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Can the feminine pronouns be gender-neutral?
Reason for the current trend to use "she" as the gender-neutral pronoun?

In a lot of academic literature that I'm reading for school, I find constructions similar to this:

"Thus enters the question of values in research activities as well, and a fuller discussion of what is good – that is, what values should guide the researcher in her studies and interventions – is required. (Ravn 1991: 112)"

I'm wondering as to what the gender rule is here.

I'm not a native English speaker and I have limited education in English, although I speak and understand it fluently.


This is not a case of any gender requirement for these activities.

English has no gender-neutral pronouns so the choice to use "her" is simply a statement made by the author that they recognize that these activities are not specifically male-oriented.

It is an act of political correctness to deliberately use "her" on some occassions when the gender of the actor is not known or relevant.

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English has traditionally used the third person plural pronoun they for indeterminate gender. But a few hundred years ago, a grammar book argued that they is illogical because it's plural. The book suggested using he instead. Some people took up this advice and started using he, but it makes no sense either in some contexts (e.g., When the purchaser uses the razor to shave his legs...). Some people, have begun to use she, sometimes in alternation with he, to show concern for non-sexist language. Other people continue to use they.

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  • That seems reasonable. So its not limited to my topic (Design and Game studies) but can be found in other types of literature? – joon Mar 12 '12 at 11:52
  • Yes, you find it here and there, particularly in academic writing. – Brett Reynolds Mar 12 '12 at 11:53

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