How to avoid sexism and feminism in writing?

SEXISM = discrimination against women, especially the oppression of women by men.

FEMINISM = movement for recognition of the claims of women for rights(legal, political etc.) equal to those possessed by men.

In the past, when people referred to a member of a group containing both men and women( boys or girls) they used the pronoun he/him/his.

  • A good doctor listens carefully to his patients.

Nowadays, many people feel that this usage is unfair to women. If you want to avoid the danger of seeming sexist, you can use one of the following alternatives.

(1)  Use they/them/their to refer back to an indefinite pronoun (anyone, somebody etc).

  • Anyone, who wants to join should give THEIR name to the secretary.
  • The teacher who wants THEIR pupils to be punctual in all respects should be a good role model.
  • Any parent, who wants THEIR children to grow up properly should guide them properly.

Some people object to this usage in formal styles, insisting, ‘they’ (plural) does not agree in number with ‘anyone’ (singular). But, this usage is nevertheless VERY COMMON. And in modern English it is MOST ACCEPTABLE.

(2) Make all the forms plural.

  • Good doctors listen carefully to their patients.
  • Those who want to join should give their names to the secretary.

(3) Design the sentence in such a way that a personal pronoun is not needed.

  • Anyone who wants to go now may do so.

(4) Use ‘he or she’, ‘his or her’ etc.

  • A good doctor listens carefully to his or her patients.
  • Anyone, who wants to join should give his or her name to the secretary.

NOTE:- However, they are generally felt to produce an AWKWARD and UNNATURAL sentence. A personal advice from my side as a Professional Trainer, for the purpose of competitive examinations you may follow the item No.(4),  But for all the practical purposes, you can safely  use item No.(1). For years,( say 30 or 40 year) the major English dictionaries  such as Oxford, Longman Dictionary, Collins Cobuild, Cambridge Dictionary etc  follow the No.(1).


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