I am sick to death of butchering the English language in the name of gender-neutrality.
No, I’m not a misogynist (as long as you keep makin’ them sammiches! – sorry, I couldn’t resist). No really, not a misogynist at all. I absolutely understand and completely agree that English could and should evolve to reflect the fact that approximately half of humanity is female. I have no problem with that.
Here’s what I do have a problem with. I was reading one of the blogs I follow and the author concluded with this sentence: “A writer that can create this kind of epic and heartfelt rivalry between their characters has all the conflict they need to drive their story.”
The subject of the sentence is “a writer.” He could have chosen “the writer,” but he opted for an indefinite article. A singular indefinite article. Not all writers, or some writers, or even two writers. Just one single indefinite writer. Later in the sentence he mentions two things that belong to this indefinite singular writer: characters and story. To indicate that these items belong to the singular indefinite writer, he uses a third person possessive pronoun.
Now this singular indefinite writer, being human, must be either male or female. Doesn’t matter. We have a singular third person possessive pronoun in English for males and a different one for females. However, because we’re afraid we might offend half of the population, we refuse to use either singular pronoun, and instead choose the plural third person possessive pronoun, because there is only one of those and it isn’t gender specific (because, being plural, it must include both genders). So, “a writer has their characters and their story.”
Which is just fucking WRONG. Singular subject and plural pronoun. Wrong. Always wrong. Forever wrong.
Now if we look at this not as avoiding insult, but rather as an attempt to respect and credit all humans, then it does make a bit of sense. Still wrong, though. Nice gesture maybe, but bad English. And it just irritates the living hell out of me.
The “fix,” if you will, is to change English. Since we actually have three third person possessive pronouns in English, and the third one is gender neutral, we could say “A writer has its characters.” But this is more wronger, because “it” is never used to refer to people. So that option is out.
We can agree that “their” is okay because it is gender neutral if not numerically correct, and this is generally the hand wave of acceptance that the PC/GN crowd uses to justify this grammatical departure. And I can’t stand it. Makes me want to kick holes in things.
Or, we can use both the masculine and feminine pronouns together, “A writer has his or her characters and his or her story.” But that gets pretty annoying pretty fast.
Or, we can create an additional pronoun which, while singular, is gender neutral. Such as… I don’t know… hox. A writers has hox story. We can make up words if we want. We’re not stuck with the old ones.
Or, and this is the option I will choose, if the author is male, and the subject of the pronoun could be male or female, use male. If the author is female, use a female pronoun. So I could write, “A writer has his characters,” and you (if you’re female) could write, “A writer has her story.”
Now, y’all (there’s another fun pronoun) can do what y’all want, but I happen to be a male. I’m not going to apologize for that, nor am I going to attempt to minimize or diminish the other gender. But from now on, when I need a singular third person pronoun to refer to a single person of unknown gender, I’m going to choose the male version. After all, a writer should be able to choose their pronouns, right?