Curse of the female pronouns
When I went to college, I was used to hearing people refer to any example character in a story as "he." Stories went like this:
So let's say there's a scientist studying butterflies. He collects them. Then he dissects them. Then he wins a Nobel Prize for discovering the butterfly testis.
Imagine my surprise when I went to college and sat in a required Philosophy class and heard a male professor use exclusively "she."
Does the chair exist because she thinks it does? She perceives the chair by seeing it, by sitting on it.
At the time, I remember literally gasping out loud. OH MY GOD. I had never seen anyone do that before. Suddenly I realized this college thing was a really big deal. It was a whole other world, where people were really enlightened.
Needless to say, it was that experience that made me sign up for a Women's Studies class to fill one of my other requirements. And other than using "she" for everything, the guy who taught that Philosophy class was terrible. I think my grade for that class was a B.
This week I noticed two examples of something that made me think of the guy who taught that class.
One was in a survey I took online for my university. We do these a lot. Would you like better parking? Yes. Would you be interested in attending this event? Yes.
This one was a safety re-certification. Are you aware that this is unsafe? Yes.
But in this one, there were little scenarios. You know the type.
Bob spills radioactive superglue on his hand.
a) pick up the phone with that hand to call EH & S ?
b) yell and scream for help ?
c) sit down and calmly wait for someone to come along and rescue him ?
And as I went along and did the little questions, I noticed something weird.
In all the examples where Bob did the right thing, Bob was a guy.
In all the examples where Bob did the wrong thing, he was Roberta.
Similarly, today I'm reading a book about how to communicate your ideas clearly. It's a great book, I'm really enjoying it and learning a lot.
But again, there are almost no examples where the scenario character is "she."
So now I'm on ~ page 37, and I just found one: a female engineer who does the wrong thing.
On the next page is an example of a brilliant (male) engineer who created a great product and led his company to fame and fortune.
Subtle? Sure. Hard to miss? You bet.
And I bet the authors don't even realize they're doing this.
Meanwhile, Larry King was interviewing Bill Clinton, who said something about how Hilary was a great example of her gender. Or something to that effect.