START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good
Jan 26, 2009

“We tend to look through language and not realize how much power language has,” sociologist and linguist Deborah Tannen has said. Earlier this month it was announced that the U.S. House of Representatives would adopt gender-neutral language – a better-late-than-never move seeing that Speaker Pelosi is, after all, a woman and there is (thankfully!) growing representation of women in Congress. Gone are the days are references to a “chairman.” These will now be replaced simply with “Chair.”

With this, one wonders – or at least, I wonder -- how the use of gender-neutral words and phrases can influence behavior regarding sex roles. Case in point: Finland. In the Finnish language, the personal pronoun hän can refer to either “he” or “she” -- there is no distinction. In Finland’s 2007 elections, 12 out of 20 Cabinet positions went to women, creating a 60 percent majority of women. Finland’s president, Tarja Halonen, is also a woman. Could there be a connection? While the question is not easily answered, I believe it is worth looking into.

Feminist author Marge Piercy has even experimented with a gender-neutral pronoun in the English language. “Per” (short for &ldquoerson&rdquo is used in her novel, Woman on the Edge of Time. And an interesting development is afoot. Some students in Baltimore, Maryland were studied by Johns Hopkins University linguists after it was observed they were spontaneously using the word “yo,” as a one-size-fits-all pronoun:

"Yo handin' out papers (She is handing out papers)
"Peep, yo!" (Look at him!)
"You acting like I said what yo said" (You're acting like I said what he/she said)
"Yo been runnin' in the halls" (He/She has been running in the halls)

Hän, per, yo – it all sounds good to me.

Visibility: Everyone
Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted: Jan 26, 2009 3:19pm


Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.


Diane S.
, 2
Brooklyn, NY, USA
Shares by Type:
All (2) | Blog (2)

Showing shares tagged with: pronoun [show all]
(1 comments  |  discussions )
\\nPosted on Women\\\'s Rights blog: es/womens-rights/blog/hhs -regulation/\\r\\n\\r\\n\ \nFirst, let\\\'s all clap our hands and do another happy dance to celebrate the Obama Administration\\\'s repeal of the global gag rule, officially kn...
(0 comments  |  discussions )
\\n\\r\\n  &nbs p;  So you work in a cubicle and have less access to sunshine than prisoners (hey, they get two hours a day)? Bring a bit of nature in with these inspired pieces of eco-technology. Studio OOOmscarves each one of these USB ke...
(0 comments  |  discussions )
Hi everyone! There is a great quiz on Care2 right now from the Friends of World Heritage. How much do you know about World Heritage? ing/vote/206It's a really fun and challenging quiz, and Friends of World Heritage is a fa...
(0 comments  |  discussions )
- The time for running scared from Big Oil is over. The time for making a change is now.  It is time that our leaders mandate car companies raise their mileage standards>> The technology is here. And you'd think th...
(0 comments  |  discussions )
The recent, severe flooding in Miami, Okla., has endangered numerous pets unable to escape the high waters, contamination and chaos brought by the onslaught of rain. American Humane's Red Star Animal Emergency Services team is on the scene, helpin...
(0 comments  |  discussions )
Here are some past petitions American Humane has hosted on Care2. For more information on these issues, visit Wounded Soldier Adopt Military DogProtect Animals in Times of Disaster!Antifreeze is Deadly to Children & Animals...
(0 comments  |  discussions )
Congress is considering a bill that would strictly regulate how animals used for research are obtained. Join American Humane in supporting this important effort! Pet Safety and Protection Act HR1280
(8 comments  |  discussions )
I got curious.  *chase*I found this site with the top 100 best jazz drummers. Buddy Rich is first, surprise surprise. Definitely check out the YouTube video of a solo of his. It's at the bottom of the page at the left. Here's the website:...
(0 comments  |  discussions )
This is an issue I feel particularly strong about: http://www.thepetitionsit 6    
(0 comments  |  0 discussions )
Hey everyone. Please sign this petition. It's really important that we establish basic ground rules for the treatment of airline passengers -- we all know what it's like to have a rude flight attendant, but to have to sit for 9 hours while the...