Alison Boston, Feminism, Politics, PostADay2011, Previously Published Writing, Use of Language, Writing

Time for 21st century speak! Use ‘they’ as a singular pronoun.

Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux
Lord Brougham: one of the men responsible for women being denied the right to vote. Read more about it in today's post. Image via Wikipedia.
Here’s the rest of that essay as promised yesterday!

We are not being pernicious bitch feminists when we ask you to use ‘they’ rather than ‘he’, we ask you to use ‘they’ because it includes women and girls as equals.

Language shapes identity and sociocultural mores.  Girls need to grow up knowing they are equal, and having that affirmed in the language they hear and read.  It also helps boys grow up recognizing girls as their equal.

Language is just the tip of the iceburg, women are still grossly under and mis-represented in all aspects of media, and those are the images that shape the identity of little girls and boys.

I first wrote this article as a submission for a new women’s glossy that was being published in Ottawa.  It was rejected – by the female editor – as ‘not suitable’ for her publishing guidelines.  I then took it to the Ottawa Citizen and when I asked the editor why he accepted it for publication, he said:

“You changed my opinion.”

I hope it changes yours!

The Rise and Fall of the Generic Masculine

copyright Alison Boston
first published in the Ottawa Citizen, February 14, 1987, page B3 (the ed asked me to wear my glasses for the pic!  Stereotyping or what?)
Click on image to read.

Pierre Burton resigned from the jury selecting the museum’s new name, saying it was a ‘silly’ exercise.

“Museum of Man is a perfectly good name,”

he huffed.

Liberal senator Louis Robichaud said there was no need to change the name to make it non-sexist because:

“…woman is a man with a womb.”

Hence a sentence such as “everyone bought their ticket” was said to be grammatically incorrect, while “everyone bought his ticket” was considered correct (even though it negated the possible presence of half the human race.)

Click on image to read.

By 1850 the diminished status of women was so thoroughly entrenched in the English language that the British Parliament adopted the use of the generic masculine through Lord Brougham‘s Act.  …instead of doing what the act stated, judges looked at the context of the generic masculine to decide whether or not it was meant to include females.

Perhaps the most dramatic example of this occurred when women claimed the right to vote.

…it was argued, …by the judges who presided, that in this instance the word “man” couldn’t possibly be meant to include women.

Click on image to read.

We cannot take the masculine out of words like “man”, “he”, or “him” – nor do we want to.  We do, however, want our rightful place, a place of equality, reflected in our language.”

Are you up for it?

Speak it!

Write it!

Insist on it!

Alison Boston, PostADay2011, Previously Published Writing, Techie Stuff, Use of Language, Writing

Generic Masculine Pronoun Still Being Debated! Amazing!

Suffragist Halloween Costume
Please note the image above is NOT Meg! It's an image of an unidentified woman dressed in a suffragist Hallowe'en costume, stored on Walter Parenteau's Flicker account, and sourced by Zemanta when I searched for images of suffragists. Read this post and you'll know why I chose that word!
“I think singular pronoun agreement is evolving out of English; most authors I copy-edit use “they” rather than the correct, “he or she” (or variations). Will you abandon pronoun agreement?”
Meg Nash, a freelance writer-editor in the Greater Philadelphia area asked that question just over a month ago in the LinkedIn Writers and Editors group.  It hit a nerve in the community and has stimulated 300 comments to date!

I was surprised to see the debate, as I first questioned the use of the masculine pronoun back in 1987 in the first article I ever had published.  I researched my essay “The Rise and Fall of the Masculine Generic” in the Law Library at the University of Ottawa, and it was published on the Ottawa Citizen‘s essay page, on November 14, 1987.   Quite a Valentine’s day topic!

My dear mother, back in Canada, was so proud of me, she had the article laminated and has stored it in her filing cabinet all these years! (Oh where would we be without our mothers?)  So, when I saw the thread I wrote and asked her if she still had it, and of course, she did! So she shipped it off to me and it arrived a couple of days ago.

Click on photo to enlarge to read.

The essay occupied most of the page in the Ottawa Citizen, and measures 35cm by 38cm and is a bitch*  to scan on my small home scanner! Too big to scan in one piece, just a bit too big to scan in two pieces!I want to post a series of images with print large enough for you to read without having to click on the image, and as I’m better with audio than images, I may take the job to a pro!

For today you have the bottom right hand corner of the printed page, where you can read about how the generic masculine was used to deny women the right to vote.  Hence, the word suffragist in the image search!

I’ll try to have the whole thing for you to read tomorrow.

What do you think?  Should we use ‘they’ as a singular pronoun, for lack of a better word?

*It really is the best adjective I can think of to describe the experience and, I’m a woman! Anybody got any better ideas?