« To serve and satisfy: Lynn Stuart Parramore on sexist design of digital assistants | Main | Safety first (or not): Jonathan Zimmerman on ideas that offend »

03/08/2019

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

cathryn amdahl

I truly loved Tankylosaur's comment:

"Why not try the old Scottish phrase, 'Dear Sir or Madman'?"

A bit of levity goes a long way in discussions of policing sexism in language. This is not to say that sexism in language is OK. Eliminating sexism in any way we can is good. But we can not just tell people not to be sexist (or racist). We have to show them and make sure our institutions are free of sexism. Language, alas, is not an institution.


breanna mcghee

I think "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear (Insert position of whom you sending a letter to)" can also be appropriate. They are both professional and don't assume the gender of the reader. This only shows whomever you are sending a letter to that you are professional and that you are considerate of their preferences.

Carmen A.

In my opinion, the person sending the letter should research who they are sending it to. If the gender is unknown, people should address it with a gender neutral noun. We learn in school to write letters and addressing them with Dear Mr.,Ms., or Mrs. depending on your audience. Therefore, "sir" should not be used in all cases.If you know the editor is male, then by all means, use "sir". The issue should not be controversial if writers consider their audience or gender of the person they are sending the letter to.

Stephanie W.

My view is that it's easier to just use a gender neutral form of address, such as "To whom it may concern", in the first place, just to make things easier. There's much less of a risk of offending someone, and you don't need to research who you're sending it to. It's still respectful, but its much simpler.

Arielly Borges

In my opinion, we can use Sir/Madam when addressing someone in a letter. There is nothing wrong with it. If you do not know their gender, it is some kind of respect. We can also use, "To whom it may concern", which is probably the best option. It is easy to respect people and it is easy to adopt gender neutral expressions and we should use them now, because we do not know who we can offend.

Fartun Hussein

I believe that its okay to use a gender when referring to someone while writing. In all honestly I don't think it matters whether its used while writing to a group of people whereas when your writing to a specific person. Using a gender can be a way of formality or understanding for some writers and I completely understand where the confusion is coming from. Although, there are also many other ways to begin writing to someone so using a gender isn't really mandatory or needed if it's such a big deal.You can also use gender neutral phrases so no one gets offended or no misunderstandings don't occur.

Hope

After reading this article, I agree that using a gender identity, like "sir," to address someone is a traditional term that should not be banned because some people get offended. The term "sir" makes it clear to the reader that the writer is showing respect towards them. If writers end up not addressing the gender of a person then the reader may get confused and/or lose interest in the work of art. However, when the writer is writing to someone that they do not know the gender to, it would be in their best interest to use, "To whom it may concern," because you do not want to address a female as a male, or vise versa.

Daysha

“While I am by no means a feminist, I can’t believe it is necessary to maintain such a practice when other papers have eradicated this sexist attitude.” OK....... There are masculine and feminine words, and I fully support the ability for one to choose what or whom they identify as. However, there shouldn’t be eradication of a word that has a feminine equal. What happened to madame? I feel that this article is just attacking what they feel and completely overlooking the reverse. There are also other purposeful and useful ways of addressing someone without assuming gender: “To Whom it May Concern” “Superior” “Professor” “Teacher” “Employer” (etc.).

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

About They Say / I Blog

  • New readings posted monthly, on the same issues that are covered in “They Say / I Say” with Readings—and with a space where readers can comment, and join the conversation.

Become a Fan