Why we should not use gendered pronouns

An argument against gendered pronouns; criticism welcome

Discussions about society in general and social activity.

Moderators: Calilasseia, ADParker

Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#1  Postby Jake » Oct 02, 2014 4:56 am

Here I'll present my argument against the use of gendered pronouns; I will not be arguing for the use of a specific gender-neutral pronoun. For those who wish to discuss specific gender-neutral pronouns and how they could be introduced linguistically, please see my topic in the Linguistics subforum:

How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

Assertion

The use of gendered pronouns is not only unnecessary, but actually contributes to gender-based prejudice and should therefore be entirely eliminated.

My argument

1. The communication of gender through pronouns does not serve any vital linguistic function. A subject can still act without a gender and an object can still be acted upon without a gender. Gender is no more vital to one's role within linguistic structure than are any number of other properties such as race, religion, hair color, height, weight, etc. If one's gender becomes relevant within a certain context, one's gender can be intentionally specified just as one's race can be intentionally specified should it become relevant. Therefore gendered pronouns serve no vital purpose; we could communicate effectively without them.

2. Humans inform their beliefs and behavior primarily through use of inductive reasoning and will therefore, consciously or subconsciously, form generalizations about types of people/creatures based upon individual examples. This is the process by which bigotry (i.e. unfair prejudice) takes hold of us. For example, one might see a Jewish banker and, through inductive reasoning (the inference of general laws from particular instances) conclude that Jews must be greedy. Similarly, when we hear that he or she acts a certain way, we are likely to associate (unless we consciously avoid doing so) his or her actions with his or her gender.

Does this mean we should never provide any specific information about those to whom we're referring? Of course not. But we shouldn't provide specific information unless it is relevant information. We can examine the consequences of providing irrelevant information through use of an example involving cable news. If a news anchor is attempting to characterize a suspect in a crime in order to help viewers identify the suspect and report his or her location, the anchor would be justified in providing as much physical detail about the suspect as possible: race, sex, age, height, weight, hair and eye colors, etc. By providing such details within the context of attempting to catch the suspect, the news anchor would not be implying that these details are somehow relevant to the suspect's criminal nature. However, if a news anchor is simply reporting a crime and characterizes the suspect as "black", "ugly", and "in his teens", without framing this characterization in the context of attempting to catch the suspect, the news anchor would be placing undue emphasis on these details, implying that they are somehow relevant to the suspect's criminal nature. Viewers, as natural inductive reasoners, would be likely to consciously or subconsciously infer a negative generalization about black people, ugly people, and teenagers simply by witnessing the news anchor's unnecessary characterization of the suspect.

We unintentionally provide irrelevant information every time we use a gendered pronoun. We would never suggest the use of racial pronouns in order to characterize every single person by their race, for example, yet we characterize someone by their gender every time we refer to them using a gendered pronoun. Gender pervades our language; the first question we ask when someone has a baby is whether the baby is a boy or a girl, causing most of us to associate anything we then hear about the baby with the gender we were just told. We would not have survived as a species without relying upon inductive reasoning, and induction does serve a vital function in the scientific method and in rational thought, yet we need to be aware of people's reliance upon inference and induction whenever we communicate, in order to avoid accidentally reinforcing or creating unfair generalizations or associations. Gendered pronouns force us to over-communicate, and should therefore be eliminated from our discourse. If we need to communicate gender for a relevant reason, we can do so separately, just as we do with race, religion, and other characteristics that are not always relevant.

It is also important to note that even if we do identify an actual trend among a certain subset of people (e.g. if we determine that blond people are, on average, less intelligent) this would not automatically imply cause and effect. We could not conclude that belonging to that subset causes one to behave in accordance with the trend. We should evaluate people based upon their individual personalities and behaviors instead of relying upon generalizations, accurate or otherwise, about subsets of people.

Brief counterarguments and rebuttals

1. Language's purpose is to convey as much information as possible. This is untrue. Language's purpose is to provide as much control as possible over information output. If one wishes to conceal information, language should provide mechanisms for successful concealing of information or outright deception. A gay person who has not yet come out to their parents may wish to conceal their partner's gender from their parents in order to avoid revealing the same-sex status of their relationship, yet referring to their partner without using gendered pronouns would act as an immediate red-flag to the gay person's parents. But if we as a society used gender-neutral pronouns by default, the issue of gender would likely never be raised, and the gay person could talk to their parents about their partner without revealing their partner's gender or appearing suspicious. This situation is only one example in which default use of gender-neutral pronouns would actually increase language's function as a tool for controlling information output.

