic human are gender-neutral, which prevents the necessity of assigning gender.
Why is this important? It’s just gender, right? Philosophers tell us that language shapes who we are and who we think we can be. If a girl child never sees a doctor referred to as “she,” or if a boy never sees a flight attendant referred to as a “he,” aren’t we forcing our children into ideological positions through language before they’ve even had a chance to determine for themselves what their futures are?
The article aroused an enormous debate on the Guardian website, being the “most-read” article in both “Culture” and “Books” for over 24 hours, and garnered 7200 shares and 1700+ comments.
Read the full article here