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Subconscious Chauvanism

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nimble
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Truthfully, I doubt this is even relevant. I am not accusing anyone of being a chauvanist, because I dont think anyone here, or any Objectivist would sanction such a thing, BUT have you ever noticed that when most Objectivists refer to anyone that they dont for sure know is a "she" they call them a "he."

Even when I read Rand, I notice that when she talks of man in general sense, she uses the pronoun "he" instead of what normal people would do and say "one." I dont know if it is because English is her second language, or it might have to do with her views on the female role in sexual relationships. Can anyone explain, I was just really curious.

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No, it is because Ayn Rand DID know English that she used 'he'. It is proper grammatically, when using a third person pronoun with a singular antecedent, to use 'he' if the gender is unknown.

really? I have always been taught that the proper pronoun in a hypothetical situation with an unknown gender is "one." My mother is a high school english teacher. I havent taken anything above English 131, because thats all you need for an econ major. So i dont claim to be a know it all on this issue, thats why I am asking. I have just always been taught that "one" is the proper pronoun.

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really? I have always been taught that the proper pronoun in a hypothetical situation with an unknown gender is "one." My mother is a high school english teacher. I havent taken anything above English 131, because thats all you need for an econ major. So i dont claim to be a know it all on this issue, thats why I am asking. I have just always been taught that "one" is the proper pronoun.

The problem with that is that 'one' is an indefinite pronoun, referring to nobody in particular, and one might need a pronoun that does refer to someone in particular, though his gender is unspecified. For example:

The masked robber fired his gun.

vs.

The masked robber fired one's gun.

The bottom sentence is incorrect, because the pronoun must refer to the robber, not just to some generic person. 'One' would be proper in this example, however:

The masked robber tripped while running out of the bank. "One should be more careful," taunted the policeman.

vs.

The masked robber tripped while running out of the bank. "He should be more careful," taunted the policeman.

In the top sentence, 'one' refers to "a person in general." That is correct for the intended meaning. In the bottom sentence, 'he' stands in for 'the masked robber'. That is not the intended meaning. The policeman doesn't want to say that the masked robber in particular should be more careful, but that people should be more careful.

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Actually, today, they try to force writers to avoid gender-biased sentences like that--but in Ayn Rand's time, it was less of an issue.

For the sentence "The robber fired his gun," they prefer that you just say, "The robber fired." If you cannot omit the gender article, then they try to find some way around it like, "The robber fired a gun," or "The robber fired the gun that was in the robber’s possession."

In spite of that, I still use gendered articles. When my teachers correct me, I never change it. It's the little things in life.

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Nimble: please read my blog post at

http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000129.html

I think the problem is not the "chauvanism" of people who use "man" to refer to the rational animal, "he" to refer to the third person, etc. I think the problem is the frenzy of feminism today that regards such usages as an attack on the collective of womendom!

I graduated from High School in 1985. For 11th grade ('83 to '84), I had an English teacher who explicitly described herself as a feminist. But she was very clear on this point. "He" is the proper and correct pronoun.

This has changed as political correctness (a bankrupt notion if there ever was one) came to dominate schools and the curriculum late. I never heard of PC until around 1989.

Today, there is a special breed of people. I call them "professional sensitives", because their job seems to be running around looking for things to be offended by, and then to sue or bring government action to bear.

The reason why "he" is the correct words stems from more than historical precedent. Though in the case of language, a usage that goes back many hundreds of years ought not to be changed without a *really* good reason.

The reason is explained by the study Objectivist epistemology, and its theory of concept-formation and universals.

A woman is a female man.

I don't mean this lightly, or tongue-in-cheek. I mean this in the sense that a woman is the same as a man in most respects, including posessing reason, values, the need to use her mind to identify values and to act to gain and keep them. She is a valuer in all contexts, except one. And this is the differentia. In romance, she is the value gained--by a man.

The etymology of the word "woman" is interesting, in this light. It comes originally from Norse or Gaelic (I am not sure which), and derives from wife-man--the kind of man who becomes a wife.

For an interesting way to validate this, try to look at woman as the genus, and man as the differentia. It can't be done without turning one's thought into pretzels, like the pre-Keppler view of attempting to describe the loop-de-loops of the planets as they all purportedly orbited around the Earth. It is possible to write a set of equations to descibe the earthly observations of the day in terms of orbiting around the Earth, but it is much much much more complicated than reality.

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Actually, today, they try to force writers to avoid gender-biased sentences like that--but in Ayn Rand's time, it was less of an issue.

Actually, the deliberate act of obscuring meaning to avoid offending people who seek to be offended is "bias". The robber fired--fired what? Whose gun? Etc.

I am not sure if you intended it, but your statement appears to equivocate between the man-made and the metaphysical. By using the word "issue", and by implying that in Rand's time it was an issue, albeit of lesser degree than today, you do not clearly state the premise.

Today, many people become enraged at the sight of the word "he". In Rand's day, people did not become enraged.

