He, She, It

Foro got his name from a typo. My German speaking friend wrote “Foro” instead of “Foto” and I asked, ‘What’s a Foro, a female toro?’ And my little friend the stuffed cow was christened.

I still use “he” to talk about Foro, but he is not a he, nor a she. This “he” seems to me the easiest way at the moment to deal with pronouns in English in a world where people feel more and more free to choose what gender they feel comfortable with.

In Sweden, they have added the pronoun “hen” as a gender neutral pronoun, to offer a choice between hon (“she”) and han (“he”). It’s sort of like a “one” in English, as in “one thinks” but without the pretension of “one”. People in Sweden seem to like it and it’s gaining ground.

In English, however, we’re not going in the direction of adding a word to clear up the issue. People easily say ‘Hi guys’, although there might be women in the group, or even only women. But “guys”, for me, just means people, just as when we talk about “man” or “mankind” we are including men and women. I am a woman, but I am also part of “mankind”. I don’t feel like this reduces me. I don’t believe “mankind” defines only men and not women.

As an analogy, we use the general word “deer” that includes all the cervidaes. Moose are deer. Elk are deer. An elk is not diminished by being called a deer, or part of the deer family. I’m wondering if we can manage the same thing for “he”? Can we enlarge the use of “he” to mean “he + other genders options known to mankind” and “she” only when it’s someone who’s chosen to be female? In the end, we could eliminate “she” altogether and just make “he” all inclusive; “he” as in “mankind”, “humanity”, us as a species.

This is still messy, but better than writing “he/she/it”. In any case, Foro agrees with me. I kind of feel bad for him not having a gender, although an anatomically correct stuffed animal — male, female, or any other option — would be really weird.


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