Gender issues spark debate

Mikaela Thorne


Sports Editor

For decades, parents and relatives would associate daughters with dresses, dolls, and the color pink, while linking sons with footballs, toy trucks, and the color blue.
But some parents, as well as big segments of society at large, have begun to rethink those traditions recently, realizing that some people don’t fit so neatly into any one set of gender expectations. Newspapers and other media also are part of this change, in particular rethinking the use of the gender-specific pronouns like “he” and “she.”
Some people do not prefer to be identified with one or either of those pronouns. Among alternatives that have been suggested are the singular “they,” made-up pronouns like “hir” and “ze,” or avoiding pronouns and using only just the person’s name.
The singular “they” in particular seems to be gaining acceptance. In January, the American Dialect Society named the singular “they” its word of the year, as voted by about 200 linguists.
The dialect society noted that people informally have used a singular form of “they” for years, in sentences like “Every parent wants their child to succeed.” Traditionally the correct usage would be “his or her child.”
Freshman Shayla Kraft said she prefers the pronoun “they.”
“I’m not into being completely feminine, but I’m not very masculine,” Kraft said.
Kraft said representation from the media is important.
“It’s important for people to use the correct pronouns because it’s just respectful. It’s something so simple to change, because it’s not really that big of a deal,” Kraft said.
The Washington Post adopted the use of singular “they” in 2015. Bill Walsh, a Post copy editor, said in a Post article that the singular “they” was “the only sensible solution to English’s lack of a gender-neutral, third party singular personal pronoun.”
Here in Pittsburgh, the Post-Gazette lets the people interviewed for its stories determine the pronoun used to describe them.
“We do use the person’s preferred pronoun,”Editor David Shribman said. “This decision was just made out of human respect and decency.”

Shribman noted, however, that its sources rarely bring up the pronoun issue.
The Purbalite, meanwhile, will follow a course similar to the Post-Gazette.
“Like many other newspapers, the Purbalite now uses the pronoun preferred by the individual. It may
take some time for readers to adjust to this change, but we believe people will get used to it with time,”
Purbalite sponsor Keith Harrison said.