Gender Neutral Language *this page in large part maintains the binary male/female. it does not acknowledge intersex, transgender, etc.*

Use of "@" or "x" (Latin@/x)

This discussion came up as a result of these edits.

2007-04-07 08:55:46 hello David, is there a wiki link explaining the rules regarding why Latin@ and/or Latinx can not be used? xie xie ni. —JessicaRockwell

No, I just prefer to stick to the customary rules of English and Latin grammar. And I hate those stupid cute ways that people abuse the language in an effort to be 'politically correct' or some other nonsense. ~D (as taken from Dave's userpage)

my response: do you recognize that English and Spanish (among others) have the male/masculine as representing all people? why do you think this is? just as you hate how people abuse the language to make it "politically correct", I hate how the dominant class manipulates language to maintain their position of power. but fighting against the oppressors is ridiculous, as I'm beginning to gather from statements here. —JessicaRockwell

I don't think Dave was trying to push one sex over the other; he was just trying to maintain some sense of standard English on Wiki. Yes, male pronouns are overused in our language, but we have many, more common alternatives ("people," "Latin Americans," "they," etc.). While the intention behind '@' and 'x' is a good one, the mechanism of these spellings (especially the '@' sign — how should I pronounce that?) can confuse readers (is the author talking about a new type of Latin American? is this about generation x?). In general, readers should be able to look up a word in the dictionary if they can't figure out what someone's talking about. That said, there aren't really 'rules' on Davis wiki, just edits. You should be able to post and edit whatever you feel deserves it, including '@' or 'x'. With that though, Wiki can be very consensus based, and people may want to change your language to make stuff more readable. (It's not personal, usually just clarity or an alternate view. I've been edited many many times, and it's just the way of the wiki.) —jefftolentino

  • You see it as a means of oppression, I see it as the more logical reasoning, the only important sex is female, so thus it is the only specified sex in English, that is how I see it from a development standpoint anyway. I agree, people are being oppressed, I don't agree to the reasons, means, et cetera of how, why, et cetera they are being oppressed. You promote communism, and speak against a dominating class, to me that seems rather in contradiction as any communist system requires a central means of organization, but this is digression. I do not see how adhering to the conventions of the English and most other Latin and Germanic languages promotes any sort of oppression; please, tell me how we get from pronouns to oppression. ~Dave Poole

2007-04-08 10:47:29   Howdy, Jessica. I was curious if you invented the construct latin@. I keep a notebook devoted to graphemes, glyphs and notations, and I've never seen it (not surprising, my interests mostly lie in historical writing forms), nor can I find many references to it, although that may well be because it seems to not work with Google or most other search engines. Do you have a citation for usage? Incidentally, the form latinx (or at least the x part) is a classic synthetic construct used during the middle ages as a generic or unknown sex in written documents. —JabberWokky

