Author Topic: Gender in society.  (Read 9509 times)

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Offline Yip

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #25 on: January 22, 2011, 04:37:00 pm »
I've seen some attempts at introducing gender neutral pronouns, but most are... way too obvious I think. But one intrigues me because it seems like something that could slowly catch on: singular they by dropping the 'th'.  "Ey took the bag that eir friend gave to em." This has the benefit of being easy to learn. These work exactly the same as 'they', 'their', and 'them' that english speakers are already used to except that they are singular. There shouldn't be much confusion of pronunciation for the same reason (just drop the 'th'). Plus 'em is already widely used this way in the spoken language.

I have never understood why there is such a need in society to differentiate men and women. As far as I can tell, most the so called differences between men and women are manufactured by society and are not actually part of the physical make up of the individuals. Yes, men tend to be physically stronger and women tend to be emotionally stronger*. But there is a clearly overlapping range for both. (*I don't consider ignoring, locking away, or just not having emotion to be emotionally strong. It'd be akin to saying someone is physically strong because of avoiding to use muscles.)

Offline furtopia02

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #26 on: January 22, 2011, 09:42:18 pm »
On the topic of language and gender.. I see absolutely no point in attempted to change to a gender-neutral use of words. In fact I find that quite stupid. Outside of English it would be even more pointless since gender plays a role in words themselves. Look at Spanish for example. Words have genders. This isn't WRONG, it's just language. I'm all for saying things like Police Officer instead of Policeman because it is more accurate to say so but making up new words to describe both genders and dropping use of gender-based words entirely is just pointless and as I pointed out, in some cases just not reasonable.

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #27 on: January 22, 2011, 10:20:25 pm »
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On the topic of language and gender.. I see absolutely no point in attempted to change to a gender-neutral use of words. In fact I find that quite stupid. Outside of English it would be even more pointless since gender plays a role in words themselves. Look at Spanish for example. Words have genders. This isn't WRONG, it's just language. I'm all for saying things like Police Officer instead of Policeman because it is more accurate to say so but making up new words to describe both genders and dropping use of gender-based words entirely is just pointless and as I pointed out, in some cases just not reasonable.

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Offline Yip

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #28 on: January 22, 2011, 11:55:09 pm »
On the topic of language and gender.. I see absolutely no point in attempted to change to a gender-neutral use of words. In fact I find that quite stupid.
Why do you find it stupid? What exactly about it is stupid? For example, if I'm telling you about someone I sat next to on the bus, or someone I passed by on the street, why it is so vitally important for you to know whether this person is male or female? Keep in mind that I'm not saying we should lose the ability to specify whether someone is male or female, but only that it shouldn't be required by default.


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... but making up new words to describe both genders and dropping use of gender-based words entirely is just pointless and as I pointed out, in some cases just not reasonable.
Other languages each have there own issue. But I'm talking primarily about English. It's silly to say "this problem is worse in other languages so we shouldn't fix it here". If we can fix it here, then lets fix it here. English is already close to gender neutral in pretty much every other way so taking that last step most certainly is reasonable. If you think it's not, please explain why.

I think there is plenty of reasons why having gender-neutral terms available would be a great benefit. And I don't know of any reasons why it wouldn't be. (aside from tradition, but tradition for tradition's sake alone is not a good reason.)

 And there is a need for these sort of words because all the ways we currently have to handle such situations are less than antiquate.
  • "He or she" phrasing can quickly become cumbersome and doesn't flow well in casual speech.
  • Singular 'they' can be confused with the plural form, and it can only be used for non-specific individuals or it ends up sounding odd.
  • "It" is highly impersonal and is often taken as an insult, and it can cause confusion since it usually refers to objects not people.
  • "One" is usually used in reflective sentences, and it sounds odd when used for specific individuals, and it can sometimes be confused with the number 'one'.
  • Using only the male form, which some might suggest for when gender is not specific, leads to potential confusion since most listeners/readers will take it to mean male unless it's very specific that it doesn't mean it that way. Using only the male form also have the issue in that it can come off as making females sound less important than males. (such attitudes in the past are likely why the language was structured that way on the first place.)
  • Using only the female form, which I've also seen suggested, has the opposite problem of using only the male form.
  • Alternating male form and female form is potentially highly confusing and makes things unnecessarily complex. Plus, it combines a lot of the problems of using only one or the other.
And that's not even considering how these terms affect people that don't fit into traditional male or female.

Offline Narei Mooncatt

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #29 on: January 23, 2011, 01:56:14 am »
I think there is plenty of reasons why having gender-neutral terms available would be a great benefit. And I don't know of any reasons why it wouldn't be.
Because maybe 95-99% of the English speaking people like it the way it is and have no problems with it?

Would having gender neutral words be more "fair"? I'll give you that. It's that the benefit of having them would be far outweighed by the effort it would take to put them to common use. Looking at some of those reasons seem like you're either grasping at straws or putting way too much thought in to this.  Think about it. The vast majority of us are happy using current terms and can usually tell what's what.  I.E. I've never had, or heard of an instance where he/she phrasing could become combersome. I would wager that the people wanting gender neutral words are few and far between compared to the rest of the English speaking world. Those people are free to make that effort and no one is stopping them. Just don't expect the rest of us to change.
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Offline Yip

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #30 on: January 23, 2011, 04:55:01 am »
I.E. I've never had, or heard of an instance where he/she phrasing could become combersome.
Then you obviously haven't tried using it for anything very lengthy. For example, if you try writing some game rules using "he or she" style, some sentences end up feeling very clunky. For example: "He or she can then move one of his or her markers from his or her previous location to his or her home space." Of course, there is also the issue that the male variant almost always comes first in these parings. A slight thing perhaps, but still not true equality.

And no, I'm not grasping at straws. All of those are valid problems with the various gender-neutral tools we currently have at our disposal. And while it's possible to use these to mostly remain gender-neutral, it is severely limiting and usually requires a lot of sentence restructuring and so forth to successfully pull it off.


Because maybe 95-99% of the English speaking people like it the way it is and have no problems with it?
No that's not it. Because that's not even close to true. If anything, most English speaking people are used to it. Not that they like it, but that they are used to it. And people are highly resistant to change. That's why we still use the Gregorian calendar despite its flaws and still use Qwerty despite it being an inefficient arrangement, etc.. People will claim that they "like" the Gregorian calender and that they "like" Qwerty and things like that as well. But the truth is they just dislike change. And they'd rather stick with what they perceive to be 'good enough' then to take the effort to change to something better. There are probably some that do indeed actually like it rather than just not wanting to change, but those are the same people that'd stand in the way of true equality.

I also don't get why some of you act like it'd be some horrible loss or something. I'm not suggesting doing away with anything. I'm suggesting adding better tools to the toolbox, not throwing away the current tools, at least not in the short term. I would expect gendered pronouns would slowly get less use if gender neural ones gain popularity. But I'm not saying 'he' and 'she' should be banned or something.

Offline Arbutus

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #31 on: January 23, 2011, 09:36:49 am »
I don't see a problem with using "they," personally.

Offline Narei Mooncatt

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #32 on: January 23, 2011, 09:50:19 am »
For example, if you try writing some game rules using "he or she" style, some sentences end up feeling very clunky. For example: "He or she can then move one of his or her markers from his or her previous location to his or her home space." Of course, there is also the issue that the male variant almost always comes first in these parings. A slight thing perhaps, but still not true equality.
"You can then move one of your markers from your previous location to your home space."

Directions typically address the reader like this, so there's no need to even try and make something gender neutral and flows quite well as it is.


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And people are highly resistant to change. That's why we still use the Gregorian calendar despite its flaws and still use Qwerty despite it being an inefficient arrangement, etc.. People will claim that they "like" the Gregorian calender and that they "like" Qwerty and things like that as well. But the truth is they just dislike change. And they'd rather stick with what they perceive to be 'good enough' then to take the effort to change to something better. There are probably some that do indeed actually like it rather than just not wanting to change, but those are the same people that'd stand in the way of true equality.

I'd have to disagree with you on someone liking something vs just not wanting to change. I've never heard any complaints about our calender system and the only way I could see someone type faster would be with a voice-to-text program that's more advanced than is available today. Fingers can only move so fast, no matter the keyboard layout. As I stated above, even if the language could be changed for the better, it's not worth it IMHO given the effort it would take, but you're more than welcome work on being more gender neutral if you want. I also disagree with your statement about standing in the way of true equality. Me not using an ambiguous gender neutral term doesn't mean I don't treat men and women as equals.

Going back to your earlier post of suggesting dropping the "th" in words to have new ones such as "em" and "ey".... Does that mean rednecks will actually sound smart and the jokes suddenly become moot?   :o
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Offline Yip

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #33 on: January 23, 2011, 01:20:53 pm »
"You can then move one of your markers from your previous location to your home space."
I was showing how "he or she" can be cumbersome. Suggesting a replacement is hardly a valid counter argument. If anything, it's an acknowledgment of the point. (by the way, "you" doesn't work if this is talking about another player.)

Quote
I'd have to disagree with you on someone liking something vs just not wanting to change. I've never heard any complaints about our calender system and the only way I could see someone type faster would be with a voice-to-text program that's more advanced than is available today. Fingers can only move so fast, no matter the keyboard layout. As I stated above, even if the language could be changed for the better, it's not worth it IMHO given the effort it would take, but you're more than welcome work on being more gender neutral if you want.
I could go on an on about the flaws in the current calender system, but I won't because that's a different topic. But I will say that at this point it's so ingrained into the system of the world economy that changing it is pretty much impossible. For keyboards, Dvorak is strictly better than Qwerty because it causes less wrist strain for people that type fast, but Qwerty has the advantage of being the standard. Which goes into what I was saying: it's not that there are reasons that these things are better, it's entirely about the effort of changing. You seem to agree with this but are getting stuck on semantics over the word 'like'.

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I also disagree with your statement about standing in the way of true equality. Me not using an ambiguous gender neutral term doesn't mean I don't treat men and women as equals.
That's not what I was saying. I was specifically talking about those people who would actively want to put a 'he/she' system in place even if it wasn't already the current system. From what I can tell, you do not appear to be in that group.

To be fair, I can think of one advantage the he/she system has over gender neutral: For describing a scene in third person with an individual man and individual woman it can help make things clearer. However, as soon as there are two men or women in the scene it loses that so it's hardly a good reason for adhering to a he/she system on it's own. If it were, then it'd also be reason to bring in racial pronouns and rich/poor pronouns and fat/thin pronouns and so on.

As for dropping the "th", I agree that most of those seem strange. I was bring it up 'cause it's one of the three most suggested gender-neutral set of pronouns, and of those is the one that I find most likely to catch on.  Though honestly, I find it more likely for singular 'they' to spread in usage than for any new set to gain popularity.

Offline Narei Mooncatt

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #34 on: January 23, 2011, 05:27:46 pm »
"You can then move one of your markers from your previous location to your home space."
I was showing how "he or she" can be cumbersome. Suggesting a replacement is hardly a valid counter argument. If anything, it's an acknowledgment of the point. (by the way, "you" doesn't work if this is talking about another player.)
Ok then, player 1,2,3, etc. These are also already commonplace in your example. There's nothing cumbersom about it. Making "he or she" references would be replacing what's already there *in most cases*. So that's why I will say my point is valid. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. ;)

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Which goes into what I was saying: it's not that there are reasons that these things are better, it's entirely about the effort of changing. You seem to agree with this but are getting stuck on semantics over the word 'like'.
From what I was reading in your posts, it sounded like you were going by benefits alone and not recognizing the effort of changing from what people use. I.E. saying I like Mc Donald's isn't valid because Red Robin has better burgers. I know that, but that still doesn't mean I can't like the cheap stuff. And yes, I do recognize your point that the he/she system doesn't need to be done away with if we do go to a more gender neutral system.
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Offline Sskessa

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #35 on: January 23, 2011, 11:22:49 pm »
Chinese has a gender-neutral 3rd person pronoun: Ta. You use it for women, men, animals, and objects. I like it better, personally. For instance, my neighbor has a pet rabbit. Those of you familiar with rodents probably know that it's impossible to determine the sex of one unless you're an expert. We've settled down on "she," but that's completely arbitrary. I like that when I talk about the rabbit to Chinese friends, I can be more accurate by calling it "ta." After all, it's not like it matters to me what sex it is. It's a bunny.

Also, I always mistake the sex of babies, even after I've been corrected. It tends to piss parents off, unsurprisingly. But I can't help it! It's impossible for me to think a baby as being male or female. When they're clothed they look EXACTLY the same.

So, yes, I would love some gender-neutral pronouns in English. I don't know how it could be made to happen, but for the record I like the idea of it.
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Offline Yip

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #36 on: January 24, 2011, 11:30:58 am »
Ok then, player 1,2,3, etc. These are also already commonplace in your example. There's nothing cumbersom about it. Making "he or she" references would be replacing what's already there *in most cases*. So that's why I will say my point is valid. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. ;)
You don't seem to get it. That was part of a list of limitations of the gender neutral options currently available. Saying that you can avoid using the phrase to stop it from being cumbersome doesn't change the fact that it would be cumbersome if you didn't take such precautions. The fact that you suggest other replacements is testament to the fact that the phase can get clunky if it's overused. And that's all that point was getting at.

Just because you can work to avoid a limitation does not mean that limitation isn't there.

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From what I was reading in your posts, it sounded like you were going by benefits alone and not recognizing the effort of changing from what people use. I.E. saying I like Mc Donald's isn't valid because Red Robin has better burgers. I know that, but that still doesn't mean I can't like the cheap stuff.
Lets look at the context of how you originally used the word 'like':
"Because maybe 95-99% of the English speaking people like it the way it is and have no problems with it?
Given that this is in response to me proposing that we need better gender-neutral terms, I took this to be saying that [insert fake high percentage] of English speakers prefer not having good gender-neutral terms. And I responded as such. If you were only saying that most the people don't want to go through the effort of changing, then we are in agreement: it isn't a preference but only that they are used to it how it is.

I recognize that there is a huge resistance to change, but I think the benefits of having good gender-neutral terms available are worth working towards. I'm not asking everyone to change instantly. I expect it to be a slow process.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2011, 01:15:35 pm by Vararam »

Offline Narei Mooncatt

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #37 on: January 24, 2011, 02:37:31 pm »
Ok, then it seems we are in agreement, just taking different paths to come to the conclusions. It's true, I wasn't saying that liking things as they are means you prefer not to have something better available. I know my percentage was made up, but given you don't hear about this kind of topic in everyday conversation, I don't think there's some big underground movement of people wanting to change it. This is the only time I've seen it come up in fact.

Now if you want to get real technical about proper use, I remember one of my High School English teachers saying you're not supposed to use words like "you" in your writings and you should use something like "one". *insert "One doesn't just simply walk into Mordor joke here"* I remember that was pretty daunting sometimes to work with. The only time I've seen that format used outside of academia was the aforementioned quote and the song Limelight by Rush.
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Offline Yip

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #38 on: January 24, 2011, 05:22:14 pm »
I know my percentage was made up, but given you don't hear about this kind of topic in everyday conversation, I don't think there's some big underground movement of people wanting to change it. This is the only time I've seen it come up in fact.
There is a movement of sorts. I don't know that its big. More like several unconnected small movements. And I mostly pointed out the fake percentage only because I find that made up statistics add extra weight behind an argument where that extra weight isn't due. But I get what you were saying: "almost all" stressing the 'almost' part.  Honestly, I think the vast majority of people don't even think about it. In general people just go with whatever they are used to.

Part of what I hope to do here is raise awareness of the issue. That and figure out what's the best approach forward.

Chinese has a gender-neutral 3rd person pronoun: Ta. You use it for women, men, animals, and objects. I like it better, personally. For instance, my neighbor has a pet rabbit. Those of you familiar with rodents probably know that it's impossible to determine the sex of one unless you're an expert. We've settled down on "she," but that's completely arbitrary. I like that when I talk about the rabbit to Chinese friends, I can be more accurate by calling it "ta." After all, it's not like it matters to me what sex it is. It's a bunny.
"Ta" you say? I wonder what the chances are of English, or at least American English, incorporating gender neutral pronouns like that from another language. The US is a country of immigrants after all, and our language already contains a mix of languages as a result. Still, it doesn't seem likely unless maybe something catches on as being the next hot thing.

Offline Furlong

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #39 on: January 25, 2011, 05:59:41 pm »
I am of the opinion that if it is not broken, don't try to fix it.  While you say it is not important to convey the gender of a person you are talking about, I would say that using he or she is a way of imparting additional information for no extra effort. 
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Offline Yip

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #40 on: January 25, 2011, 06:46:02 pm »
I am of the opinion that if it is not broken, don't try to fix it.  While you say it is not important to convey the gender of a person you are talking about, I would say that using he or she is a way of imparting additional information for no extra effort. 
If you want to impart that information there are plenty of options, but what about when you don't? You currently can't without drawing attention to that fact that you are not imparting this information. Plus, it still doesn't answer the question of why this information needs to be imparted in the first place. Do you really need to know if a person is male or female in order to form judgments about them? Is that it? If not, then why is it so important to know?

One of the biggest problems with the he/she system is that it is inherently divisive and polarizing, things that are in direct conflict with equality, and it treats the gender of others like it's a lot more important than it really is. In other words, you say "if it's not broken, don't fix it" but it IS "broken".  Now, before people start overreacting to this, I will say that I recognize it's a subtle effect, and therefore it may be possible to reach true equality despite it. However, I don't see how you can honestly say that it doesn't make reaching true equality at least a little more difficult. Especially for people that don't fit neatly into gender roles.

Offline Kobuk

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #41 on: January 25, 2011, 06:53:03 pm »
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but it IS "broken".

Only according to YOU, it is. You don't see the rest of us Furtopians getting all bent out of shape so to speak the way you are about this issue, do you? You're turning a molehill issue into a needless mountain, Vararam.  :P How exactly should people be identified? As androgynous?  :o
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Offline Furlong

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #42 on: January 25, 2011, 07:41:24 pm »
To expand on my previous point, one thing to keep in mind is the sheer number of people who identify themselves by their gender.  They consider themselves to be either male or female, regardless of their sex.  (I draw a distinction between biological sex and a person's gender).

I just don't see the division you are talking about.  Making a distinction between him or her is, to me, simply descriptive. 
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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #43 on: January 25, 2011, 07:51:53 pm »
Just because something is not working sub-optimally in relation to its original design parameters does not mean there is no room for optimization.

No kobuk, he's just the only one who bothered to argue the point. Though it is not exactly a life-or-death situation either. More of an annoying sort of nuisance that combined with all the other stupidies in the english language, and many other natural languages, is what makes me hate natural languages so much, from a design perspective.
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Offline Kobuk

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #44 on: January 25, 2011, 08:06:32 pm »
You
Your
You're
Them
They
Their
They're
We
We're
He
She
Him
Her
It

Take your pick. If none of those words work, then what the hell is society supposed to use?

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Offline Yip

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #45 on: January 25, 2011, 09:54:32 pm »
Quote
but it IS "broken".

Only according to YOU, it is. You don't see the rest of us Furtopians getting all bent out of shape so to speak the way you are about this issue, do you? You're turning a molehill issue into a needless mountain, Vararam.  :P How exactly should people be identified? As androgynous?  :o
Did you not read the sentence directly after that? Did you not notice that I put the word "broken" in quotes? As I said, I know it's not major. I only used the word "broken" because I was countering the phrase "if it's not broken...". I'm not saying it's non-functional as it is. I'm saying there is room for improvement.

...
Take your pick. If none of those words work, then what the hell is society supposed to use?
First of all, like I've been saying the whole time, there currently are NOT any good choices in English for truly gender-neutral pronouns.

Anyways, as for what society is suppose to use, some things that have been proposed:
sie, hir, hir, hirs, hirself
zie, zir, zir, zirs, zirself
e or ey, em, eir, eirs, eirself or emself

And a few others, but these three are the most common proposed gender-neutral pronoun sets. To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about any of these. Maybe if they became widely accepted it wouldn't be bad, but until then they'll make it blatantly obvious that you are specifically avoiding giving using gendered pronouns. For that reason, I'm currently a bit more partial to extending the use of singular "they" to include specific individuals. The problem is that depending on the context, singular "they" can be confusing since it could also imply plurality. For example: "Jim is coming by later. They should get here around noon." could lead someone to think that Jim is bringing others.

I just don't see the division you are talking about.  Making a distinction between him or her is, to me, simply descriptive. 
And is making a distinction between rich and poor, between homosexual and heterosexual, or between different races. Are these also simply descriptive? A lot of people identify themselves based on their race, sexual orientation, or social status as well, but I certainly don't want those distinctions built into the pronouns we must use for every day communication.

Offline Yip

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #46 on: January 25, 2011, 09:56:25 pm »
Oh, and to show it's not just me that sees this problem, here's a link that might be of interest:

http://aetherlumina.com/gnp/

Offline Alsek

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #47 on: January 25, 2011, 11:58:58 pm »
And is making a distinction between rich and poor, between homosexual and heterosexual, or between different races.

You're looking to change societies views by changing the language.  You would choose to mold society by changing the language instead of changing society by getting people to agree on principle.

x_x

Why so afraid to be straightforward?

Offline Yip

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #48 on: January 26, 2011, 12:13:15 am »
You would choose to mold society by changing the language instead of changing society by getting people to agree on principle.
No, I think they should do both.

Offline Alsek

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Re: Gender in society.
« Reply #49 on: January 26, 2011, 12:24:20 am »
No, I think they should do both.

"They," of course,  being the very small minority that controls the language and what is taught in public schools (the people who teach our children from the age of 5) who typically happen to have a strong liberal slant?