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  • Illinois bans male pronoun

Comments

ipeckh1@lsu.edu Jan 3, 2007 5:17 am

It is surprising that the u of i should have published an official style guide without someone having looked carefully at what they said rather than what they meant--but the error pales in light of the more serious official administrative errors (like the lynching of Hussein) now raining down upon us.

Reply to ipeckh1@lsu.edu at 5:17 am
larvan@illinois.edu Jan 3, 2007 11:12 pm

Dennis

 That was a good post to read and I agree in all respects save one.  You bent over backwards to be fair, and I interpret your comments aboug gender-neutral language in this light, but I believe there are cases where gender specific language is not only appropriate, it is necessary.  The first case where it is a must is when a particular individual has already been mentioned by name and then subsequent references to the indivual occur, where in those subsequent references a pronoun is most apt.  The particular individual has a gender, and so that gender should be used in this case to select the appropriate pronoun. 

 The other case where I've relied on gender pronouns is in a dialog between two inidividuals, for example a student and teacher, where again pronouns are useful and so an author assignes one to be male and the other to be female, simply to contrast between the two of them in the narrative.  In this case gender neutrality is pernicious because it serves to mask the differences between the two.  and something is needed to provide adequate contrast. 

I don't believe that doing either of these is "sexist" in the least.  And I believe that we are confusing the imperative to respect individuals, irrespective of their gender, an imperative I endorse, with these proscriptions on language, which fail if not in intent then certainly on lacking creativity in considering appropriate usage. 

Reply to larvan@illinois.edu at 11:12 pm
lethe9@gmail.com Jan 4, 2007 12:03 pm

That particular rule gives me fits when I am teaching freshman writing. A simple generic he (or she) is so much better than the he/she or they (used as a singular) that the kids seem to be learning in high school now.

Reply to lethe9@gmail.com at 12:03 pm
tevi.abrams-slep@oberlin.edu Jan 12, 2007 2:07 pm

It's not that you're identifying the university as unique, but that you're identifying it as one, as a whole. An 'outsider' reading two memoranda where one mentions all the "email on the Internet," while the other mentions all the "e-mail on the internet" may be aware of the difference, and on a not-very-conscious level, wonder how good the university is if the departments can't even agree on the same spelling of "e-mail."

Reply to tevi.abrams-slep@oberlin.edu at 2:07 pm
jsteinfe@illinois.edu Jun 24, 2008 3:48 pm

Creative Services again thanks Prof. Baron for pointing out the error in the Writing Style Guide in the early days of its re-release on Jan. 2, 2007. This error was corrected as soon as it came to our attention via his post to this blog. A link to the Web of Language also was added to the Writing Style Guide.

Reply to jsteinfe@illinois.edu at 3:48 pm
mjlee@hawaii.edu larvan@uiuc.eduJul 14, 2008 5:57 pm

Dennis

That was a good post to read and I agree in all respects save one. You bent over backwards to be fair, and I interpret your comments aboug gender-neutral language in this light, but I believe there are cases where gender specific language is not only appropriate, it is necessary. The first case where it is a must is when a particular individual has already been mentioned by name and then subsequent references to the indivual occur, where in those subsequent references a pronoun is most apt. The particular individual has a gender, and so that gender should be used in this case to select the appropriate pronoun.

The other case where I've relied on gender pronouns is in a dialog between two inidividuals, for example a student and teacher, where again pronouns are useful and so an author assignes one to be male and the other to be female, simply to contrast between the two of them in the narrative. In this case gender neutrality is pernicious because it serves to mask the differences between the two. and something is needed to provide adequate contrast.

I don't believe that doing either of these is "sexist" in the least. And I believe that we are confusing the imperative to respect individuals, irrespective of their gender, an imperative I endorse, with these proscriptions on language, which fail if not in intent then certainly on lacking creativity in considering appropriate usage.

I have to disagree with the purportedly innocuous senarios where gendered pronouns are "necessary." While I understand the reason for using gendered pronouns in both of these cases, I think these situations are problematic when it comes to gender and sexist language. 

In the first senario, where a "particular individual has a gender, and so that gender should be used [...] to select the appropriate pronoun," I think there would be many who would disagree that everyone's gender is so easily classified into only 1 of (only) 2 categories.  I am not well versed in this area, so I will defer to someone more familiar with GLBT issues.

In the second senario, where different genders are assigned to a teacher and a student in dialog, I agree that assigning different genders for clarity in a narrative is a good strategy.  However, I believe it can be sexist if the teacher (or person of authority) is more often assigned a masculine gender and the student (or subordinate person) is more often assigned a feminine gender.  (Or even vice versa.)  And while "gender neutrality is pernicious because it serves to mask the differences between the two," I think it's dangerous to associate the differences between the stereotypes of masculine and feminine with differences in levels of authority. 

Perhaps I am erring on the side of (liberal) caution here, but I still meet a lot of people who assume doctors are men and nurses are women and mothers are primarily responsible for parenting and housework and fathers are breadwinners. 

 

Reply to mjlee@hawaii.edu at 5:57 pm
norrad@gmail.com Jul 19, 2008 1:31 am

My only thought on this is why? The male pronoun does not lead to gender discrimination. If that were so, then why not ban the female pronoun and have every piece of writing refer to asexual beings...

Sometimes administrations can do some really stupid things.

Regards,

Darron (www.runtslife.com)

Reply to norrad@gmail.com at 1:31 am
seamstress@web.de Aug 5, 2008 5:31 pm

Somebody please tell me what is sexist about calling a male a male (or referring to him using a masculine pronoun)! When speaking of men/males use masculine pronouns, for women/females feminine ones. Only when speaking of persons/groups of mixed or unknown gender you need  to resort to gender-neutral constructions such as "they" or "he or she" rather than masculinizing the group or person.

The intention of gender-neutral language is not the abolition of gender but of gender bias!

Sabine

Reply to seamstress@web.de at 5:31 pm