I think the way grammatical gender and gender inequality relate is an
interesting topic, but this debate will get off-topic and technical
quite quickly. Nevertheless, I gave it a stab in my inline replies
below, along with hopefully a more useful observation.
On 12/28/11 8:08 PM, Theo10011 wrote:
Incidentally, the person credited for popularizing for
male-centric usage, is Anne fisher, an 18th-century British
schoolmistress, and one of the first woman to write an English grammar
This is not entirely relevant (though quite fascinating). There is no
single definition of feminism, and its meaning is especially dependent
on cultural mores of their time and place. You might call Boudica,
Elizabeth I, or Abigail Adams feminists, but that doesn't mean they
necessarily even supported most of what we'd call women's rights. I see
where you are coming from, but I could just as easily point out that
Martin Luther King referred to his own race as "Negro" if I wanted to
defend its modern usage.
On 12/28/11 8:07 PM, Ryan Kaldari wrote:
Yes, the traditional usage has been predominantly
masculine, but in
modern usage, "they" is the dominant form. See my reply at
This is also not entirely relevant. Manuals of style *prescribe* usages
in formal language, rather than describing common usages. Some of the
things you can find in the English Wikipedia's manual of style are
actually quite uncommon in everyday writing, but still sound policy.
On Thu, Dec 29, 2011 at 6:06 AM, Ryan Kaldari
<rkaldari(a)wikimedia.org <mailto:email@example.com>> wrote:
I responded to the inquiry and replaced all the gendered
issue with singular they. On a related note, I'm very
learn that the Chicago Manual of Style (which provided the
basis for the
original Wikipedia Manual of Style) has stopped recommending
the use of
singular they. As the use of singular they has been steadily
since the 1960s (Pauwels 2003), it is curious that the Chicago
would be moving backwards. I have to wonder if there was some
political pressure involved. On a positive note, the 2011
edition of the
New International Version Bible now uses singular they.
I don't think it was political in the sense you are imagining. They have
a page in their FAQ about the issue:
Briefly, the singular "they" was only ever endorsed in one edition,
after which they changed their mind. Chicago does not disapprove of the
singular "they"; rather, they essentially describe the controversy and
refrain from taking a strong stance. The reason is pretty obvious: the
singular "they" is justifiable for several reasons, but it can't really
be justified on modern grammatical grounds---which is problematic since
grammar tends to be somewhat important when it comes to formal writing.
On Thu, Dec 29, 2011 at 6:20 AM, Theo10011
And I defended the reverting editor.
I'm sure Dominic can correct me if I'm wrong on this one.
Since you asked... I kind of agree more with Theo here. I think the
stance which most Wikipedians, including feminists, would agree to would
be to adhere to the original author's language---like we do with
regional spellings---with respect to singular "they" or "he or she",
to frown upon stylistic changes from one or the other solely due to an
editor's preference (and certainly to always frown upon a generic "he").
Let's step back, though. To me, the more important issue here is that a
new, possibly female, editor made an innocuous change in good faith and
was reverted and branded a vandal. Whatever we think about the
grammatical debate, it was not vandalism, and he or she (or they!) are a
potential new editor we may have scared away. Our response should not
simply be to forget about that and start a discussion about arcane
policy, as if that's the solution. For example, I think you may have
even given the impression to the new editor that the revert was
justified because she didn't use the singular "they" (your "fix"),
Ryan(!). Looking at the reverter's talk page history, this seems to be a
pattern. We'll do more to make this project a more welcoming place to
women and everyone else by addressing such antisocial and unwelcoming
behavior than we will by debating between "he or she" or "she and he"
and the singular they---both of which, it should be mentioned, are
relatively gender neutral when compared to the generic "he" alternative.