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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Getting rid of him and her

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Over time, due to Western exposure, being in touch with liberal media, and understanding of gender roles, I've come to ingrain the use of gender neutral third person usage in my speech and writings. Instinctively I write 's/he', 'his/her', 'him/her' for any reference to unknown third person, or I rephrase my sentence to use neutral reference 'you' or 'one'. In fact, such is change in my perception that I quickly notice and flinch whenever someone else too mentions 'he' alone in any context where 'he or she' should be used. English language fails miserably in this new empowered world and hence some people have started using 'they' to refer to third person singular instead of writing cumbersome 's/he'.

I do, of course, realize that when someone uses only single gender pronoun to refer to both genders, they are not being sexist. Some may argue that mental perception with single gender usage reinforces gender stereotype but I don't subscribe to such view. Most probably user is unaware of more polite use or is pragmatic and prefers convenience.

To couple this gender bias is the fact that it is not one sided. In India, and perhaps most countries, default gender is 'he', commonly used in business, news, law, textbooks, etc. However, in United States (and perhaps other countries I am not aware of), I don't know why but I suspect due to feminist movement, default gender is 'she'. Irony of the world is that later is not considered offensive to men unlike former is to women, no doubt brought by same forces which make rule of law extremely favorable to fair sex throughout the world.

Noting this, for sake of convenience, from now onwards, this blog will write 'he' for 'he or she', 'his' for 'his or her', 'him' for 'him or her' and so on. This will also remove that awkwardly pause of meaningless discomfort that derails the meaning of sentence when reading a sentence riddled with 'he or she's. Now that I have said that I request whoever is reading this blog to understand that s/he is not being segregated for historical doings of his/her gender, in no way I undermine his/her contribution to the world, and my thoughts are equally applicable to him/her, unless context suggests otherwise.


Der said...

Why am I reminded of the scene from Swati when the main character starts typing "womanual" instead of "manual"? :)

Don't sweat it, Ashish. English is flawed in this sense. Any solution you pick (he, he/she, s/he, they) will garner criticism.

Ashish Gupta said...

Womanual? That's good one.

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