2. We can simply recognize the consequences of using gendered pronouns and eliminate said consequences through conscious effort. While some people are rational enough to recognize and eliminate their own unfair prejudices, everyone is inductive and inferential by nature and most people do not recognize this or attempt to control it. To claim that we do not form unfair generalizations and associations about subsets of the population is to ignore the inductive nature of the human brain.

Closing statement

I've tried to summarize my argument as much as possible. Feel free to criticize or argue against any of the points I've made, or to ask for expansion or clarification. If we agree and you would like to begin eliminating the use of gendered pronouns from our language, please follow the link to my Linguistics topic.

Edit: I removed the Post-Script examples because it appears people were too fixated on the examples I gave there and used them as an excuse to ignore the actual argument.
Last edited by Jake on Oct 02, 2014 6:39 pm, edited 3 times in total.
User avatar
Jake
THREAD STARTER
 
Posts: 7

Print view this post

Ads by Google


Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#2  Postby babel » Oct 02, 2014 2:41 pm

1. Language's purpose is to convey as much information as possible. This is untrue. Language's purpose is to provide as much control as possible over information output. If one wishes to conceal information, language should provide mechanisms for successful concealing of information or outright deception. A gay person who has not yet come out to their parents may wish to conceal their partner's gender from their parents in order to avoid revealing the same-sex status of their relationship, yet referring to their partner without using gendered pronouns would act as an immediate red-flag to the gay person's parents. But if we as a society used gender-neutral pronouns by default, the issue of gender would likely never be raised, and the gay person could talk to their parents about their partner without revealing their partner's gender or appearing suspicious. This situation is only one example in which default use of gender-neutral pronouns would actually increase language's function as a tool for controlling information output.
This, to me, sounds like you are attempting to solve one problem by camouflage. The issue in this lies with the social prejudice vis a vis homosexuality. People shouldn't feel the need to conceal their partner's gender (especially for their parents)
The gender neutral pronouns won't change a thing about the reluctance in the closet gay people experience to come out. I would actually argue the opposite. Hiding it by omitting the gender of their partner tries to hide that 'unpleasant fact' from those holding bigoted opinions on such relationships.

With regards to your examples: I find them poorly chosen, since none of the female examples is positive, unlike for the male examples. I wonder where these associations occur.

BTW: skinny is associated with little dogs, especially around these parts. ;)
Milton Jones: "Just bought a broken second hand time machine - plan to fix it, have lots of adventures then go back and not buy it, he he idiots.."
User avatar
babel
 
Posts: 4675
Age: 40
Male

Country: Belgium
Belgium (be)
Print view this post

Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#3  Postby Pulsar » Oct 02, 2014 2:46 pm

Jake wrote:They were loud.

They were annoying.

They were cowardly.

They were strong.

They were fat.

They were skinny.

Who were loud? Who were annoying? Who were cowardly? Who were strong? Who were fat? Who were skinny?

Jake wrote:See how all of the emphasis is placed on the subjects' relevant characteristics and no unfair associations between gender and other characteristics are suggested? The subjects are treated as people rather than as genders, and the desired amount of information is communicated.

Bullshit. You eliminated information about the subjects, making your statements vague and meaningless. These "unfair associations between gender and other characteristics" are in your head. You should do something about these prejudices of yours instead of projecting them onto others.
"The longer I live the more I see that I am never wrong about anything, and that all the pains that I have so humbly taken to verify my notions have only wasted my time." - George Bernard Shaw
User avatar
Pulsar
 
Posts: 4618
Age: 43
Male

Country: Belgium
Belgium (be)
Print view this post

Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#4  Postby Jake » Oct 02, 2014 2:53 pm

I will reply to each objection when I have access to a keyboard, but until then I advise you all to actually read the argument instead of getting hung up on the Post-Script examples, which were added as an afterthought.
User avatar
Jake
THREAD STARTER
 
Posts: 7

Print view this post

Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#5  Postby colubridae » Oct 02, 2014 2:53 pm

The elm.
"You can fuck the fuck off, you fucking fucker" - L. Salander
User avatar
colubridae
 
Posts: 312
Age: 70

Print view this post

Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#6  Postby hackenslash » Oct 02, 2014 3:16 pm

Just one question:

