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

Abstract

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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I would like to thank Lea Haravon and Jim Dillard for their assistance in the design and completion of this study.

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Gastil, J. Generic pronouns and sexist language: The oxymoronic character of masculine generics. Sex Roles 23, 629–643 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00289252

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Keywords

  • Social Psychology
  • Strong Support
  • Theoretical Implication
  • Disproportionate Number
  • Male Image