Pronoun outrage

Posted: October 17, 2010 by Jender in pronoun confusions

During the mid-1990s, while in graduate school, I turned in a dissertation chapter using the female personal pronoun. One professor reading the chapter offered in the margin extended angry criticism, laced with a tone of moral outrage, explaining why “he” *must* be used rather than “she”; after all, correct grammatical usage *for centuries* has been employing “he”, not “she” as the neutral personal pronoun.

Looking back, this mainly makes me smile. At the time, I felt unnerved, powerless, and frightened. (This was one among many other aggressive actions toward me by this professor.) I eventually went to the dean (sidestepping my department, which would not have taken it seriously) and requested he attend my dissertation defense, which he did.

I wonder if I’d be smiling if I had not been as professionally fortunate.

Comments are closed.