We're changing the grammar, and obfuscating meaning in order to appease emotionalists. I am not sure what kind of "issue" this is, but it's surely not one that we ought to sanction!

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Bearster, my post was not intended to be a metalinguistic treatise so I did not go into great detail. If I thought it was pertinent to describe the time Ayn lived in—which I did not—then I would have spoken more about it. I believe, by saying, “Actually, today, they try to force writers to avoid gender-biased sentences like that--but in Ayn Rand's time, it was less of an issue,” I have stated the circumstances in which Ayn lived, insofar as it is pertinent to the discussion, and how those circumstances contrast with today’s culture. If it had been unclear that Ayn grew up in the 1930’s, I would have explained. If it had been unclear that in the 1930’s liberalism had not manipulated our society as feminism has today, I would have explained that too. But they seem rather like common knowledge to me.

If, by your first sentence, you mean to imply that I have misused the term “bias”, here is the Encarta 2004 dictionary definition: “preference: an unfair preference for or dislike of something.” Considering that liberals called the gendered pronouns an unfair preference for men, I have used the term appropriately.

Edited for accuracy and clarity.

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I think the problem is not the "chauvanism" of people who use "man" to refer to the rational animal, "he" to refer to the third person, etc.  I think the problem is the frenzy of feminism today that regards such usages as an attack on the collective of womendom!

That's definitely true.

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Considering that liberals called the gendered pronouns an unfair preference for men, I have used the term appropriately.

I disagree. To use their term constitutes a sanction of their claim, i.e. that the pronoun "he" is chauvanism. It is, in fact, not bias.

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I hate to make two posts in a row, but since there has been such a fuss about editing...

I think it is obvious that I was not sanctioning the liberal case, considering that I have said that I refuse to write with those pointless gender-neutral tactics that my professors have tried to impress upon me.

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Truthfully, I am not accusing anyone of being a chauvanist, because I dont think anyone here, or any Objectivist would sanction such a thing, BUT have you ever noticed that when most Objectivists refer to anyone that they dont for sure know is a "she" they call them a "he."

So did every literate person in the pre-Women's Lib Political Correctness days when Ayn Rand lived and wrote. She also sought to be addressed as "Miss" Rand because the recently-invented "Ms." was only being used by a small, crazy contingent of male-bashers.

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Bearster, fascinating post on etymology. It's interesting how today, with genetics, people reverse your scheme, saying that humans are originally born female, and then become male by having additional characteristics. The curious part is that ther distinction is biological, while yours is conceptual.

Anyway, I've never heard the reasons for "woman" etymology, that was pretty interesting.

Also, danielshrugged makes some good points about English usage.

Ok, this whole thread is really nice.

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In the documentary "Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life," someone (I think it's Harry Binswanger) says that Ayn Rand described *herself* as a "male-chauvanist." Although he adds that she loved femininity and enjoyed being a woman.

I can't substantiate that statement, but I laughed when I heard it. Seems to be consistent with what you're saying, etymologically.

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  • 1 month later...

In my senior year at Cal-State Northridge, I actually had a professor take my grade on a paper down from an "A" to a "B-" due to a couple instances of using "he" and, most notably the use of the word "manpower" She said that the words "human resources" is correct in that case - "manpower" was gender-biased language.

By the way, the course was Titled: U.S. History 1865-Present, but she managed to make the last third of it about gay and lesbian history. Amazing.

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By the way, the course was Titled: U.S. History 1865-Present, but she managed to make the last third of it about gay and lesbian history.  Amazing.

That is utterly atrocious but all too common today. See Diane Ravitch's wonderful book, The Language Police, for the history leading up to this attack on man's mind.

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  • 2 weeks later...
The reason why "he" is the correct words stems from more than historical precedent.  Though in the case of language, a usage that goes back many hundreds of years ought not to be changed without a *really* good reason.

The reason is explained by the study Objectivist epistemology, and its theory of concept-formation and universals.

A woman is a female man.

I don't mean this lightly, or tongue-in-cheek.  I mean this in the sense that a woman is the same as a man in most respects, including posessing reason, values, the need to use her mind to identify values and to act to gain and keep them.  She is a valuer in all contexts, except one.  And this is the differentia.  In romance, she is the value gained--by a man.

For an interesting way to validate this, try to look at woman as the genus, and man as the differentia.  It can't be done without turning one's thought into pretzels, like the pre-Keppler view of attempting to describe the loop-de-loops of the planets as they all purportedly orbited around the Earth.  It is possible to write a set of equations to descibe the earthly observations of the day in terms of orbiting around the Earth, but it is much much much more complicated than reality.

I'm not following why you could not reverse this and say that a man is a male woman. Neither statement really makes literal sense; both men and women are subcategories of "human being." One is not a differentia of the other.

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I'm not following why you could not reverse this and say that a man is a male woman. Neither statement really makes literal sense; both men and women are subcategories of "human being." One is not a differentia of the other.

Man is a subcategory of human being, but it is also used as a synonym of human being.

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