Gender-Neutral Pronouns

Gender-Neutral Pronouns

By: Mariah Whitney

People have been advocating for gender-equality for a little over a century. Just 100 years ago women received the right to vote. The fight for women’s rights still continues as many feminists are actively fighting for equal pay and equal work. Over the past few decades the idea of gender equality has expanded to include LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender). Now the meaning of gender equality is beginning to evolve to no gender at all.

Remember back when you were small, and learned pronouns such as “he”, “she”, “him”, “her”, “himself”, and “herself”? Well, those days are coming to an end. There is now an entirely new list of pronouns to learn. Many colleges in the U.S. are opting to use gender-neutral pronouns in addition oto established gender terms. The University of California will also have gender-neutral bathrooms for transgender students. According to an article written by Lisa Leff of the Associated Press,  students at the University of Vermont now have the option have to register on the school’s roster to be referred as he, she, ze, or their given name. Many other universities also offer the option of “other” as a gender. Accommodating the need of students is always important to universities, but will these small changes lead to gender equality?

Language is a powerful thing. By changing how we speak, we can change how we think. Replacing gender specific pronouns with gender neutral pronouns will lead to an entire new understanding of gender and gender equality.

Below is a list of gender neutral pronouns and their pronunciations compared to gender specific pronouns take from MIT (web.mit.edu). Spivak, another list of gender neutral pronouns that is slowly gaining in popularity, is also included below.

Gender Neutral Pronoun Usage:

         Subject              Object             Possessive            Possessive              Reflexive  

                                                                        Adjective             Pronoun

 

Female            She                    Her                    Her                          Hers                 Herself

Male                He                     Him                    His                           His                  Himself

Gender           Ze                       Hir                     Hir                           Hirs                Hirself

Neutral

Spivak             E                         Em                     Eir                                       Eirs                 Emself

How to pronounce gender neutral pronouns:

Ze          Hir         Hirs           Hirself              E            Em            Eir            Eirs              Emself

/zee/       /here/     /heres/       /hereself/          /ee/        /em/            /air/            /airs/            /emself/

 

Examples of how to use these pronouns:

She went to her bedroom.

He went to his bedroom.

Ze went to hir bedroom.

E went to eir bedroom.

I am her sister.

I am his sister.

I am hir sister

I am eir sister.

She shaves herself.

He shaves himself.

Ze shaves hirself.

E shaves emself.

 

As seen above, switching to gender neutral pronouns changes how you speak. It is almost like a completely different language. There will be nothing to distinguish between genders in language.

Will gender neutral pronouns lead to gender equality? Is this language change too much?

Gender neutral pronouns are slowly gaining popularity in universities both in the United States and around the world. However, we are still many years away from a complete integration of gender neutral words into our everyday lives.

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