  • hey, it's cool you want to know about the use of latin@. i did not come up with this construct, but have seen it used throughout the spanish-speaking community. i did a google search for latin@ and i got a whole bunch of hits. as for latinx, and the use of x for the neutral, here are some pages that include it. i remember the first time i saw it was when i was in chile on march 8, international women's day. good times. —JessicaRockwell
    • Yep, latinx is a classic construct hundreds of years old, back when language was more fluid because it was always handwritten. There are a whole slew of abbreviations and notations that have been lost post-typesetting (þ are lost to þe æther). My other computer is a fountain pen. ;) The latin@ is an interesting new form, after the invention of the typeset word, and likely post-computer (as the @ symbol didn't settle into an "a/o" appearance until the past several decades, and that form wasn't really seen outside English until the computer age pushed it into all languages with the use of email addresses). It might have become common quickly, but the symbol use indicates it is new; at least in the timescale of language use (when I say "new", I mean in the last couple decades). It could also be the adaptation of a prior handwritten notation. What year were you in Chile? (On a side note, I had wanted to visit Patagonia for my honeymoon, but we are saving for a camper van to do an cross American trip in the future and look forward to going down through Chile on the way around to the Patagonian steppes). —JabberWokky
      • i didn't know the history of x. it's good to know. yeah, the @ for words is new. with computers and cell phones languages are changing. it's interesting because it seems like in english we abbreviate phrases such as "brb", "omg", etc. i could be totally off on this, but it seems like in spanish they change words as opposed to phrases. so instead of typing "que" they'll type "k". and instead of "por que" they'll type "p k". and this has transferred to things they write by hand as well. people are willing to change for efficiency. it would be cool if qwerty keyboards became obsolete, but i don't think that'll really happen. i was in chile last year. it's definitely not common for people to write herman@/chicanx and a major difficulty is to know how to pronounce the latinx. but the point of why people choose to write it as such should be clear. —JessicaRockwell
  • The @ was in use in Mexico when I was there in 2004, the Chican@ Studies folks and classes at UCD use it (though not formally on the program website or in the general catalogue), and I've seen it used in much print literature. I use it, too, when typing or hand-writing because it's easier than a/o or o/a. —AlyssaNelson
    • Alyssa, thanks for including this info. Es bueno saber k hay otras personas en el wiki k usan "@". has visto el uso d "x" tambien? zai jian. —JessicaRockwell

Use of "he"

2007-07-09 18:40:57   I would like to think that the abstract information reality of the Internet is free from genders, in theory our names are merely identifiers, people can post as who ever, take covertprofessor (he is one of the top new editors I think) and alphadog (he was a very active editor) both who really are free from any gender identification. I would like to ask, what does it really matter if you are male, female, or somewhere undecided? —DavidPoole

