The Gender Pronoun Gap is Narrowing, She Said


A new study based on over one million texts in the Google Books archive written between 1900 and 2008 found that the “he-she” gender pronoun gap has narrowed ever since Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique in 1963.

“Those numbers are quite staggering,” James W. Pennebaker, author of “The Secret Life of Pronouns” and chair of the psychology department at the University of Texas in Austin, told the AP. “Pronouns are a sign of people paying attention and as women become more present in the workforce, in the media and life in general, people are referring to them more.”

But are people referring to them more, or are women? Nine of the 10 books on USA Today‘s current best-seller list were written by women, and around 60 percent of people purchasing books are women; all of this is, of course, fantastic. “Women have certainly increased their ‘literary output’ in the last two decades particularly,” VIDA co-director Erin Belieu told the AP. “And women fiction writers specifically have been able to achieve a large economic impact within the publishing industry.”

But just because more women are writing books about women doesn’t mean more women are writing for literary publications and magazines, or that more of their books are getting reviewed by mainstream (read: male-dominated) publications. We’ve written about past studies, some by VIDA, that show women journalists are more often than not assigned “personal” or “pink” stories. Still, more “she’s” and “hers” is a step in the right direction, and Belieu thinks we’ll get there eventually. The pervasive literary boy’s club is “very much the old guard hanging on, as they always do,” Belieu said. “But the progressive mind wins in the long ball game.”

Study tracks rise of feminine pronouns [AP]

Image via RetroClipArt Shutterstock.

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