1. Thank you all for your patience with our technical errors. We think we've fixed it, but please do report anything that's not working right, by posting on the 'minor bugs' thread in Support and Feedback, which can be found here.
    Dismiss Notice
  1. Le gribouilleur

    Le gribouilleur Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2017
    Messages:
    61
    Likes Received:
    60

    Do you think people will prefer gender-inclusive language in literature?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Le gribouilleur, Mar 21, 2021.

    The rules don't apply outside of the Rules of the House. But does this still show an increasing preference for gender-neutral language? Does this mean that someday it would become safer to avoid using gender language in literature? What would this do to the literature that already has gender nouns and pronouns?

    We're already witnessing certain books being banned. Bill Maher made an interesting point about one of Dr. Seuss's books. The book shows a Chinese using chopsticks. Bill Maher made a point that people in China didn't care. This book didn't age well in the US. Would we see the same trend with books that use gender words?

    I remember when people in a classroom began to talk about racism issues. A student said that calling someone "Black" was offensive and that he preferred to be called "African-American" like how people use "Asian-American." The professor responded by saying that being called "White" didn't feel right either. But now, people say that the words "African-American" and "Caucasian" are offensive. I remember a time when the word "oriental" wasn't considered to be offensive, but now it is. Would people consider the word "Asian-American" to be offensive in the future? I noticed that banning these words would make talking about racism issues difficult. Talking about gender issues would also be difficult if gender words get banned. In any story, I find gender words make it less confusing on identifying which person is which in a couple or a group. I have used gender-neutral words and it seems to change the tone and help in equality. But I also find it confusing when talking about a couple or group of mixed genders when using gender-neutral words. It makes it require more explaining.

    Some cultures such as Korean originally use less gender words. (Although it exists in Korean, it still isn't used as much). But there are a lot of other cultures that uses a lot of gender words. Changing the rules of gender would be a major change for these cultures, resulting in certain books not aging well.

    I can see why Dr. Seuss's book didn't age well. Many of the Asian kids born in the US can't use chopsticks and they certainly don't dress the way the Chinese was illustrated in the book. People stopped dressing like that in China a long time ago, too. But I don't think Dr. Seuss intended to be mean. He grew up at a time when every Chinese immigrant used chopsticks. And that type of clothing was still worn by a lot of the Chinese people at that time. These days, some of his book are considered to be offensive and are banned. It makes me wonder what things that we take for granted today wouldn't age well in the future. And it makes me wonder which I should be careful to write about.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2021
  2. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    17,736
    Likes Received:
    26,794
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    There are many languages that have both masculine/feminine parts about them,
    like French, Spanish, and a lot of other languages. So it will be much more difficult
    to simplify them the way we can with English. Since it would seem language doesn't
    always catch up with modern/pop culture, I'll give a solid IDK.
     
  3. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2021
    Messages:
    237
    Likes Received:
    163
    I think the reason that book is so controversial is not just the chopstick reference but the image of the Westerner being carried by the Asians. In a perfect world that image could just be changed to something less offensive but I guess that's a slippery slope when original works are changed by future generations, no matter how noble the reasons.
     
    Cave Troll likes this.
  4. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2017
    Messages:
    3,092
    Likes Received:
    3,939
    Location:
    Shangri-La
    As long as children are still calling their parents "mother" and "father" then I don't see how it could go away (all languages as far as I know have separate words for brother/sister and mother/father, even Korean). Women and men are different, and unless our biology somehow changes it's not a distinction that can possibly be collapsed in our language.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2021
    Lazaares, Cave Troll, EFMingo and 2 others like this.
  5. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    8,482
    Likes Received:
    15,286
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    Well, considering we have trouble enough attributing reflexive pronouns to their natural antecedents in normal language, eliminating he/she/his/her would seem to only fuck things up more. People are already stupid and illiterate enough without removing the fundamental building blocks of language.
     
  6. alw86

    alw86 Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2020
    Messages:
    224
    Likes Received:
    353
    Location:
    UK
    I'm pretty heavily leftwing, and I don't see why anyone would want you to stop using gender and pronouns in fiction. People have gender, people have pronouns, that's not controversial to anyone. The problem comes in when you start applying gender and pronouns to people based on your own assumptions. This can cause trouble in things like legislation, where policy-makers might use 'women' when they really mean 'people with a uterus' or 'men' when they mean 'people with testes' or whatever. We can debate the merits of changes like that till the cows come home, but it's rarely if ever going to apply to literature because you as the author know the true gender and pronouns of your characters. So long as you're not writing a transwoman and referring to her as 'he' (or vice versa) you'll be fine, no need to stress.
     
    retardis, Robert Musil, Xoic and 3 others like this.
  7. Akhera

    Akhera Member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2010
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Czech Republic
    I've given this a great deal of thought because my current WIP novel's characters come from a progressive future society, so their language should reflect it (and the narration too). I think there are two slightly different topics to discuss, though: gendered language and gendered pronouns.