  • if they're free from any gender identification, then why are you calling them "he"? —JessicaRockwell
    • Because just like other Latin languages, the default gender pronouns are masculine. —BrentLaabs
    • 2007-07-09 19:15:01   Modern languages are living, and like all living things they change and grow over time. Over the last several decades, many reasonable English-speaking people have come to the conclusion that, while the default masculine pronoun might be pedagogically "correct", such usage needlessly diminishes half of the population. —GrahamFreeman
    • Sometimes I refer to "people" as it or its when I don't know whether they are masculine or feminine. I believe this to be the most progressive thing to do. —SteveOstrowski
    • Actually, I use he to refer to weremen and women indiscriminately, just as men refers to all humans (well it did anyway). This really doesn't disregard the fairer gender but rather disregards the weremen as they are now the genderless, the unknown, rather than the specified as in the case of women. He can be a male or female, but she can only be the latter, I suppose you didn't say which half it discriminates. ~Dave
      • In academia, it is unacceptable to use "he" as a general term. Some people use "she" (or alternate between "he" and "she"), some use "s/he," others use "he/she." Not that academic practice=general practice, but I mention this just to point out that there is at least one place where "he" is decidedly unacceptable as a general term. Verbally, many people use "they" because the alternatives are so awkward; if I ruled the world, we'd allow "they" to be singular or plural, just as "you" is singular or plural. In any case, you ask for a response to the substance of your comment. Let me ask you a question in return — if it is true that gender is irrelevant, then why do we see such statistically relevant differences in the ways that men and women vote? I'm sure there are many topics for which gender is irrelevant — I'd be surprised to learn that my gender significantly influenced my restaurant reviews, for example — but there are others for which it is relevant (I tried to suggest a list of such topics above). We can ask whether it ought to matter, and we can ask why it matters (what causes men and women to think differently about the same issue), but I think that it's undeniable that (on average) men and women do have different views on certain topics. So, the point then is that it matters because the content of a wiki where approximately 2/3 of the editors are male is probably different from the content of a wiki where the gender ratios of editors reflects the gender ratios in the population, thus making the wiki more representative of, and useful to, the community. Now, 100% of those editors could fail to publicly identify their gender, but it would still be better to have the balance. —CovertProfessor
        • In modern academia. Fashions come and go. Half a century past the general "he" was quite acceptable. Half a century hence perhaps it will be acceptable again, or perhaps we'll have an entirely new non-gender-specific first-person singular pronoun. Hermes knows we need one. —BarnabasTruman
      • in response to your justification of using "he" to mean either man or woman, i've browsed through communication books on gender and they cite studies showing how the pronoun in stories effect the way participants see the characters in stories. They prove that using "he" really doesn't come across to people as being either male or female, but instead male. whereas when the pronoun "he or she" is used, many more participants will view the character as female. the American Psychological Association has written guidelines on using gender neutral language, but i thought you might be more interested in reading the American Philosophical Association's Guidelines for Non-Sexist Use of Language. Not only because you're a philosophy major, but also because they give good arguments for why one should use gender-neutrality. Specifically "that 'he' and 'man' used generically are really not gender-neutral terms at all. ('Person' and 'human' are genuinely gender-neutral.) For example, "Some men are female" is irredeemably odd, while "Some human beings are female" is fine. Second, empirical evidence supports Moulton's claim that regardless of the author's intention the generic 'man' is not interpreted gender neutrally Casey Miller and Kate Swift (1976) cite a study in which college students chose pictures to illustrate chapters of a sociology textbook. Those with chapters entitled "Society," "Industrial Life," and "Political Behavior" tended to select pictures of both females and males. However, when the same chapters were named "Social Man," "Industrial Man," and "Political Man," students of both sexes tended to select pictures of males only. With some chapters the differences [between the two groups] reached magnitudes of 30 to 40 percent. The authors concluded, "This is rather convincing evidence that when you use the word man generically, people do tend to think male, and tend not to think female" (Miller and Swift, 1976, p. 21). Third, using the generic 'he' and 'man' is problematic because it often leads us to omit the distinctive elements of female experience and behavior. For example, a sentence beginning, "If a student is conscientious, he is probably a good . . . ," will likely be ended with "son"—even though "good son," "good daughter," and "good child" connote different things. If the sentence had begun, "A conscientious student is probably a good . . . ," a likely finale would be "son or daughter" or "child." In sum, there are convincing reasons, both empirical and conceptual, for avoiding the generic 'he' and 'man' and for specifically including females." —JessicaRockwell
        • Historically speaking, "man" is completely gender-neutral. "Man" is the term for the species as a whole; "werman" is the male of the species and "wifman" the female. Over time for some reason "man" replaced "werman" but also remained in use as the generic term, while "wifman" became "woman." (If you prefer "human," note that it derives from homo, "man.") This is not unique to English (compare to any romance language) or even to references to our own species (e.g., the species is "lions," the male is "lion" and the female "lioness"). —BarnabasTruman
          • so Barnabas, are you saying it's accurate to refer to a person whose username is gender neutral as "he"? —JessicaRockwell
            • I don't think "he" as a gender-neutral pronoun works so well for an already specified person whose gender happens to be unknown. It mainly seems to be for a singular but unspecified person. For example, it would seem awkward to say "I think that usr1337 makes a good point, and we should acknowledge his contribution" without knowing usr1337's gender, but grammatically speaking I see nothing wrong with "If a person makes a good point, then his contribution should be acknowledged." —BarnabasTruman
    • Actually, my favorite practice that I've seen is from the Dungeons and Dragons sourcebooks, where masculine and feminine pronouns are used in equal quantity when referring to an unknown subject. When they're referring to a specific character class, they'll use the character of the iconic character (the example given in the core rulebooks) — a rogue is she, while a fighter is he — but these characters are also about split evenly between the sexes. However, it takes a little time to get used to writing in this style, and it only really works in longer documents. Still, in terms of the gaming community, it's pretty much a given assumption that women are as capable as men. (Though the non-important non-player characters are more likely to appear in traditional gender roles, that's pretty much a part of the given in the medieval fantasy genre.) Anyway, this practice would be good on the Davis Wiki, though each editor would have think about her edits and try to keep the genders in balance. —BrentLaabs
    • There is no doubt that there are gender biases built into language. Modern academic English does a great deal to move past this. As previous commentators have observed, Spanish does use the masculine plural of nouns where you can designate male and female by using the -os suffix. In academic English, the preferred course increasingly appears to be to "talk around" the problem by using neutral terms rather than clumsily saying "he or she" countless places, we see a renaissance of "one" and "oneself" (although this can lead to different clumsiness). In Spanish, perhaps the problem is more complicated, since even many more abstract words have a genders. For example, "Persona" (=person) is always feminine, even when the person referenced is a male. [Although person has an interesting etymology unto itself with a Greek word meaning actor's mask.] "Gender," it would seem is a more fluid concept, but that doesn't mean that the language doesn't have a male bias through and throughout. It would be interesting if Spanish would accept a neutral character to indicate when the "os" form is really intended to be an "as/os" form— the @ is perhaps a bit unwieldy, but I can't think of a better symbol _currently_ on the keyboard. However, it would be better if there could be a new wordform that could be spoken! You can't really SAY amig@s. —JaimeRaba

