Terms Of Gender

The difficult and sensitive issue of women in science was given extensive consideration in your Oct. 15, 1990, issue. The term "gender" was used frequently to refer to persons of the female sex. This approach is becoming an increasingly popular way to refer to the male and female sex of people, perhaps to de-emphasize the biological basis of differences between men and women. However, gender is a grammatical term referring to the sex (masculine, feminine, or neuter) of nouns or pronouns. People

Sandra Witelson
Apr 1, 1991
The difficult and sensitive issue of women in science was given extensive consideration in your Oct. 15, 1990, issue. The term "gender" was used frequently to refer to persons of the female sex. This approach is becoming an increasingly popular way to refer to the male and female sex of people, perhaps to de-emphasize the biological basis of differences between men and women. However, gender is a grammatical term referring to the sex (masculine, feminine, or neuter) of nouns or pronouns. People are not parts of speech. As Fowler's Modern English Usage (1983, 2d ed., page 221) states: "To talk of persons or creature of the masculine or feminine gender, meaning of the male or female sex, is either a jocularity or a blunder."

SANDRA F. WITELSON
Department of Psychiatry
McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario

 


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