No Gender Neutral Pronoun in English

Boy Meets GirlWe all know that the most common choice for a pronoun when the gender isn’t known is ‘he.’ Example: “Say a visitor comes to your website and he clicks on a link.” Writers could as easily choose “she,” but we default, probably from centuries of ingrained behavior, to the masculine “he.” Even women do this. Feminists often cry foul, for why should our language be so gender-biased? Egalitarians opt for the awkward “they.” Example: “Say a visitor comes to your website and they click on a link.” But, because “they” is commonly plural, it sounds mildly ungrammatical.

Anyway, I like “she” as a pronoun for that anonymous singular person just as much as I like “he.” I might even like “She” a little bit better. The version of the Tao Te Ching I am reading, uses “she” interchangeably with “he” throughout. Using “she” ads new depth to statements. Example from the Tao Te Ching: “The sage doesn’t contrive, so she isn’t beaten.” It’s wonderful to destroy our default picture of the sage being a wise old man. Why not, also, a wise old woman? In Judaism, the human soul, the Neshamah, is always referred to in the feminine, even if the soul belongs to a male.

So I say, let’s start a Meme.

For the entire month of November, I’m going to use “she,” “her,” etc., in every instance where the gender of the person is unknown. Why? For the sheer joy of it. Let’s all choose to do this for a month and see what effect it has. Are you game?

If you are, please pass the message on.

She who has health, has hope; and she who has hope, has everything.”

6 Replies to “No Gender Neutral Pronoun in English”

  1. I took Mandarin a couple of years ago and was fascinated to discover that the spoken third person pronoun did not distinguish between masculine and feminine. Apparently the written characters used to be the same as well.

    Anyway, I’m game.

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