I’m not well-versed enough to be able to comment intelligently on this piece from NPR about the use of a gender neutral pronoun, though I’m fascinated by it. Apparently, middle and high school aged students in Baltimore are using the word “yo” as “he” or “she,” even when they know the person’s gender. From the article:
So Troyer began to study her students. She gave them blank cartoons and asked them to fill in the captions — many of the cartoon characters were androgynous.
Troyer found the kids used “yo” instead of “he” or “she” when they didn’t know the gender of the character. But they also used “yo” as a substitute even when they did know the gender.
“They said things like, ‘Yo put his foot on the desk.’ So it was clear from this that they knew it was a male person, but they were just using ‘yo’ to refer to the person,” says Troyer. “And then in other sentences they would use ‘yo’ to refer to a female as well.”
On feminist blogs, I’ve read a lot of “hir” or “ze” or similar. But these have always been used by people who are very aware of what they are writing, if that description makes sense. The fact that “yo” is used so frequently by mainstream Baltimore kid suggests, according to the piece from NPR, that the students “have a view of the world that is, in many ways, gender neutral.”
Meanwhile, with me, what’s been bugging me for years was an article I read about male v. female speech patterns. Unfortunately, I can’t find anything about it online now. From what I remember, women are more likely than men to speak in less certain terms, using terms like “maybe” or “I think” or to just sound less definitive. I remember thinking two things when I read it: (1) I need to cut that shit out when I’m doing legal writing. I need to sound definitive. And (2) I wonder how many women were denied their right to an attorney because of this.
Under the 6th Amendment, we have the right to an attorney in a criminal proceeding and even during an investigation. But the police aren’t going to just give it to us. We have to ask for it. And we have to ask for it clearly and unequivocally.
[I]f a suspect makes a reference to an attorney that is ambiguous or equivocal in that a reasonable officer in light of the circumstances would have understood only that the suspect might be invoking the right to counsel, our precedents do not require the cessation of questioning.
From Davis v. United States, 512 U.S. 452 (1994). Thus if a suspect says “I think I might need a lawyer,” that might not be enough to make the questioning stop.
It scares me how easily women might be denied this right just because of how we were raised to speak.