Forget water-filtration systems, energy-saving light bulbs, and Hybrid cars. The greatest invention is language. And because we use it all the time, of course we take it for granted (much like everything else that’s important in our lives).
Well, the glock stops here.
If we think that we’re so smart, then it’s time we start acting like it and choose our words wisely because as you know, they might be our last. Let’s go out with a big bang, okay? R.I.P, damn chauvinism!
The Male Norm Is Abnormal
Did you know that English-grammar rules were first written in the 16th and 17th centuries? During this time, very few women could read and write, as they didn’t have the same educational opportunities as men.
Some women who were the exception had to use male pen names in order to get their books published! And to be ‘taken seriously’ by publishers and readers, a number of women resorted to using gender-neutral pseudonyms.
The English-grammar books were written by men and they were intended as study aids for boys from upper-class families. That being said, it should come as no surprise that the language contains a heavy male-centered worldview. But don’t worry, we can KO gender inequality with what we say and write.
Blow the Whistle & Order Around Pronouns at Boot Camp
I want you to actively look for this one – it shouldn’t be hard to find because there are loads of guilty parties. Keep your eyes peeled like a banana for the order of personal pronouns. More often than not, you’ll notice that people usually use “he or she” and “his or hers”.
Many times when you change the order and put the woman first, readers mention that it “sounds weird”. Why is that? Why must the man be mentioned first always? And why is putting the woman first so wrong? These are all good questions.
To this day, no one has been able to justify the male-first order to my satisfaction. And to my dismay, I’ve caught many Psychology Today articles following that traditional format despite their claims of forward-thinking.
Let’s stop perpetuating the myth that women are (what Simone de Beauvoir coined) “the second sex”.
You could bring more attention to the matter by simply using “she or he” and “hers and his” on occasion.
Or you could go another route and use “(s)he” for true equality. Of course, eliminating your usage of gender-identifying personal pronouns is also an option, but I find it cumbersome and cold at times.
Man, I Feel like a Woman!
Sometimes I can’t believe that in this day and age, people still use “he” to refer to both females and males. Case in point, here’s an example: “To avoid getting slapped with a speeding ticket, a driver should stick to the posted speed limit or he might have to pay the fine.” The driver could just as easily be a woman.
As of today (April 26, 2009), if you hit up Wikipedia and scroll down to the chart, this is what you’ll see:
“He: Third person singular, masculine / gender-neutral third person singular
She: Third person singular, feminine”
How is “he” gender-neutral, but “she” is distinctly feminine and separate? Sniff sniff…I smell something, and it reeks of chauvinism trying to segregate women in a category that’s deemed of lesser importance.
Well, glock that!
I challenge you all to change the way you use personal pronouns every day. It’s a simple change that makes a huge difference in how we treat and define women as equals.