Gender politics of the generic “he”

There’s been a lot of talk lately about what pronouns to use for persons whose gender is unknown, complicated, or irrelevant. Options include singular they and invented, common-gender pronouns. Each
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There’s been a lot of talk lately about what pronouns to use for persons whose gender is unknown, complicated, or irrelevant. Options include singular they and invented, common-gender pronouns. Each has its defenders and its critics. Then there’s the universally indefensible option of generic he. We avoid it today because generic he is sexist, but although that was the form approved by many eighteenth-century grammarians, some of them objected to it. Both the grammar politics and the gender politics of he have always been complicated, and he probably shouldn’t have become generic in the first place. But the politics of he turned literal too in the United States when women sought, and won, the vote. Generic he first derived its authority from a rule about Latin gender that was applied to English even though gender in Latin, which has to do with word classes and suffixes, has nothing in common with gender in modern English, which is based entirely on chromosomes and social construction.. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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