Writing with Non-Sexist Language
"The need today, as always, is to be in command of language, not used by it, and so the challenge
A few hints on nonsexist language from "The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing", by Casey Miller and Kate Swift.
Man as a False Generic: "Development of the Uterus in Rats, Guinea Pigs, and Men" (11)
Writers who persist in using man in its old sense often slip unconsciously from the general meaning to the limited one. The switch, unfortunately, is rarely discernible to their readers, who have no way of telling that generalizations about human beings have become generalizations about males:
"As for man, he is no different from the rest. His back aches, he ruptures easily, his women have difficulties in childbirth." (15)
"A man who lies constantly needs a good memory" is clearer when a man is replaced by someone or anyone. Or better still " A chronic liar needs a good memory." (18)
Terms for the Human Species:
Used in broad, sweeping generalizations, man frequently--perhaps usually--conveys misinformation.
appears not only to disregard women's interest in ending illness but also to ignore the important advances toward that goal made by women.
It would be better to write:
Job titles ending in man date from a time when only males performed the jobs described. Not so today. Furthermore, sex-differentiating titles often adopt two separate pay scales. Or the language may act as a code, subtly indicating sex or age as a prerequisite for a job.(37)
Although it may have been drilled into our heads that grammatically the singular "he" is correct, the above argument can be made for using "they."
Other alternatives include eliminating the pronoun:
Or using a plural construction:
Addressing the reader directly with "you," or using some sort of combination of pronouns (s/he, his/hers), or shifting to "one" are all other ways to avoid this dilemma.
Other ways language becomes sexist:
Mrs. Henry Smith-----------> Jane Smith
Question: What sex are the confident young lawyer and the wealthy contractor?(66)