Sex Roles

, Volume 23, Issue 11–12, pp 629–643

Generic pronouns and sexist language: The oxymoronic character of masculine generics

  • John Gastil


This experiment investigated the propensity of the generic he to evoke images of males relative to he/she and the plural they. Undergraduates read sentences aloud and verbally described the images that came to mind. The results provide strong support for the hypothesis that the generic he evokes a disproportionate number of male images. Results also suggest that while the plural they functions as a generic pronoun for both males and females, males may comprehend he/she in a manner similar to he. Theoretical implications for a critique of sexist language and prescribing generic pronoun usage are considered.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Gastil
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Wisconsin—MadisonUSA

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