My Case Against Gender-Specific Pronouns and For Gender-Neutral Ones

funnyflyby's picture

Well, before I get to the actual topic, I'd like to freak out about something. GAJINDIAK SHOWS UP ON GOOGLE, A LOT! I thought of this problem today and just tested it. All of my gajindiak-related posts show up when you click to show omitted results, and 4 show up when you don't. Anyone I know might easily Google 'gajindiak' randomly! They will be taken directly to Oasis! Ohno... I've decided to start giving non-oasians the wrong spelling for 'gajindiak'. I'll subsitute a 'g' for the 'j' and a 'c' for the 'k'. Aah...
Now, the actual topic: As previously stated, I'm no longer using gender-specific pronouns. I'd like to explain my argument against them, and see if anybody can think of a valid point defending GSP, because I sure can't. So here goes: GSP are completely pointless for many reasons. One of these is that the gender of the person you are referring to isn't important, at least, according to modern beliefs. It's said gender doesn't change who you are or what you can do with life, (with biological exceptions, of course) yet humans and the English language still want to be able to immediately pinpoint the gender of the person being discussed. It can be compared to race: if there aren't different pronouns used to describe people of different races, why should there be for people of different genders? Also, GSP make it harder to refer to oddly-gendered people, such as myself and a whole lot more people on this site. If there wasn't this he/she nonsense no genderqueer people would need to worry about which they were referred to as. Not as much worry about correcting people when they call you the wrong one(s). Finally, a GNP is useful when you can't tell the gender.If such pronouns were used commonly, it wouldn't be so awkward around some people. Also, animals. Often people refer to nonhumans as 'it', which really annoys me. The level of intelligence is really unknown, and a GNP can cover all.So I hope someone can argue for GSP,or that they're still used


Super Duck's picture


I like having them because they make things less confusing. If you only had one third-person pronoun, what if you had a sentence such as "He borrowed her car"? It would get pretty confusing. And in many languages, like French, even inanimate objects have genders, so it's just a language thing, really. I think some languages out there don't have this, but many do.

And plus, I am 110% female and would preferred to be referred to as such. :P I don't really care what people use for themselves; I'll call you whatever you want, but when someone is speaking of me, I'd very much like for them to use she/her/hers. I wouldn't feel comfortable being referred to as anything else, because I am (quite obviously so, may I add) a girl, and being a girl is a pretttyyyy big part of my personal identity. The vast majority of people are either men or women, and I don't see anything wrong with including a third, gender-neutral option, but there is no reason to do away with he and she.

centerfielder08's picture


Ohmygoodnessssssssss.....there's a category in tonight's version of Jeopardy! called, and I quote, "Hmm...Pronoun Trouble"
AHHHHH this makes me HAPPY.

oh and then for Double Jeopardy!, there's a category called "They Call Me Mister..."

I love when people call me mister.

funnyflyby's picture

There is? Wow!

Go, Jeopardy! And Super Duck has valid points, so thank you. Now I'll keep debating with you, Super Duck, but just know it's nothing personal, 'k?
I have no problem with gendered nouns in other languages; it's just a way to organize them. But it's still possible to have a confusing sentence like that with gender-specific pronouns, 'She borrowed her car.' Now, I used gender-specific pronouns there, didn't I?
And it's not to say you aren't a girl when using pronouns, and just because it's a big part of your identity doesn't mean pronouns must reflect it. I mean I can say being a synesthete is a big part of my identity. I don't need new pronouns for that. You just want people to know that you're female right off the bat, which there's nothing wrong with. It's just it isn't really important in a pronoun. I like debating, thanks for giving me something to argue about.

Super Duck's picture

Sorry it took so long to reply... Internet lagged!

Maybe "He borrowed her car" wasn't the best example sentence. :P Sorry, my brain is pretty much fried from exams!

I think the reason we have these pronouns is because it is human nature to want to organize information, people, etc. into neat little boxes. Pronouns that indicate gender help a reader/listener to better paint a mental picture of what's going on.

I noticed in your original post you said you don't like for animals to be referred to as "it." I don't either. I refer to all animals as "he" unless I know the animal in question is female. Although "he" is technically a masculine pronoun, it can be used as a neutral pronoun. (Ex: "Each student must turn in his test by the end of the class period.")

Again, I'm not against a third, gender-neutral pronoun becoming a standard part of our language. I actually think it would be a great idea. But I just prefer feminine pronouns for myself. You can't just get rid of pronouns out of nowhere... They're a core part of our language. That's why it would be easier to simply introduce a new one than to get rid of he and she simply to satisfy a small minority.

funnyflyby's picture


Once more, good points. I still must say I'd rather have it be all gender-neutral, and if you want to make sure everybody knows you're female go ahead and tell everybody you're female. See, that sounds really strange but I think you know what I mean. Also, coming back to my first point pronouns don't specify a lot of things to help listeners get a better mental picture. That's what adjectives are for. At the moment, I'd be fine with a new pronoun but I still think it'd be better if pronouns had never been gender-specific in the first place. There wouldn't be anybody saying they wished the pronouns showed gender, that's for sure. It's just that people want to keep the fact their genders can be told without even saying anything about gender at all.
My main reasoning isn't so much that gender-specific pronouns are a bad thing, just that they're a bit pointless. My main reason is the first thing I argued, the place of a pronoun isn't to tell you anything about the noun, just to take the place of the noun. Pronouns don't need to provide any more information.

Super Duck's picture

It's just that people want

It's just that people want to keep the fact their genders can be told without even saying anything about gender at all.

Exactly this.

The pronouns provide basic information. Of course no one would miss the gender-specific aspect of pronouns if it had never existed. But it does exist, and that's not something you can just change, which is why it would be more practical for a gender-neutral option to simply be added. And we can't just pretend that gender doesn't matter because, whether or not it should, in our society it does. That's probably another reason the pronoun differences exist.

funnyflyby's picture


As of right now I'd be fine with just adding a gender-neutral option, which is exactly what I've done for myself, with 'gaj'.
The fact that there are seperate pronouns emphasizes gender's position, and while I don't think it's anywhere near responsible it certainly doesn't help the 'gender isn't all of who you are' state of mind.
Also, I'm not really talking about what's practical as much as what would be better. Of course it wouldn't be practical to erase he and she from the English language, but I still think that would be an improvement. I say again: Pronouns shouldn't need to tell information about the noun, just replace it. The only exception from this should be whether a 'he/she/gaj' or an 'it'. Not gender.

Super Duck's picture

The only exception from this

The only exception from this should be whether a 'he/she/gaj' or an 'it'. Not gender.

But why not gender? You said yourself that pronouns aren't meant to describe, only replace. Doesn't this technically describe something?

The fact that there are seperate pronouns emphasizes gender's position, and while I don't think it's anywhere near responsible it certainly doesn't help the 'gender isn't all of who you are' state of mind.

But this is the view of many, many members of society-- maybe even the majority, on some level. Of course it's not all of who you are, but for many, it's definitely a part.

funnyflyby's picture


I actually thought of with your first statement as I was typing. I think that whether a thing or a being is a good deal more important than the gender. There is a lot more of a difference between a person and an inanimate object than a female and a male. Even so, it would make more sense to have objects and beings have the same singular pronoun. Nobody seems to have an issue with 'they' and 'their' being usable for both plural people and plural objects. I thought this, but didn't want to say it because it's not so on-topic. However, the topic now seems to work with it.
For point #2: It is the view of many, but that doesn't mean the pronouns should reflect that.

swimmerguy's picture

Whether or not

it is right or good, most of society is not quite as open minded as our little group here. They want to use gendered pronouns to refer to people, and only use them to refer to the genders the people were physically born with, that their chromosomes reflect.
And if most of society thinks that, that's how language is going to stay. Language is the voice of cultures and their beliefs come out in it. The pronouns will reflect societies views, as they should, regardless of whether they are right or not.
You can't change people.

No one escapes from life alive

funnyflyby's picture


About language, I mean. I do think you can change people. Perhaps not drastically, but...
I see what you mean, though.
Whether or not the world accepts it, I'm referring to everyone as 'gaj' now. It doesn't need to be used by everyone, but I'd like people to understand why I use it.

centerfielder08's picture

I saw an awesome Youtube

I saw an awesome Youtube video about this, and I want to quote it. they say that the problem is "our society is sexist and our lenguage is gendered"

funnyflyby's picture


People assume so much based on one chromosome...

centerfielder08's picture

so I lack a Y? does that

so I lack a Y?
does that make me less male? i would think not.

I just think that we need to get away from these walls society puts around us.

Dracofangxxx's picture

Biologically, yes

That does make you less male.

However, Psychologically, I guess you could argue it doesn't.
You are beautiful, in every single way <3

MacAvity's picture

For the most part, I agree

For the most part, I agree with you. Your arguments are valid and your logic sound. However:

- Super Duck's point about making things less confusing when differentiating between two people using one unstressed syllable for each. When discussing poetry, for example, I like to refer to the speaker as 'he' and the audience as 'she' unless there is any obvious evidence to the contrary. It's so much easier than saying 'the speaker' and 'the audience' over and over again. Your counter to Super Duck's point is also valid, though - we've managed rather well with situations wherein the two participants are of the same gender.

- The issue of finding the right new pronoun is difficult. Though it works well enough in written form, 'gaj' contains too many hard consonant sounds to be practical in spoken language. The search for the ideal pronoun continues...

- I don't think you can spell 'gajindiak' as 'gagindiac' without changing the sound of the first syllable to gag with a hard g. 'Gadgindiac' or 'gadgindiack' would work nicely, though. Actually, words don't often ('trek' is pretty much the only example) end in k without c, so perhaps - I'm sorry, I'll interrupt myself here before I get too nitpicky and rude. I don't want to be rude or nitpicky.

- The English language is actually remarkably less gendered than most other languages. We've got a few gender-specific pronouns (though only in the singular) and a few gender-specific nouns (although they do have their gender-neutral counterparts: 'person' as opposed to 'man' or 'woman,' for example), but for the rest, neutral. In other languages - I'll use Latin for an example, because that's what I know - all pronouns, all adjectives and even some verbs are gender-specific. Nouns, too, but that's a bit less inconvenient. Unless you're talking about, maybe, a male bear, as ursa is always feminine. That sort of thing. But perfect and imperfect passive verbs are very inconvenient. Accusor, 'I am accused,' okay, but what if I was accused? Accusatus sum, or accusata sum? What the devil am I, anyway? English does not have these problems. So...progress! It took a few centuries for it to catch on, perhaps, but progress! And now progress is progressing at a faster rate than ever, at least as far as gender is concerned, and we're helping it progress, and if we can just find that elusive neutral human pronoun....

funnyflyby's picture


I know what you mean about 'gaj'; I'm not actually the one who thought that up, remember. That would be my brother.
And no, lacking a Y chromosome doesn't make you any less male. That's part of what I was trying to say.
I do think gadgindiac would work... oh, wait, no, it'll show up on Google for Oasis now, so I can't use any of the spellings you just listed. That's why I wrote out what I planned to change instead of just writing gagindiac. Hm... maybe a 'zh' instead of the 'j'? That's the kind of thing my brother would use.

MacAvity's picture

Now that the suggestions

Now that the suggestions have been exchanged, we could go back and edit them out?

Ooh. Sorry. No we can't. Oops.