I’m in law school now, and I haven’t had nearly as much to say about it on this here blog as I thought I would have. I hope to change that, but meantime, one general observation that has made a big impression: Remember when all general pronouns were male? “So the owner, whoever he may be, must take responsibility for keeping the fences in repair.” “Anybody who wants it can have the old couch, provided he will come pick it up.” Or if you wanted to get fancy, usually in writing, you could use the cumbersome “he or she” or “his or her.” “A parent must pick up his or her child by 3:00 each day.”
But people made a fuss, because it’s easier to type one pronoun instead of two pronouns and a conjunction, and it’s sure as hell a lot easier to SAY only one pronoun, so that’s what most people did, so people, womyn and otherwise, fussed. I never really have been in an environment where people took the fussin’ seriously, though. Until now.
Law professors and law textbook authors are very conscientious about this. One of my professors uses at least 90% female general pronouns; the rest, as far as my unscientific observation extends, do a more equitable split. The law books are 50/50ish as well. And I’ve discovered the downside: Sure, ladies, we’re now the doctors and lawyers and federal judges. We’re also the criminals, thugs, overbearing cops, and really bad attorneys being sued for malpractice.
Men used to pay for being the pronoun of general use by being ALL the pronouns of general use, whether somebody was talking about an upstanding homeowner or a nasty loan shark. Innocent victim or accused heinous criminal. Awesome attorney or lousy lawyer. I find it gives me the twinges when my criminal procedure professor talks about a horrible crime in terms of what the accused told the police: “And she asked for a lawyer, but not till after she confessed.” Ugh.
I prefer the old way. We all knew it could most likely just as easily be a she as a he, but we didn’t have to hear females discussed as criminals and screwups in cold blood. Darn you, fussin’ feminists.