The Blog of Brian Ballard Quass

Brian's response to Science News story by Thomas Sumner: Geologists discover tectonic plate in February 4, 2015 edition of Science News

Problematic Pronouns

Excellent article. Unfortunately, Thomas (or his editor) commits a sort of affirmative-action error that's very common with editorial staffs these days: he uses the pronoun SHE to mean HE or SHE (the example of the skater). This usage sounds cavalier, patronizing (to women) and off-putting to me. When feminists complained about pronouns in the 1970s, their argument was that they could not bring themselves to consider that the word HE could also include women. I find it irritating and presumptuous that modern writers and editors have responded to that original complaint by creating a new injustice of sorts: by requiring men to believe that SHE can now mean HE. It may seem awkward to certain editors, but PLEASE stick with the accurate but more wordy "he or she" or "they" or "one" -- don't take my mind off of an otherwise excellent article by using a provocative choice of pronouns, one that is laden with assumptions that many people, such as myself, do not share.

What Have We Learned

1) Since Brian's insight here is so basic and seemingly undeniable, how is it that so many editors continue to ignore it? Could it be that Brian's gentle remonstrances on the subject are being misinterpreted as personal attacks, against which an editor feels compelled (will-they, nill-they) to protect their surprisingly fragile ego, as who should stick their fingers in their ears, crying, "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!!" Explain.

pronouncs, feminism, he or she

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