Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gendered Language and Textbook Examples

I've been going over rough drafts of term papers, and I have as many students writing about "the future of mankind" and "the well-being of men" as ever. When I suggest that they consider writing of "human well-being" instead, they look puzzled. Wasn't gender-neutral language something that was adopted by professional and academic writers in the 1980's? Thirty years ago?

My kindergartner showed me a page in his math workbook. There were little pictures of people to count: girls dressed as dancers and boys dressed as soldiers (yes, with little rifles complete with bayonets!). I asked him if he knows any real-life dancers: yes, one, named Jeff. I asked him if he knows any real soldiers: yes, one, named Jenn. Will those real-life examples override the images which are put before him?

I was considering which textbook to adopt for a critical thinking class and came across this McGraw-Hill quiz. The 10 quiz questions concern a Senator ("he"), a Professor ("he"), Mr. Equalminded, Tom, and Mr. Theist. There are no feminine pronouns on the quiz. I thought we were free of this by now. How do these texts make it past the review process?