Results 1 to 9 of 9
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Chinese
      • Home Country:
      • China
      • Current Location:
      • China

    • Join Date: May 2009
    • Posts: 337
    #1

    Use it instead of he/she to avoid sexist language?

    The child was torn from its mother's arms.

    I've noticed that native speakers, on many occasions, feel reluctantly to use he or him to refer to a certain person, whose gender is not specified. An instance of this can be found in a book entitled Contract, which I am reading at the moment. In the book, the author, who has been a lawyer for years, frequently alternate he with she, or, in a different situation, his with her. Today, I saw the above quoted sentence in the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary and couldn't help wondering whether the writer's choice of it was all due to the fact that he didn't want to offend both sides.

    Many thanks

    Richard
    Last edited by cubezero3; 23-Jun-2010 at 06:28.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Japan

    • Join Date: Jan 2009
    • Posts: 1,507
    #2

    Re: Use it instead of he/she to avoid sexist language?

    This usage is possible only in the case of animals or young children/babies!

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Chinese
      • Home Country:
      • China
      • Current Location:
      • China

    • Join Date: May 2009
    • Posts: 337
    #3

    Re: Use it instead of he/she to avoid sexist language?

    Philo2009, your explanation is very clear and helpful.

    Thank you.

  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Jul 2009
    • Posts: 41,832
    #4

    Re: Use it instead of he/she to avoid sexist language?

    To avoid repetitive use of "he/she", "him/her", "his/her" etc, we usually use "they/their" when talking about an unspecified gender.

    When someone wants to get money from the bank, they go to the bank, fill in a withdrawal slip with their account details, and get their money.

    And I agree that "it" can be used for animals and unborn children, but once a baby is born, it's polite to use "he/she" etc.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 23-Jun-2010 at 11:30. Reason: Typo and extra info

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Chinese
      • Home Country:
      • Malaysia
      • Current Location:
      • Malaysia

    • Join Date: Jun 2006
    • Posts: 2,130
    #5

    Re: Use it instead of he/she to avoid sexist language?

    To give it a personal touch, you can also use 'you' to replace he/she.

    When you want to get money from the bank, you go to the bank, fill in a withdrawal slip with your account details, and get your money.

    not a teacher
    Last edited by tedtmc; 23-Jun-2010 at 11:56.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Jun 2010
    • Posts: 24,479
    #6

    Re: Use it instead of he/she to avoid sexist language?

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post

    . . .but once a baby is born, it's polite to use "he/she" etc.
    That works if the mother has been considerate enough to dress the tot in blue or pink.

    In the absence of one of these clues to masculinity or femininity, it's perfectly acceptable to say 'Aw. . .what a bonny baby! Is it a boy or a girl?

    After all, not even the most experienced midwife can determine the gender of an infant just by looking at its face.

    Rover

  2. emsr2d2's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Jul 2009
    • Posts: 41,832
    #7

    Re: Use it instead of he/she to avoid sexist language?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rover_KE View Post
    That works if the mother has been considerate enough to dress the tot in blue or pink.

    In the absence of one of these clues to masculinity or femininity, it's perfectly acceptable to say 'Aw. . .what a bonny baby! Is it a boy or a girl?

    After all, not even the most experienced midwife can determine the gender of an infant just by looking at its face.

    Rover
    Oh, I agree! But you wouldn't walk up to a mother and baby, look at the kid and say "Oh, it's so cute!" You would probably use your question first to determine the gender and then follow it with "He/she is very cute/ugly/whatever!"

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Apr 2009
    • Posts: 12,307
    #8

    Re: Use it instead of he/she to avoid sexist language?

    When someone wants to get money from the bank, they go to the bank, fill in a withdrawal slip with their account details, and get their money.
    Not a teacher.

    This formulation is done all the time, even though it violates English grammar. "Someone" is singular and should take a singular pronoun. "Someone wants to get his money."

    But to appease feminists, who take offense at the normal rules of English grammar, we instead switch from the singular "someone" to the plural "they" or "their."


    • Join Date: Jun 2010
    • Posts: 70
    #9

    Re: Use it instead of he/she to avoid sexist language?

    In this particular case, linguists classify its as a singular pronoun that agrees with the singular noun antecedent. This works well with collective nouns. Remember: Its is a gender neutral possessive pronoun commonly used in conjunction with animals, ambiguous genders, and inanimate objects.

Similar Threads

  1. avoid
    By Tdol in forum Intermediate
    Replies: 34
    Last Post: 17-Nov-2012, 13:46
  2. [Vocabulary] should I avoid slang and informal language?
    By JiriLindovsky in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 24-May-2010, 06:09
  3. [Grammar] avoid sth being / to be too
    By uktous in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 28-Jan-2010, 16:15
  4. Sexist Language
    By chuotyeumeo367 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 11-Jun-2009, 11:17
  5. Sexist language
    By nyggus in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 15
    Last Post: 27-Oct-2007, 19:37

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •