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Jay Lake
Date: 2009-03-07 07:30
Subject: [child] The Child asks about gendered language
Security: Public
Watching one of the LotR bonus CDs, someone mentions "the men of Minas Tirith."

the_child looks at me and says, "Why is it always men? Why not women and girls? And when we say 'human', we're still saying hu-man. Why is that?"

Me: "Well, you're right. That's a problem."

Originally published at jlake.com.

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User: jackwilliambell
Date: 2009-03-07 15:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Anita went through a long period where she always used the non-gendered pronoun 'ze' in her writing, with 'zer' as the possessive. It actually works pretty well (try it a little), but I don't know if there is a non-gendered equivalent for 'man' as a generic term for members of the species of homo sapiens.

Perhaps 'zan'? Then, if actually indicating a specific gender was required, you could gender it with 'he-zan' and 'she-zan'.
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russ: romanes eunt domus
User: goulo
Date: 2009-03-07 17:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:romanes eunt domus
"Person" may be more widely known and used than "zan"...
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User: ericjamesstone
Date: 2009-03-07 17:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ah, but when we say 'person', we're still saying per-son. I'm surprised you would ignore such blatant sexism. ;-)
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russ: romanes eunt domus
User: goulo
Date: 2009-03-07 18:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:romanes eunt domus

I would propose "homo" from Latin and Esperanto, but I fear in today's society it has certain other baggage attached to it...
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User: bram452
Date: 2009-03-07 16:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm an advocate of they-singular myself.
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Kelly Green
User: saycestsay
Date: 2009-03-07 18:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I wonder if it might not be a product of specificity and that exclusiveness thing again.

Us vs Them (non-gender specific.)
I, me, you, they, we... non-specific.
But if I want to talk about a group, it's the men of minas torath (though could it be as strong if we said "We of Minas Torath"?)

Women and girls aren't part of the club, btw, they're the ones that WE protect, we men of Minas Torath. True feminist thought tries to eliminate the protected status so that we are included (almost wrote "females," then "women," ahem) but language will always tell.

I'm just talking off the top of my head here. There's plenty of work in gender studies regarding language and how it shapes culture and perception. It's great the child has noticed this; good time to show her the language possibilities!
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wyld_dandelyon: musical kitty
User: wyld_dandelyon
Date: 2009-03-07 19:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:musical kitty
Another thing about English is the lack of ways to denote "belonging with" that aren't possessives -- that is, that do not imply ownership, and all that ownership entails.

I'm good with "my blog" or "my cup" but my child is very much her own!
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España Sheriff
User: cmdrsuzdal
Date: 2009-03-08 02:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My admittedly casual understanding is that the word 'man' started off as gender neutral and the culture is what made it gender specific and therefore linguistically sexist when used as the generic for the species.

So coming up with non-gendered language is not necessarily the answer if the culture is what needs changing.
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