Effects of careful pronoun choice

Posted: November 8, 2010 by Jender in Do try this at home!, pronoun confusions

I am currently taking an undergraduate Metaphysics course with a male professor directing the class. I have been lucky to recieve an even ratio of male and female professors teaching philosophy, however, I find it almost normative that they refer to a ‘he’ when giving examples or making analogies. I’ve become so used to this that ‘he’ almost became the universal referent, until my Metaphysics prof started, and continues to, use ‘she’ whenever he gives an example, which he does frequently. Not only has this revealed my unanalyzed acceptance of ‘he’, but I’ve started to feel more like a subject capable of inquiry, whereas before, it used to involve a bit of work to put myself in the shoes of those subjects, to see myself philosophizing like ‘them’. I also doubt I am the only one in the class who feels this way. I am also more inclined to notice when ‘he’ is used casually as a universal subject; I am more forgiving when a prof balances this with the equal use of female referents. This may also explain my interests to pursue Metaphysics further at a graduate level.

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