Heh heh. I keep reminding my daughter that the general grammatical rule, in the languages I'm familiar with anyway, is "masculine preferred." Meaning, masculine also implies gender neutral. Being a gen X or Y, naturally, she scoffs.
These are the sorts of changes that sound ludicrous at first, but then everyone sort of gets used to them. Meanwhile, the fact that there are now more women than men enrolled in universities makes me blush in shame for my gender. You bunch of wusses!
When you hear someone say "engineer" -- what's your knee-jerk reaction in terms of visualizing a character associated with this term?
A guy, no doubt. And I'm right 99.9 percent of the time, in my line of work anyway. I don't know how fast that's going to change, and frankly, it shouldn't matter. People should do what they have a passion to do. Forcing girls to love engineering is counter-productive. You can't force this sort of thing. It would just create mediocre engineers.
@Dave: Doubt a non-gender change is in the language any time soon.
I agree -- but I sort of wish we could make the change -- a lot of science fiction stories have ways and words around the gender problem -- I sort of think it's time to start thinking of us all as people rather that the many ways we divide the world into "us" and "them," one of which is gender...
re "Forcing girls to love engineering is counter-productive."
Being the father of both a son and a daughter, I'd have to say it's not so much about forcing girls to love engineering. Rather, it often has to do with keeping the world around them from discouraging a love of engineering. Of course, I'm generalizing based on their experiences.
My daughter always excelled in school. She took a programming course in 9th grade meant for juniors. She took all the AP math and science courses she could, and got As in all of them. She took physics in college and got As there too. So there was no one dissuading anything.
I suggested engineering, but she knew from way back even before grade school that she wanted to become a veterinarian. No way was I going to insist. Instead, she became a vet specialist, excelling all the way through vet school, internship, residency, not to mention at least three separate board exams.
So my experience is that girls are hardly behind in any of the academic skills, perhaps the other way around is more accurate. But it takes that vocation too. Sort of a calling, if you will. Without that, you're swimming upstream.
I grapple with the gender issue all the time. I used to di it without thinking until my daughter started making more aware in no uncertain terms. I still am not sure what to put many times, but I do catch myself about 80% of the time and actually think about it.
There is some irony in that my name "Aubrey" has become a female name in North America. This is notwithstanding that fact that it means "Father of the Elves" or some variation thereon (Shakespeare's Oberon is apprently derived from the same source.) Apparently the universe has found a way to even the balance.