Writing For Him/Her/He/She, You, and PNTS
This PI World blogger is 58 years old, gets called, “sir” far more often than he is comfortable with, and hits the “Delete” button a lot while writing a gender-specific sentence. Case in point…
The sales rep sits at his desk. Delete-delete-delete. His/Her. Delete-Delete-Delete. Her/His. Oh, screw it…The sales rep sits at a desk…
What prompted this tirade? I received an email recently with a curious line at the bottom:
Pronouns: She, Her, Hers
I stared at it for a while before forwarding it to my millennial expert, a 23-year-old daughter living in Germany, adding, “Is this what I think it is?” and then Googled something to confirm whether the sender was stating a gender preference.
Then, I went into an Archie Bunker-level rage, loudly lamenting how times have changed and not always for the better and how it was so different when I was a kid and…
Yes, I became my dad.
Born in 1960, I’ve seen things go from Father Knows Best to Mary Tyler Moore to Veep, not to mention #metoo. Social acceptance and norms are evolving and it has put at least one writer in a zone defense, constantly waiting for an attack. I have six—SIX—daughters who remind me the world can no longer be seen through the eyes of a man automatically.
Moving forward, I will try my hardest to make my writings gender-neutral. I will fight the urge to poke fun of the pronoun-at-the-bottom emails by adding adjectives to mine: “Disruptive, impatient, non-compliant.” Readers and clients tell me they gain value from my material, despite it not always being in socially-acceptable (is that the right phrase?) terms and I’m glad. I assume that means they look past the pronouns and find the point of the piece.
The only time I was “accused” of bias was recently when a printer expressed an opinion that my company logo (think: Superman pulling his shirt open) was perpetuating a male stereotype. Honestly, it never even crossed my mind until that email came in. I was trying to express sales superpowers, nothing else. I was—and am—grateful for the input…but I think it’ll stay the way it is for now.
So, gentle reader, consider this a blanket apology in advance. Each time I repeat the summary of my favorite sales book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, by saying, “You can get what you want when you figure out what the other guy wants and help him to get it,” I wince. Every column, every blog, every video has me in a content-creation bind. It is harder than it looks to generate material that suits everyone, including the PNTS (Prefer Not To Say) crowd.
What I will not apologize for is standing when a woman approaches a table, holding every door for my wonderful wife, and walking closest to the curb (so as to prevent potential water splash, you know, from the horse and buggies that drive by and hit a pothole in the dirt roads of Boston). These are lessons from my mother as well as those taught to me when I attended the University of Alabama and they ain’t changing. Sorry, not sorry.
Other than that, I will do my best. Deal?
♫ Boy the way Glen Miller played
Songs that made the Hit Parade
Guys like us we had it made
Those were the days…
And we knew what we were then
Girls were girls and men were men ♫
[Theme from All in The Family]