    I believe gendered language may eventually go away (at least in English. It's gonna be a lot tougher for some other languages), mostly because it makes you assume what the gender of the person is and that can definitely be propagating stereotypes. For an example from my work, at one point a character talks about their 'foreman', which immediately made me imagine them as male. But there is no narrative reason why this character needs to be male. Why not use 'foreperson' instead then? It allows the reader to imagine them however they like. If an incidental character's eye color doesn't matter, why should their gender? I don't think anyone would consider the use of 'foreman' to be offensive, though, if it does turn out this person is male.

    Gendered pronouns, on the other hand, are not going anywhere. People do have preferences (and they don't always align with their assigned gender), so we're definitely going to be using them for at least the rest of our lives. What's important, as @alw86 said, is to be respectful of people's choices and nor misgender them. Which should be easy for an author, as you should know what kind of pronouns the characters prefer.

    However, I think there are great opportunities to experiment with this. I'd recommend Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice, where the protagonist refers to everyone with she/her pronouns. It really challenges your preconceptions. At one point I was also toying with the idea that in the future, people would use pronouns differently and either use they/them or neopronouns for everyone, but in the end I decided against it as that's not what the story is about. However, I did make them state their pronouns whenever they introduce themselves.
     
  8. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    3,494
    Likes Received:
    4,043
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    Hoo boy, am I taking a risk with this post.

    Does it? Or does it refer to the biological sex of the person?

    Like it or not, people have a biological sex. Some people are hermaphrodites, but that is extremely rare. It makes no assumptions about their gender identity, any more than saying "the person wearing pink" does.

    At the risk of sounding like an intolerant conservative, biological sex and gender alignment is still the majority and will remain so, and there is no reason why language shouldn't reflect this - and I make absolutely no value judgement as regards people whose gender identity is different to their biological sex.
     
  9. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2021
    Messages:
    237
    Likes Received:
    163
    I think what @Akhera is referring to is gendered language describing non-gender or non-sex related attributes, like nouns used to describe professions. This is already going away, as the terms 'stewardess' and 'housewife' have been replaced with 'flight attendant' and 'homemaker'.

    As for the bill, I think the change was done to simplify things and avoid having someone, especially a non-binary person, identify as one or the other. So if benefits are eligible to offspring of someone whether they are male or female (either in biology or identity) then it's just easier to have them say 'I'm their child'.

    I had this come up in a book I'm writing. Basically, an establishment in the near future has this complimentary service to make clothes from scratch. 'Seamstress' is actually the first thing that came to mind for what is needed, but it's not gender neutral. 'Seamster' is gender neutral (according to most sources) but I've never heard that term. So I may just use 'tailor' even though 'tailor' (at least to my understanding) refers to a related but more specific skill.
     
    Akhera likes this.
  10. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody A Certain Shade of Green Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2018
    Messages:
    2,248
    Likes Received:
    4,874
    On the point of D.S.... no one asked for his books to be banned. It was the surviving family of D.S. who made that decision (there was a lot of controversey around that at my library as people believed that WE banned the books or that WE made it happen.) also... the books are not banned, to be clear. The books are just not going to be reprinted. So the D.S. book on that list are still on our shelves in the library (and still on the shelves at other libraries as far as I know). Not for long, though... because those books are no longer going to be reprinted, a lot of D.S. books are being stolen and then sold at higher prices.
    the point is... the books are not banned. They've just stopped making them.
    It happens.

    In terms of the racial imagery in the books, and your specific mention of Asians and chopsticks.... the author Gene Luen Yang writes about how sterotypes and outdated imagery does have negative and hurtful impacts on Asian children growing up on America in his graphic novel American Born Chinese. The main character struggles with his identity (how he wants to be seen as "white" but people at his school see him as a stereotype that he morphs into).
    [​IMG]

    (note, i had never heard of this book until I took a class on Children's Literature in college. The unit we studied this in was "race and identity." It was also the first time I'd read "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian" too, which is also an amazing read)

    There are dozens of "own voice" works of literature that share the same sentiments.

    in terms of gender neutral books... they are already out there :)
    An Unkindness of Ghosts and Upright Women Wanted are the two that I've read that uses "them/they" and I recently read an authors bio for a gender neutral romance where the author uses "Xer/Xe" pronouns.
    In The Order Of The Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho, there is an ambiguous character that neither identifies as man or woman but says "what does it mean to be a woman or a man?....i live the life of a man but my heart hasn't changed from when i was a woman...this is the body of a woman but carries the sins of a man"

    In the first two examples, the authors write how they identify. River Solomon and Sarah Gailey are known by gender neutral pronouns.

    The way I see it....The difference between the document you quotes and works of literature/fiction is that... the ruling government is trying to be inclusive of the the whole, where as books (and the different identities behind them) cannot be lumped into some giant mass of "literature." I dont have to pick up that book over there and read it. I've probably never even heard of that other one over there (i've literally never read or even heard of the D.S. books on that discontinued list, in all honesty)... but language on bathroom signs, official documents, etc... those are everywhere and publicly viewed. they are unavoidable.

    just my 2 cents.
    Im not for or against the gender neutral pronouns arguments. referring to someone by how they want to be referred to as is not that difficult.
    (if someone wants to be referred to as "black" and not "african american" or vice versa, for example, why argue with it?)
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2021
    B.E. Nugent and alw86 like this.
  11. Akhera

    Akhera Member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2010
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Czech Republic
    I'm pretty sure language doesn't care about biological sex of a person, but rather their gender. This is much better visible in languages other than English where even inanimate objects have grammatical genders.

    No one is denying the existence of biological sex. But why does someone's sex matter when you're talking about them? We don't use different language for someone with blue eyes and someone with brown eyes, why should sex be different?
     
  12. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2021
    Messages:
    237
    Likes Received:
    163
    Just to play devil's advocate before this thread gets locked, we do use different languages to describe people by their hair color, and sex/gender identity is one of the most defining, and often visible characteristics about a person (at least up to this century).

    I do think it's possible that in several centuries, partly due to technology, that will no longer be the case. In other words, I think centuries from now the outward visible differences between male/female will be much narrower, maybe non-existent.
     
  13. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    3,494
    Likes Received:
    4,043
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    That image is bizarre to me, because it conflates two different cultures. The person is dressed like a Chinese but swaps their "Rs" and "Ls", which is a characteristic of the Japanese. Japanese has no distinct "R" or "L" sound. The Japanese "R" is halfway between our R and L.

    But I suppose that's the point - Westerners can't tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese. They both use chopsticks, after all.
     
    J.T. Woody likes this.
  14. Akhera

    Akhera Member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2010
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Czech Republic
    That's not what I mean. I mean that you don't change the form a word that refers to them (like their profession) based on those characteristics.
     
  15. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    3,494
    Likes Received:
    4,043
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    I think language does care. See below.

    There's no particular reason a table should be female rather than male. I have no idea why some languages assign genders to inanimate objects. I speak four languages, and only one of them (French) does this.

    Because it identifies them. You could say "the person who is biologically male", or you could just say "he".

    That's like asking why a person's name matters when you're talking about them.
     
  16. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody A Certain Shade of Green Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2018
    Messages:
    2,248
    Likes Received:
    4,874
    there is a lot of uncomfortable imagery in the novel too... even the characters name.... his name is "Chin-Kee" (as in the slur...).
    There is a Taiwanese boy in it too, that Jin Wang is friends with, and you can imagine how they are seen...
     
  17. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    3,494
    Likes Received:
    4,043
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    People create categories for themselves all the time, and yet are demanding that certain categories are abolished.

    Gender identity, ethnicity, nationality, religion are all categories that people demand that they be put in. So why should gender be abolished in language? If transgendered people can ask that non-transgendered people be called cisgendered, why can't men ask that women be called something different? Or vice-versa, come to that?

    We create identities for ourselves in order to feel part of a group. You (a general you, not you specifically) cannot then demand that certain distinctions be abolished when this is actually all about creating distinctions. Sorry, but that smacks of hypocrisy to me.

    I've said my piece, I'm out of this thread.
     
    Storysmith likes this.
  18. Akhera

    Akhera Member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2010
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Czech Republic
    Grammatical gender is rather arbitrary in these languages. But as you can see, in French a chair does not have a sex, but it does have a gender. I'd say it's a pretty good indication that gendered language cares about gender and not sex.

    I have nothing against the use of pronouns. It does identify people. But based on their gender, not sex as I explained above.