What's information?
User avatar
hackenslash
 
Name: The Other Sweary One
Posts: 21440
Age: 51
Male

Country: Republic of Mancunia
Print view this post

Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#7  Postby babel » Oct 02, 2014 3:19 pm

Jake wrote:I will reply to each objection when I have access to a keyboard, but until then I advise you all to actually read the argument instead of getting hung up on the Post-Script examples, which were added as an afterthought.
Ok, though I did read your entire OP before my previous reply.
1. The communication of gender through pronouns does not serve any vital linguistic function. A subject can still act without a gender and an object can still be acted upon without a gender. Gender is no more vital to one's role within linguistic structure than are any number of other properties such as race, religion, hair color, height, weight, etc. If one's gender becomes relevant within a certain context, one's gender can be intentionally specified just as one's race can be intentionally specified should it become relevant. Therefore gendered pronouns serve no vital purpose; we could communicate effectively without them.
But for all these other descriptors, there's no pronoun available, so it requires to add complexity to your sentence to specify. For gender, thanks to the gender specific pronouns, you can easily include that information without much effort.
Furthermore, this argument boils down to "I don't think gender information is that important".
First of all: I disagree, which is just as much valid as your argument that it isn't.
Second: your disagreeing with yourself. For it to be unimportant or irrelevant information, you seem to attach an awful lot of associations and importance to it.
Milton Jones: "Just bought a broken second hand time machine - plan to fix it, have lots of adventures then go back and not buy it, he he idiots.."
User avatar
babel
 
Posts: 4675
Age: 40
Male

Country: Belgium
Belgium (be)
Print view this post

Ads by Google


Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#8  Postby The_Metatron » Oct 02, 2014 3:39 pm

Jake wrote:
[Reveal] Spoiler:
Here I'll present my argument against the use of gendered pronouns; I will not be arguing for the use of a specific gender-neutral pronoun. For those who wish to discuss specific gender-neutral pronouns and how they could be introduced linguistically, please see my topic in the Linguistics subforum:

How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

Assertion

The use of gendered pronouns is not only unnecessary, but actually contributes to gender-based prejudice and should therefore be entirely eliminated.

My argument

1. The communication of gender through pronouns does not serve any vital linguistic function. A subject can still act without a gender and an object can still be acted upon without a gender. Gender is no more vital to one's role within linguistic structure than are any number of other properties such as race, religion, hair color, height, weight, etc. If one's gender becomes relevant within a certain context, one's gender can be intentionally specified just as one's race can be intentionally specified should it become relevant. Therefore gendered pronouns serve no vital purpose; we could communicate effectively without them.

2. Humans inform their beliefs and behavior primarily through use of inductive reasoning and will therefore, consciously or subconsciously, form generalizations about types of people/creatures based upon individual examples. This is the process by which bigotry (i.e. unfair prejudice) takes hold of us. For example, one might see a Jewish banker and, through inductive reasoning (the inference of general laws from particular instances) conclude that Jews must be greedy. Similarly, when we hear that he or she acts a certain way, we are likely to associate (unless we consciously avoid doing so) his or her actions with his or her gender.

Does this mean we should never provide any specific information about those to whom we're referring? Of course not. But we shouldn't provide specific information unless it is relevant information. We can examine the consequences of providing irrelevant information through use of an example involving cable news. If a news anchor is attempting to characterize a suspect in a crime in order to help viewers identify the suspect and report his or her location, the anchor would be justified in providing as much physical detail about the suspect as possible: race, sex, age, height, weight, hair and eye colors, etc. By providing such details within the context of attempting to catch the suspect, the news anchor would not be implying that these details are somehow relevant to the suspect's criminal nature. However, if a news anchor is simply reporting a crime and characterizes the suspect as "black", "ugly", and "in his teens", without framing this characterization in the context of attempting to catch the suspect, the news anchor would be placing undue emphasis on these details, implying that they are somehow relevant to the suspect's criminal nature. Viewers, as natural inductive reasoners, would be likely to consciously or subconsciously infer a negative generalization about black people, ugly people, and teenagers simply by witnessing the news anchor's unnecessary characterization of the suspect.

