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Using Feminine Pronouns


Using Feminine Pronouns

Debra Jacobs

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Language has the power to shape reality. 

When we use “he” as our default pronoun to refer to people and animals that could be either gender, we create a world where girls and women disappear.*

Most of us use “he” more often when we don’t know gender:

  • When you see a spider: “Wow, how many legs do you think he has?”

  • If a firefighter is visiting your child’s classroom: “I wonder if he’ll bring his helmet and boots with him?”

Think about this linguistic bias and make an effort to switch out the automatic “he,” using feminine pronouns when you don’t know gender:

  • The next time you see a puppy, say, “She’s so cute!”

  • If your child sees an ant, say, “Wow! That crumb she’s carrying is bigger than she is.” Ants you see out working are actually female anyway (though sterile)!

Occasionally use “they” as well.

Pay special attention to the pronouns you use when referring to professionals and those in positions of power: “I wonder who the new principal of your school will be. We’ll learn her name next week.”

Create a world for your child where women and girls - linguistically, and eventually, in fact - hold the same weight as men and boys.  

* See Michela Menegatti and Monica Rubini, Gender Bias and Sexism in Language, Oxford Research Encyclopedia, September 2017,