More thoughts on oddities of gender-neutral language
Following the gender-neutral titles post, I wanted to share a couple of short observations about things that kind of irk me. One is the asymetrical use of gender-neutral titles, the other is the use of the “singular they” when we know the gender of the person in question.
Not much to say here, but I’ve noticed writers who use male-gendered titles for men, and neutral titles for women. It’s weird. It’s as if they only note the issue when they run into women and catch themselves. So they’ll write about a male “chairman” but a female “chairperson”. Is “person” becoming femininized?
I have no objections to the singular they. Almost everyone uses it whether they realize it or not. It’s very useful, it’s natural, let’s do it. What I find odd, however, is when the gender of the person refered to is absolutely determined, yet the speaker will use “they” rather than “he” or “she”. I notice it happening more with references to women than to men. For example, “a new mother may find it hard to return to their job”. I don’t hear it happening when the person is a real person, identified as such. So I hear “Margo is a new mother who has found it hard to return to her job”.
What about you? Comments welcome!