* Dave and Barnabas, the purpose of language is to communicate. while you argue that "man" is gender neutral, i think you're really arguing that from your pov it should be gender neutral. as i've already stated, when people hear "he" or "man" they think of men, not women. so in actuality "man" is not a gender neutral term and is not accurately communicating the message you would like to send, which ultimately communicating the idea of "people/humans". —JessicaRockwell

Regarding the Page and Community

Not to be dismissive of the existence of women, or the fact that they (like all people) can and do contribute to the community, but I feel that this page is a bit unnecessary in some regards. Though it could serve as a point from which women can make the point of gender neutrality and gender issues on the wiki, I think that these things should be on a separate page that was inclusive of all the community, perhaps a gender page or some sort (I don't know). However,this page I feel will create more fracturing in the community, though my argument is a bit of a slippery slope it does have some merit. This page provides for the precedent and justification for a number of pages for * on the Davis Wiki (and corresponding talk pages for the issues of that particular group). This creates an additional set of identifications which will harm the community integration more than aid it. If it were a page to represent a particular community, or community interest that was more of an isolated cultural phenomena (such as the migrant worker community) that would not be actively separating members of the community but rather representing a sub-community which was a part or phenomena in the community, and the meta community of the wiki. Though there may be the feeling that demographics may not be accurately represented on this meta-community(see below) that is the davis wiki, I feel this will never be the case as many people will never access it for lack of want or ability, access to the wiki requires access to the internet, which entails the computer, connection, and knowledge accesses implicit in their use. So hence, I just simply wish to say, that though there may be an disparity regarding women on the wiki, perhaps there should be targeted out reach, it is unfair to say that this is a specific problem, the general issue, that of gender, should be addressed rather than this specific case. I would either suggest that a new page, that on gender issues on the wiki, be created on itself, or that this concept be added to the demographics page, as a section, sub page, or discussion on the talk page, else we may have a whole mess of issues as we start defining more and more those specific groups and divisions, the classifications of people by any means that are somehow seemingly under represented on the wiki. We need to face the larger issues, not the specific cases of human existence if we ever hope to make true progress. Thanks. ~DavePoole (to note i use the term meta-community to describe that this community describes that of the davis community, though some of us do not necessarily live in davis at the moment (though having quite a connection none the less.)

  • I want to respond to this, but before I do, I need to be clearer on what you are objecting to (the text on this Talk page? or the Women on the Davis Wiki page itself) and why you are objecting, and also, I need to be clearer on what you are suggesting. I have read over what you've written several times, and maybe it's me, but I found your writing a bit unclear. Can you edit a bit? —CovertProfessor
  • I am objecting to the page's existence, not its context. I am suggesting we divide the content to relevant pages that are not based on gender, ethnic or other such divisions but to pages regarding the root issue. I am sorry I am not a terribly clear person, I will look over the text in a bit. ~Dave