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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • I agree with everything you've said, except that I place less significance on the importance of the use of "he".

    I only see a few options here. "they" is obviously better, when the grammar supports it. He/she gets tiresome very quickly, and alternating between he and she looks even more jarring.

    I've understood the cleanest method to be that when no gender is identifiable, the writer's gender is used.

    The sentence, "And if their manager doesn't like it, he can go shove it" from me would be instead "And if thei
    • I think it's easy to place less significance on the use of the word "he" when it matches your own gender, the majority of people in that position and your personal experiences.

      Consider the following sentence. Apparently it (or something like it) used to appear in standard medical textbooks, and is now used as an example in lingustics courses as to how our language has changed:

      Before prescribing any medications, doctors should always ask their patient whether he may be pregnant.

      I personally don't find alternating between he and she jarring unless the subject's gender appears to change. So talking about Alice and Bob is fine, but talking about some nameless person and switching back and forth regarding their gender isn't.

      Choosing the gender of the author is an option, but it means that the vast majority of texts about technical matters will always refer to males. Which is discouraging, and is the thing I'd like to avoid. I'd much prefer attempting to balance out the gender references, or even favour females more. In my experience men are perfectly happy to accept examples using female pronouns when it comes to male dominated fields. On the other hand, examples using male pronouns in female dominated fields has often appeared to make men feel uneasy for some reason.

      I don't have a good alternative. As far as I know there isn't one. I usually reconstruct my sentences to avoid needing to specify a gender, and use "they" and "their" if necessary. In your example I would write: And if their manager doesn't like it, then that manager can go shove it". Actually I wouldn't write that, not because it sounds clumsy (which it does), but because I'd try to never be that rude! ;) Mind you, if I knew enough about the situation to be that rude, then I'd probably know the manager's gender and would feel fine using it.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

      • About your example of a doctor in old times asking his (presumably) patient whether he was pregnant. How does it feel being so closed-minded? Yes, you're closed-minded. It's jarring if you're not used to men being pregnant, isn't it? We make little assumptions all the time. People like to communicate in concrete terms. I'd politely suggest getting over it. Are you really so frail that you need our grammatical protection?

        • Here! I've got an idea: Suppose you agree that he can't actually have babies, not having a womb - which is nobody's fault, not even the Romans' - but that he can have the *right* to have babies.