    Who's advocating for this? Not me. All I'm doing is pointing out how languages operate and what the implications of that are.
     
  19. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2021
    Messages:
    237
    Likes Received:
    163
    As I pointed out earlier, this is already happening with the virtual retirement of words like stewardess and housewife. Words like 'actor' are a little problematic in that they aren't necessarily indicative of a gender, but the presence and use of 'actress' leads to 'actor' implying a male. But maybe that will change in the next few decades. I don't think I've ever heard someone use 'poetess' but apparently it was once used.
     
  20. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    8,482
    Likes Received:
    15,286
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    To bring this back to the OP--the preference of gender inclusive language in literature--I'm sure the gate keepers will take care of that when/if it needs taking care of. Should some particular style of verbiage fail to sell they will error-correct to realign the product with market preference. That's the beauty of business: the consumer will always decide what style of product creates the market.

    As for how this would affect writers like us as we attempt to write things readers will pay money for, well, is there some form of writing/verbiage that exists now that would inhibit publication? Like exclusive gender language would in this future scenario? I can't really think of anything... other than loading up on racial epithets or undesirable subject material. And I would say that even today if you write with a subversive lean toward gender exclusivity--or to reinforce a binary world through political douchebaggery--you're probably not going to find many takers.

    As for me, I got no beef with gender inclusive language, but leave the pronouns alone. As I said earlier, we have a hard enough time getting kids to write complete sentences and refrain from using emojis in formal communication. I'd hate to see us start pulling more bolts from the load-bearing grammatical support structure.
     
    Cave Troll likes this.
  21. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2019
    Messages:
    4,136
    Likes Received:
    5,528
    Location:
    edge of the spacetime continuum
    Eye color is a superficial difference, biological sex is a fundamental one that tells you many important things about a person, though of course individuals do vary —some women are very masculine while some men are more feminine (the obvious caveat that must be included or implied whenever we talk broadly about men and women).
     
  22. hyacinthe

    hyacinthe Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2018
    Messages:
    317
    Likes Received:
    419
    Location:
    Canada
    i don't think that the function of legislative language and prose intended for fiction have much to do with each other, honestly.

    super glad that legislative language is making these changes, because they help clarity and inclusion.
     
  23. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2017
    Messages:
    3,092
    Likes Received:
    3,939
    Location:
    Shangri-La
    Sex is probably the most fundamental variable.
     
    Xoic likes this.
  24. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2019
    Messages:
    241
    Likes Received:
    270
    Focus on the content, not the nouns/pronouns.

    Here's a tangent: Right now, at least in the West, virtue signaling hinges on convenience; you don't have to give up anything or make any sacrifice to say that racism/slavery/sexism is bad and LBGT+ good. There is no change or growth required. It's free real estate. The people who had to do the hard work and make the important sacrifices are long gone. The rest is playing pretend by changing language and directing hatred at people who don't play along.

    Starbucks coffee is roughly 10-15% free (edit: meant fair) trade. This is not a secret. Sugar, cacao, and coffee are harvested in large part by what are essentially (or directly) slaves. Some of them are children. Some plantations are guarded by people wielding machetes. Imagine getting hacked to pieces if you walk off the job you don't get paid to do. These are western luxuries that are ubiquitous thanks to that slavery. We still have slaves by proxy, and people will pull down a statue and cancel a few classic books before skipping that fucking latte. I don't speak from any high ground; I buy this shit all the time.

    The reason for that digression is to point out that an author might change his own language merely to fit in with impotent trends rather than actually being meaningful. It's a personal decision. If I say 'Man' instead of 'human race' am I belittling women? Mailman instead of mailperson? That's up to the author and the author alone to decide. I personally don't think it matters. I think gender inclusivity should be where it does matter, that is at the front lines where a woman might be picked on because she's the only welder at the camp, or a man derided for being a nurse, or in the content of a story rather than its nouns, assuming it's something the author wants to address in the first place.

    Re: Dr. Seuss, it's his own family, so people should at least respect the decision. Ultimately a creator's choice should be respected as much as possible (even if it leans into what others consider self-censorship or pandering). Since he's not around, his estate should be allowed to speak for him. That said, teaching people about context alongside the material would be a better idea IMO.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2021
  25. SapereAude

    SapereAude Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2021
    Messages:
    354
    Likes Received:
    205
    Spanish
    Portuguese
    German
    Russian
    Arabic
    Hindi
    Italian
    Latvian
    Lithuanian
    Hebrew
    Irish
    Scottish
    Welsh

    And a whole lot more.
     
    B.E. Nugent likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice