4.1127 Language, Words, Grammar and Gender (4/149)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 5 Mar 91 20:33:56 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1127. Tuesday, 5 Mar 1991.

(1) Date: Mon, 4 Mar 91 21:40 EST (16 lines)
Subject: Male Dominant Language

(2) Date: Mon, 04 Mar 91 21:40:06 CST (16 lines)
From: "Marcus A. J. Smith" <SMITHM@LOYNOVM>
Subject: Re: 4.1118 Words

(3) Date: Tue, 5 Mar 91 15:20:56 EST (22 lines)
From: dthel@conncoll.bitnet
Subject: grammar & gender

(4) Date: Mon, 4 Mar 1991 21:53 MST (95 lines)
From: Sigrid Peterson <SIGPETER@CC.UTAH.EDU>
Subject: Words and Gender

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Mon, 4 Mar 91 21:40 EST
Subject: Male Dominant Language

I have followed HUMANIST posting for about a year now and don't recall
when a serious subject has been so trivialized by would-be comedians as
has the subject of gender biased language. Perhaps these colleagues have
never met people genuinely hurt by language. Perhaps they have never
seriously thought about the way language shapes our world and our
experience. I only wonder why, if it really is such a trivial subject,
they should spend so much effort to ridicule it. Perhaps they really
do undestand what is at stake.

David L. Barr, University Honors Program
Wright State University, Dayton, OH 45435
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------21----
Date: Mon, 04 Mar 91 21:40:06 CST
From: "Marcus A. J. Smith" <SMITHM@LOYNOVM>
Subject: Re: 4.1118 Words

I cannot add to the particular discussions of freshman, ombudsman, etc.,
but there's an extremely influential discourse which seems to have a
gender-neutral stylistic policy : military bureacracy. A recent LEXUS
search of U.S. ap pelate opinions turned up no instances of judges using
s/he, (s)he, etc, but numerous cases quoted military regulations
containing gender-neutral pronouns and various other unbiased forms.
Apparently, the military have stylistic guidelines mandating these
forms. While it is important that academic and profe ssional groups
define and encourage appropriate stylistic guidelines, the military may
prove the most powerful engine for linguistic change--just as it has
been and is the most completely integrated major institution in our
society. Maybe someone has studied this systematically?
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------26----
Date: Tue, 5 Mar 91 15:20:56 EST
From: dthel@conncoll.bitnet
Subject: grammar & gender

The response to Gary Stonum's query about the origins of the concept of
gender is that it is indeed the Greeks who were responsible. Of course
he is right about the numerous incongruities between grammatical and
natural gender. But the classification goes back to the beginnings of
grammar, specifically to the 5th century Sophists. Aristotle (Rhetoric
1407b6) tells us that the famous sophist Protagoras was the first to
classify words by "type" or "kind". The Greek word is *genos*, hence
gender. Protagoras named the kinds male, female endings, since practice
showed variability and inconsistency. This concern is lampooned by
Aristophanes at Clouds 658 ff. Aristotle later in the Poetics alters
the designations to male, female, and in-between (*ta metaxu*). On the
ba in response to the shared endings between neuter and other genders.
Rendered in Latin, the categories are still in use: masculine, feminine,
and "neither", i.e. neuter. For a succinct but thorough discussion,
including the lack of match between grammatical and natural gender, see
E. Schwyzer, Griechische Grammatik, Bd.1, pp. 28-36.

Dirk t.D. Held, Classics, Connecticut College.
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------93----
Date: Mon, 4 Mar 1991 21:53 MST
From: Sigrid Peterson <SIGPETER@CC.UTAH.EDU>
Subject: Words and Gender

Lesli LaRocca uses the wrong honorifics in referring to me as Ms.
Peterson [sic]. Since I obtained my PhD, neither Mr., Ms., Miss, nor
Mrs. is a correct title. The correct title is Dr. With Lesli LaRocca I
think that equal pay for equal work is basic; so did the American
Psychological Associa- tion fifteen years ago. So do the ethics of
psychologists. If that is not disarming enough, I live in Utah and
have for twenty years. ;->

I do not know if Lesli LaRocca is aware that [sic] simply means "thus"
in Latin; somehow, I am fairly certain that James O'Donnell is familiar
with that meaning. I intend no imputation of incorrect spelling or
other mistakes to Lincoln. Since, I thought, everyone is now telling
their students that papers with sexist language will not be accepted,
the question of how to cite references to language that *is* sexist
might arise. It would seem to be more of a problem to Humanists who
deal with centuries of text and secondary sources, than to psychologists
who do not wish to introduce bias of any sort into experiments, or imply
that the experiment was biased through the use of biased language.

After writing 11 papers in 13 months using nonsexist language it is
second nature to me to do so, and to quote secondary sources whose
language is biased seems odd.

I would point out that text as text is never wrong. I believe James O'
Donnell and I would not disagree on that point. Since my solution to the
problem of bias is unacceptable, please propose your own.

The Problem:

How do you indicate to my daughter, who is twenty-one, that a
contemporary author who has used sexist language *has* been included in a
paper written in non-sexist language. I have not thought it fair, in
Humanist areas, to dismiss everything someone writes if the language in
which it is written is sexist. So, James O'Donnell, or anyone else, how
do I cite such "scholars?" Perhaps I should change their words? Since
I am still a psychologist, it would not be ethical of me to adopt sexist
language to conform to the sexist language of some of my sources, would

I am sure that if you are citing, say, a psychologist, to be reciprocal
about this, who is saying that blacks were happy as slaves, and unhappy
when free, that most of you would lead into the quote by indicating
disagreement, and many of you would also follow the quote indicating
your disagreement with the statement [which was actually that of my high
school social studies teacher, to be clear about my example].

If the reason for the reference is to say that Chaldean is now referred
to as Aramaic, I don't want to write a sentence disagreeing with
incidental masculine bias in the phrasing of the comment. In other
words, the direct treatment that might surround a quote demonstrating an
explicit bias seems to be unwarranted when the subject matter is
different from the sexist language in which it is expressed.

If my solution is so unacceptable and "insecure" and "pusillanimous,"
please be so kind as to demonstrate another solution that will not be
these things, given that I am ethically committed to using non-sexist

I had little idea that you all were still using or allowing the use of
sexist language. I have the feeling now that I am speaking Esperanto and
have been since the cradle, and am trying to talk to people who are still
speaking national languages. I won't assume anymore that you speak
Esperanto, and will attempt to master such of your languages as I can.

I was going to add some of the comments in the _Publication Manual of
the American Psychological Association_. Since it is widely available,
I will only do so if I receive some e-mail requests. Note: there are
also guidelines for avoiding ethnic bias.

I am a modest, middle-of-the-road-on-everything psychologist. I am
finding it quite intriguing that this exchange is occurring. I'm rusty
on some of my psychology, but I might come up with a theory that would
explain it. ;-|

- - - - - - - -
P. S. Clearly I was also wrong--this dumb, dumb doctor here--in
suggesting that the idea that one had to use a *suffix* to indicate
gender neutrality was inhibiting thought, and that *affixing* might be
the way to go.

P.P.S. A really, really true confession. It has been easier for me to
learn to use non-sexist language than to learn that there is more than
one way of citing a reference. I thought that what I learned as a
fresher in college was written in stone, and would never change, that
every bibliography I would ever write would have the same formal

Sigrid Peterson