Gendered language in science

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  • #76
ZapperZ
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Whatever, ZapperZ. All I'm saying is that using the pronoun "he" in scientific literature wipes out half the world's population at a glance. You think that is perfectly fine. I don't. I guess we can't really continue this discussion, can we?
And how many PRL paper, for example, have you seen use this?

We can't continue a discussion based on simply a matter of tastes IF you insist that something is done because of it.

BTW, what have you done, other than expressing your annoyance, to help improve the involvement of women in science? I asked you this before, you didn't answer.

Zz.
 
  • #77
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BTW, what have you done, other than expressing your annoyance, to help improve the involvement of women in science? I asked you this before, you didn't answer.
Well I brought this issue up on a public forum, didn't I? That must account for something - not you, obviously, as you consider this issue a complete waste of time.

Please, ZapperZ, don't drag this down to "I'm better than you". That would take the cake. I mean, really.
 
  • #78
D H
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Just google "gender-neutral language" - most of the early hits are university guidelines for essay writing. So this is trivial nonsense & unnecessary? Why then are universities adopting this practice? Political correctness out-of-control, perhaps?
Don't discount that "perhaps" as a distinct possibility.

Part of the problem here is that English, being a hodge-podge language, has some terms that are gender neutral and some that are not. Your argument would carry little weight in a language such as French or German where everything, even tables and chairs, have a gender. Because English does have some gender-neutral terms, it is possible at times to come up with gender-neutral equivalents to what would otherwise be gender-laden expressions. Sometimes those gender-neutral equivalents just sound awful. "Manhole cover" becomes either "personhole cover" or something even worse. Sometimes those gender-neutral equivalents sound better than their gender-laden counterparts. 1960s Star Trek: "To go where no man has gone before". The latest movie: "To go where no one has gone before".


Speaking of space, you mentioned NASA. What you didn't mention was that if you google "human spaceflight site:nasa.gov" you will get "About 46,000 results" while if you google "manned spaceflight site:nasa.gov" you will only get "About 17,100 results". In a similar vein, "unmanned spaceflight site:nasa.gov" versus "robotic spaceflight site:nasa.gov" yields 32,300 versus 164,000 hits.

There are good reasons to use the term "manned spaceflight" versus "human spaceflight". The Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs officially were the manned space program. To use anything but that term is despicable historical revisionism. The current name of the program is the human spaceflight program. That is the term to use for the future of people in space (if any such future exists).

There are also good reasons to use the term "unmanned spaceflight" versus "robotic spaceflight". Many prefer the term "unmanned probe" versus "robotic probe" when it comes to some simple satellite that just spins around and takes pictures. "Robotic" means something that does a lot more than just spinning around and taking pictures.
 
  • #79
ZapperZ
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Well I brought this issue up on a public forum, didn't I? That must account for something - not you, obviously, as you consider this issue a complete waste of time.

Please, ZapperZ, don't drag this down to "I'm better than you". That would take the cake. I mean, really.
Note that you were the one who tried to belittle my argument by calling it "... posts reek of a childish vindictiveness here... "

I'm not sure what I was "vindictive" against, but never mind.

It does matter that someone has more experience in something else, versus someone who simply MADE UP something. It isn't the case of "I'm better than you". It is the case of that I've worked in such-and-such an area and have more first-hand knowledge of what it is. I'm more skilled than a lot of people in some things, and I'm horrible than many people in others.

I asked you because, for someone who wants to show a lot of "passion" for such a cause, I find it hard to believe that your only effort in such a thing is to come on a public forum and express your annoyance. I mean, really! And then, you turn around and belittle my point of view as being vindictive, considering that I have done considerably more than you for this cause! I find this very strange. That's like a crackpot telling a physicist he/she (notice the dual use of gender here) doesn't know enough physics.

Zz.
 
  • #80
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That's like a crackpot telling a physicist he/she (notice the dual use of gender here) doesn't know enough physics.
"He/she" is one of those (to me) ugly P.C. terms. There are ways to make this gender neutral:
  • That's like a crackpot telling a physicist they don't know enough physics.
  • That's like a crackpot telling physicists they don't know enough physics.
The latter is gender neutral and is grammatically correct. The former (singular "they" but plural "don't") goes back to The Bard, if not earlier.
 
  • #81
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Don't discount that "perhaps" as a distinct possibility.
In some matters, sure. But not here IMHO.

Your argument would carry little weight in a language such as French or German where everything, even tables and chairs, have a gender.
Sure, but I'm referring to my language, which happens to be English.

Because English does have some gender-neutral terms, it is possible at times to come up with gender-neutral equivalents to what would otherwise be gender-laden expressions.
Most definitely.

Sometimes those gender-neutral equivalents just sound awful. "Manhole cover" becomes either "personhole cover" or something even worse.
A fair example.

Sometimes those gender-neutral equivalents sound better than their gender-laden counterparts. 1960s Star Trek: "To go where no man has gone before". The latest movie: "To go where no one has gone before".
Which I always thought quite admirable!

Speaking of space, you mentioned NASA. What you didn't mention was that if you google "human spaceflight site:nasa.gov" you will get "About 46,000 results" while if you google "manned spaceflight site:nasa.gov" you will only get "About 17,100 results". In a similar vein, "unmanned spaceflight site:nasa.gov" versus "robotic spaceflight site:nasa.gov" yields 32,300 versus 164,000 hits.
Great! This is a good thing, yes? Do you think this is insidious "PC" doublespeak, or actually a worthwhile change of consciousness? I think the latter. I'm sure NASA did too.

There are good reasons to use the term "manned spaceflight" versus "human spaceflight". The Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs officially were the manned space program. To use anything but that term is despicable historical revisionism. The current name of the program is the human spaceflight program. That is the term to use for the future of people in space (if any such future exists).
No way am I advocating historical revisionism. But you still raise a dilemma here. You can say the Freedom 7 space capsule was manned by Alan Shepard. Yes? But can you say that Vostok 6 was "manned" by Valentina Tereshkova? Hmm. Vostok 6 was "womanned" by Valentina Tereshkova? Again, hmm. OK, let's say "crewed" or "piloted". That's a lot better, yes? But then, why one set of rules for good ol' Al Shepard and another set for Valentina? Isn't consistency of language use extremely important in science? ZapperZ (and others here) seem to think it trivial - but I was always under the assumptioon that accurate, precise use of language was CRUCIAL in science & the expression of scientific ideas? So alas, maybe we should rewrite "manned" as "piloted"? It's just an idea. I can see the difficulty in this.

My main gripe (in my original post) was the continuing (albeit less prominent today, granted) use of the "he" pronoun in science today. Also the continuing use of the word "mankind", or even just "Man".

But yes, you raise good points.

Once again, I reiterate that I am not coming from some fanatical PC-zealout point-of-view, I am coming from the mindset that use of language in science should be a disciplined, self-aware thing. I think it's very important.
 
  • #82
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Once again, I reiterate that I am not coming from some fanatical PC-zealout point-of-view, I am coming from the mindset that use of language in science should be a disciplined, self-aware thing. I think it's very important.
It might be very important in the social sciences, which is where out of control political correctness is most rampant. Unfortunately, who says what still carries a lot of weight in the social sciences. It carries a lot less weight in the physical sciences, where equations and experimental results rule the day and where equations and experimental results are inherently genderless.
 
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  • #83
Pythagorean
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I smell a warped sense of equality
 
  • #84
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I smell a warped sense of equality
So do I, my friend, so do I.
 

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