We unintentionally provide irrelevant information every time we use a gendered pronoun. We would never suggest the use of racial pronouns in order to characterize every single person by their race, for example, yet we characterize someone by their gender every time we refer to them using a gendered pronoun. Gender pervades our language; the first question we ask when someone has a baby is whether the baby is a boy or a girl, causing most of us to associate anything we then hear about the baby with the gender we were just told. We would not have survived as a species without relying upon inductive reasoning, and induction does serve a vital function in the scientific method and in rational thought, yet we need to be aware of people's reliance upon inference and induction whenever we communicate, in order to avoid accidentally reinforcing or creating unfair generalizations or associations. Gendered pronouns force us to over-communicate, and should therefore be eliminated from our discourse. If we need to communicate gender for a relevant reason, we can do so separately, just as we do with race, religion, and other characteristics that are not always relevant.

It is also important to note that even if we do identify an actual trend among a certain subset of people (e.g. if we determine that blond people are, on average, less intelligent) this would not automatically imply cause and effect. We could not conclude that belonging to that subset causes one to behave in accordance with the trend. We should evaluate people based upon their individual personalities and behaviors instead of relying upon generalizations, accurate or otherwise, about subsets of people.

Brief counterarguments and rebuttals

1. Language's purpose is to convey as much information as possible. This is untrue. Language's purpose is to provide as much control as possible over information output. If one wishes to conceal information, language should provide mechanisms for successful concealing of information or outright deception. A gay person who has not yet come out to their parents may wish to conceal their partner's gender from their parents in order to avoid revealing the same-sex status of their relationship, yet referring to their partner without using gendered pronouns would act as an immediate red-flag to the gay person's parents. But if we as a society used gender-neutral pronouns by default, the issue of gender would likely never be raised, and the gay person could talk to their parents about their partner without revealing their partner's gender or appearing suspicious. This situation is only one example in which default use of gender-neutral pronouns would actually increase language's function as a tool for controlling information output.

2. We can simply recognize the consequences of using gendered pronouns and eliminate said consequences through conscious effort. While some people are rational enough to recognize and eliminate their own unfair prejudices, everyone is inductive and inferential by nature and most people do not recognize this or attempt to control it. To claim that we do not form unfair generalizations and associations about subsets of the population is to ignore the inductive nature of the human brain.

Closing statement

I've tried to summarize my argument as much as possible. Feel free to criticize or argue against any of the points I've made, or to ask for expansion or clarification. If we agree and you would like to begin eliminating the use of gendered pronouns from our language, please follow the link to my Linguistics topic.

P.S. I find the following exercise helps me to identify my own automatic, inductive bias as it relates to gendered pronouns. Read the following statements:

"She was loud."

"She was annoying."

"He was cowardly."

"He was strong."

"She was fat."

"He was skinny."

It appears the speaker is associating the gender of each pronoun with the corresponding characteristic. The women seem to be judged for being loud, annoying, or fat, as women. The men seem to be judged for being cowardly or skinny, as men, or they seem to be commended for being strong, as men. These gendered pronouns create unnecessary and irrelevant associations in our minds and imply the speaker considers the subjects' genders relevant to the subjects' other characteristics. Now read the same statements after each gendered pronoun has been replaced with the singular "they" (one of English's only gender-neutral pronouns).

They were loud.

They were annoying.

They were cowardly.

They were strong.

They were fat.

They were skinny.

All of the emphasis is placed on the subjects' relevant characteristics and no unfair associations between gender and other characteristics are suggested. The subjects are treated as people rather than as genders, and the desired amount of information is communicated.

No, the subjects have been made into vague blobs of unknown numbers of people, instead of the more clear sentences that describe individuals.

Pop on over to A+. They revel in this shit. Or he does. Or zur does, or some stupid shit.
I AM Skepdickus!

Check out Hack's blog, too. He writes good.
User avatar
The_Metatron
Moderator
 
Name: Jesse
Posts: 21064
Age: 57
Male

Country: United States
United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#9  Postby Clive Durdle » Oct 02, 2014 4:06 pm

Language is not separate words - the Greeks did not separate words or use lower case until quite recently. Therefore there has always and always will be a need to decode and infer and guess. I am hard of hearing, I have to do this all the time, accents get interesting!

So what is the problem with they? Sometimes it is valuable to get people to think about what they are reading writing speaking or hearing!
"We cannot slaughter each other out of the human impasse"
Clive Durdle
 
Name: Clive Durdle
Posts: 4854

Country: UK
United Kingdom (uk)
Print view this post

Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#10  Postby Jake » Oct 02, 2014 4:08 pm

@The_Metatron: Again, until I have access to a computer and keyboard, I'll refer you to my actual argument, rather than the examples that were added as an afterthought and that would make more sense if you read and understood the entire argument.
User avatar
Jake
THREAD STARTER
 
Posts: 7

Print view this post

Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#11  Postby Steve » Oct 02, 2014 4:19 pm

What gender are you, Jake?
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny
Blue Mountain Center of Meditation
User avatar
Steve
RS Donator
 
Posts: 6908
Age: 66
Male

New Zealand (nz)
Print view this post

Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#12  Postby laklak » Oct 02, 2014 4:38 pm

Language evolved gender specific pronouns because they were more useful than non-specific ones. "He is strong" or "she is strong" conveys more information than "they is strong" or "ze is strong". We already have non-specific pronouns for cases that warrant them. If someone chooses to use "they" as opposed to "he" or "she" that's their prerogative; however, I see that as frankly ridiculous under most circumstances. It's like looking at a black guy and a white guy and saying "the dude with the red shirt" instead of "the white guy". Gender is an identifying characteristic, just as skin color, hair color (or lack thereof) or eye color are. Recognizing gender does not make one a tool of the patriarchy. There is a difference between saying "she is weak" and "all women are weak". One is specific and may or may not be correct, the other is an incorrect generalization.

It appears the speaker is associating the gender of each pronoun with the corresponding characteristic. The women seem to be judged for being loud, annoying, or fat, as women. The men seem to be judged for being cowardly or skinny, as men, or they seem to be commended for being strong, as men. These gendered pronouns create unnecessary and irrelevant associations in our minds and imply the speaker considers the subjects' genders relevant to the subjects' other characteristics. Now read the same statements after each gendered pronoun has been replaced with the singular "they" (one of English's only gender-neutral pronouns).


Maybe to you, but IMO you're over-thinking it. "Seem to be" doesn't mean "are", that's something going on in your mind. If someone says "she's really stupid" I don't associate stupidity with the class noun "woman" anymore than I associate it with "canine" if someone points to a dog and says "he's really stupid". By definition a pronoun is a word that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase, it can be singular or plural. You'll note that in English gendered pronouns are singular, non-gendered are plural (except for the singular "it"). When you say "he" or "she" or "his" or "hers" you're identifying a specific individual, not a group. If you use "they", "us", "them", "you" (pl), you are identifying a group of non-gendered objects.
A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way. - Mark Twain
The sky is falling! The sky is falling! - Chicken Little
I never go without my dinner. No one ever does, except vegetarians and people like that - Oscar Wilde
User avatar
laklak
RS Donator
 
Name: Florida Man
Posts: 20878
Age: 66
Male

Country: The Great Satan
Swaziland (sz)
Print view this post

Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#13  Postby kennyc » Oct 02, 2014 5:17 pm

hackenslash wrote:Just one question:

What's information?


Yes,

and what is communication?
Kenny A. Chaffin
Art Gallery - Photo Gallery - Writing&Poetry
"Strive on with Awareness" - Siddhartha Gautama
User avatar
kennyc
 
Name: Kenny A. Chaffin
Posts: 8698
Male

Country: U.S.A.
United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#14  Postby kennyc » Oct 02, 2014 5:18 pm

The_Metatron wrote:
Jake wrote:
[Reveal] Spoiler:
Here I'll present my argument against the use of gendered pronouns; I will not be arguing for the use of a specific gender-neutral pronoun. For those who wish to discuss specific gender-neutral pronouns and how they could be introduced linguistically, please see my topic in the Linguistics subforum:

How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

Assertion

The use of gendered pronouns is not only unnecessary, but actually contributes to gender-based prejudice and should therefore be entirely eliminated.

My argument

1. The communication of gender through pronouns does not serve any vital linguistic function. A subject can still act without a gender and an object can still be acted upon without a gender. Gender is no more vital to one's role within linguistic structure than are any number of other properties such as race, religion, hair color, height, weight, etc. If one's gender becomes relevant within a certain context, one's gender can be intentionally specified just as one's race can be intentionally specified should it become relevant. Therefore gendered pronouns serve no vital purpose; we could communicate effectively without them.

2. Humans inform their beliefs and behavior primarily through use of inductive reasoning and will therefore, consciously or subconsciously, form generalizations about types of people/creatures based upon individual examples. This is the process by which bigotry (i.e. unfair prejudice) takes hold of us. For example, one might see a Jewish banker and, through inductive reasoning (the inference of general laws from particular instances) conclude that Jews must be greedy. Similarly, when we hear that he or she acts a certain way, we are likely to associate (unless we consciously avoid doing so) his or her actions with his or her gender.

Does this mean we should never provide any specific information about those to whom we're referring? Of course not. But we shouldn't provide specific information unless it is relevant information. We can examine the consequences of providing irrelevant information through use of an example involving cable news. If a news anchor is attempting to characterize a suspect in a crime in order to help viewers identify the suspect and report his or her location, the anchor would be justified in providing as much physical detail about the suspect as possible: race, sex, age, height, weight, hair and eye colors, etc. By providing such details within the context of attempting to catch the suspect, the news anchor would not be implying that these details are somehow relevant to the suspect's criminal nature. However, if a news anchor is simply reporting a crime and characterizes the suspect as "black", "ugly", and "in his teens", without framing this characterization in the context of attempting to catch the suspect, the news anchor would be placing undue emphasis on these details, implying that they are somehow relevant to the suspect's criminal nature. Viewers, as natural inductive reasoners, would be likely to consciously or subconsciously infer a negative generalization about black people, ugly people, and teenagers simply by witnessing the news anchor's unnecessary characterization of the suspect.

We unintentionally provide irrelevant information every time we use a gendered pronoun. We would never suggest the use of racial pronouns in order to characterize every single person by their race, for example, yet we characterize someone by their gender every time we refer to them using a gendered pronoun. Gender pervades our language; the first question we ask when someone has a baby is whether the baby is a boy or a girl, causing most of us to associate anything we then hear about the baby with the gender we were just told. We would not have survived as a species without relying upon inductive reasoning, and induction does serve a vital function in the scientific method and in rational thought, yet we need to be aware of people's reliance upon inference and induction whenever we communicate, in order to avoid accidentally reinforcing or creating unfair generalizations or associations. Gendered pronouns force us to over-communicate, and should therefore be eliminated from our discourse. If we need to communicate gender for a relevant reason, we can do so separately, just as we do with race, religion, and other characteristics that are not always relevant.

It is also important to note that even if we do identify an actual trend among a certain subset of people (e.g. if we determine that blond people are, on average, less intelligent) this would not automatically imply cause and effect. We could not conclude that belonging to that subset causes one to behave in accordance with the trend. We should evaluate people based upon their individual personalities and behaviors instead of relying upon generalizations, accurate or otherwise, about subsets of people.

Brief counterarguments and rebuttals

1. Language's purpose is to convey as much information as possible. This is untrue. Language's purpose is to provide as much control as possible over information output. If one wishes to conceal information, language should provide mechanisms for successful concealing of information or outright deception. A gay person who has not yet come out to their parents may wish to conceal their partner's gender from their parents in order to avoid revealing the same-sex status of their relationship, yet referring to their partner without using gendered pronouns would act as an immediate red-flag to the gay person's parents. But if we as a society used gender-neutral pronouns by default, the issue of gender would likely never be raised, and the gay person could talk to their parents about their partner without revealing their partner's gender or appearing suspicious. This situation is only one example in which default use of gender-neutral pronouns would actually increase language's function as a tool for controlling information output.

2. We can simply recognize the consequences of using gendered pronouns and eliminate said consequences through conscious effort. While some people are rational enough to recognize and eliminate their own unfair prejudices, everyone is inductive and inferential by nature and most people do not recognize this or attempt to control it. To claim that we do not form unfair generalizations and associations about subsets of the population is to ignore the inductive nature of the human brain.

Closing statement

I've tried to summarize my argument as much as possible. Feel free to criticize or argue against any of the points I've made, or to ask for expansion or clarification. If we agree and you would like to begin eliminating the use of gendered pronouns from our language, please follow the link to my Linguistics topic.

P.S. I find the following exercise helps me to identify my own automatic, inductive bias as it relates to gendered pronouns. Read the following statements:

"She was loud."

"She was annoying."

"He was cowardly."

"He was strong."

"She was fat."

"He was skinny."

It appears the speaker is associating the gender of each pronoun with the corresponding characteristic. The women seem to be judged for being loud, annoying, or fat, as women. The men seem to be judged for being cowardly or skinny, as men, or they seem to be commended for being strong, as men. These gendered pronouns create unnecessary and irrelevant associations in our minds and imply the speaker considers the subjects' genders relevant to the subjects' other characteristics. Now read the same statements after each gendered pronoun has been replaced with the singular "they" (one of English's only gender-neutral pronouns).

They were loud.

They were annoying.

They were cowardly.

They were strong.

They were fat.

They were skinny.

All of the emphasis is placed on the subjects' relevant characteristics and no unfair associations between gender and other characteristics are suggested. The subjects are treated as people rather than as genders, and the desired amount of information is communicated.

No, the subjects have been made into vague blobs of unknown numbers of people, instead of the more clear sentences that describe individuals.

Pop on over to A+. They revel in this shit. Or he does. Or zur does, or some stupid shit.



:lol: :lol: :lol:
Kenny A. Chaffin
Art Gallery - Photo Gallery - Writing&Poetry
"Strive on with Awareness" - Siddhartha Gautama
User avatar
kennyc
 
Name: Kenny A. Chaffin
Posts: 8698
Male

Country: U.S.A.
United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#15  Postby Thommo » Oct 02, 2014 5:41 pm

I'm actually quite sympathetic towards this argument. We do have a lot of societal conditioning towards treating men and women differently, which in both directions leads towards harmful stereotypes - just look at the activity we get in numerous threads about women's and men's rights.

An interesting example of how in-group and out-group pronouns and descriptors can work is to look at the perception of a religious or racial words like negro or kaffur take on negative qualities and even spawn bastardized terms that are explicitly derogatory.

The biggest counterarguments for me are firstly that people like gender roles and positive stereotypes, so they will not want to change based on negative stereotypes and the fact that goals of gender equality are almost certain to be unachieved with such a change when forenames are still gender based (my name is Paul, you won't be hiding my gender via use of a pronoun, for example).

Incidentally I do not agree that statements such as "She was loud." cause any association in my mind with women as a whole and "being loud", she is a singular pronoun after all.
User avatar
Thommo
 
Posts: 27172

Print view this post

Ads by Google


Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#16  Postby Evolving » Oct 02, 2014 5:43 pm

Thommo wrote:
Incidentally I do not agree that statements such as "She was loud." cause any association in my mind with women as a whole and "being loud", she is a singular pronoun after all.


I agree, that goes too far.
How extremely stupid not to have thought of that - T.H. Huxley
User avatar
Evolving
 
Name: Serafina Pekkala
Posts: 11993
Female

Country: Luxembourg
Luxembourg (lu)
Print view this post

Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#17  Postby Evolving » Oct 02, 2014 5:44 pm

Thommo wrote:...my name is Paul...


And I always assumed it was Thomas. My world has crumbled.

There again, I'm not Eve either. Or Yves.
How extremely stupid not to have thought of that - T.H. Huxley
User avatar
Evolving
 
Name: Serafina Pekkala
Posts: 11993
Female

Country: Luxembourg
Luxembourg (lu)
Print view this post

Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#18  Postby Thommo » Oct 02, 2014 6:16 pm

Evolving wrote:
Thommo wrote:...my name is Paul...


And I always assumed it was Thomas. My world has crumbled.

There again, I'm not Eve either. Or Yves.


You aren't so far wrong, my surname is Thomson, hence the user name.

Funnily enough the reason I don't use avatars and forum display of name or country is to avoid preconceptions, I always hope that people will know me by what I write instead of superficial things. This is only marred somewhat by forums seeming to bring out the worst in me, accentuating my argumentativeness by degrees and my own limited abilities as an effective communicator in writing.
User avatar
Thommo
 
Posts: 27172

Print view this post

Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#19  Postby Evolving » Oct 02, 2014 6:31 pm

Thommo wrote:...accentuating my argumentativeness by degrees and my own limited abilities as an effective communicator in writing.


I wouldn't say that!
How extremely stupid not to have thought of that - T.H. Huxley
User avatar
Evolving
 
Name: Serafina Pekkala
Posts: 11993
Female

Country: Luxembourg
Luxembourg (lu)
Print view this post

Re: Why we should not use gendered pronouns

#20  Postby Pebble » Oct 02, 2014 6:34 pm

The problem identified is real, the solution off target. Information can be used to monitor a problem that would otherwise go unnoticed. So reducing language to a bland genderless goo would provide opportunities for unobserved sexual bias.
You do not get racial equality by getting racists to pretend they are colour blind, rather by making discrimination socially unacceptable.
Pebble
 
Posts: 2812

Country: UK
Ireland (ie)
Print view this post

Next

Return to Sociology

Who is online

Users viewing this topic: No registered users and 1 guest