Campus Free Speech

Sarah Lawrence College Would Rather People Use Gender Neutral Language Than Follow Grammar Rules

And stop saying "avowed, admitted, or acknowledged" for some reason.


Wavebreakmedia Ltd

A set of guidelines published by Sarah Lawrence College requires staff—and encourages students—to stop using gender-specific pronouns, even when they represent the most obvious and grammatically correct way of expressing an idea.

"In an effort to avoid gendered language in this document, Sarah Lawrence College has chosen to make exception to select grammatical rules (i.e. pronoun agreement)," the guidelines state.

Administrators actually encourage people to copy and paste the above disclaimer into any document where they have violated the rules of the English language in order to comply with college guidance:

"When absolutely unavoidable, use plural non-gendered pronouns (they, them, their) to replace singular gendered pronouns (he, she, him, her). While this is grammatically incorrect, we can acknowledge the exception in the note recommended above."

Since pronouns are problematic, the guidelines recommend avoiding their use entirely. Sarah Lawrence College proposes philosophical modifications to the English language that would obsolete pronouns, like this: "Avoid conditional sentences introduced by if or when, which often require the use of pronouns."

If an administrator would like to eliminate ambiguity because singular pronouns offend some people, they should prepare themselves for confusion.

The guidelines also prohibit gendered language—mankind, manpower, middleman, chairman, etc.—even though these words are commonly understood to refer to women as well as men. Fatherhood, motherhood, and brotherhood are verboten as well.

And then there are the suggestions relating to sex and orientation:

Be sensitive about language referring to sexual orientation (not sexual preference).

  • Avoid heterosexual references, and avoid using the word homosexual.

  • Use the more inclusive LGBTQ community as appropriate.

  • When necessary, use lesbian, gay man, bisexual, transgender, queer.

  • Use transgender, not transgendered.

  • Do not use adjectives such as acknowledged, admitted, or avowed.

  • Do not use the term sex to mean gender, or the term opposite sex, which polarizes gender.

Emphasis mine. I surmise that administrators do not wish to see the phrase "avowed homosexual," which is quite ugly. But there are situations where these adjectives are warranted. For example: The college administrator, an avowed enemy of problematic pronouns, commenced his (gasp!) war on the English language.

Campus Reform asked Sarah Lawrence for additional clarification, but received no response.

The college is well-within its rights to require administrators to tie their tongues in knots. But it's difficult to abolish commonly use phrases and constructions, especially when they are more elegant or efficient than the clunky remedies suggested by the problem-izers. (Problemators? Problematons? I'm open to suggestions.)

NEXT: Christians Started the Wedding Wars

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  1. That Sarah Lawrence lady is a bitch.

  2. Avoid heterosexual references

    Oh, FFS!

    1. Any violation of these excellent guidelines should be met with police action and aggressive prosecution. Heck, using such words is even worse than stirring up controversy with unwanted “parody.” Surely no one here would dare to defend the “First Amendment dissent” of a single, isolated judge in our nation’s leading criminal “satire” case? See the documentation at:

  3. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron — they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be.

    1. They do seem to be using 1984 as an instruction manual with the goal to make certain concepts literally unthinkable.

    2. An ironic complaint given that both Shakespeare (” ‘Tis meet that some more audience than a mother, since nature makes them partial, should o’erhear the speech.”) and Chaucer (“And whoso fyndeth hym out of swich blame, / They wol come up”) made use of the singular they.

      This is of course because the singular they has actually been part of English since the Middle Ages, and it is actually the Victorian Era insistence that “they” is purely plural that is the recent innovation.

      1. While you have a point, your own quotes indicate that “they” wasn’t used as a substitute for the singular specifically, but rather for an indeterminate singular. Both the “them” and “they” in your quotes refer to people who could be a singular he or she or a plural they, but when your quotes discuss a specific person they use specifically gendered pronouns/nouns (“a mother” and “hym”). And this is perfectly fine; what’s ridiculous is substituting they for he/she when speaking of a specific person and not an indeterminate person(s).

  4. There once was a people from Nantucket
    Their gendered genitalia was so long they could suck it,
    They said with a grin
    As they wiped off their chin
    “If our ear were a differently-gendered genitalia we would fuck it.”

  5. It, it, and its.

    1. One knows not where to begin, nor endeth.

  6. How about something plain and simple, like ‘shitheads’?

  7. Administrators actually encourage people to copy and paste the above disclaimer into any document where they have violated the rules of the English language in order to comply with college guidance…

    So make sure to include that in the cover letter when sending out your resume, seniors! Let those companies know what kind of university you’re the product of.

    1. Won’t even have to waste time giving them The Snowflake Test.

    2. Yeah, these students are in zero danger of ever being employed outside of academia. This, combined with post-modernist philosophy, is quite literally the death of Western Civilization.

  8. Do not use the term sex to mean gender, or the term opposite sex, which polarizes gender Argh!!! The mental gymnastics needed to keep up with this are Olympic! Sex is male or female for plants or animals. Gender is masculine, feminine, neuter and about grammar. The day that people started to referring to their “gender” instead of their “sex” was a bad day for language. Are we now coming full circle?

    An as to “theirs” in place of “his” or “hers”, I’ve listened to this bastardization of the English language for many decades; the general is “his”, which includes “hers”. If anything, the language Nazis should be celebrating that females have their very own form, whereas guys have to share their (yes, their, since it is a plural group) pronouns.

    1. I’ve listened to this bastardization of the English language for many decades; the general is “his”, which includes “hers”.

      This is actually a Victorian Era innovation. I see no reason to shackle the language of Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Milton to calm the sex phobia of a bunch of miserable 19th century prudes.

    2. “Bastardization” of any language should not be feared or resisted. Language has always evolved to reflect social change. If some people are offended by the language commonly used, there is a good reason to examine why. Sex and Gender are evolving concepts. A “bad day for language” in your book doesn’t hurt progress for humans trying to get along without violence. Gays, lesbians, transgendered and intersexed humans share the planet and aren’t going away. We can all get along and find friendly language to communicate with each other.

  9. You know who went to Sarah Lawrence? Sewage Joe.

  10. Donald J. Trump
    ? @realDonaldTrump
    Failed Sarah Lawrence is an enemy of the people and not hot at all. Sad!
    6:41 AM – 23 Mar 2017

    1. Yeah, but a Sarah Lancaster-Jennifer Lawrence sandwich would be legendary. LEGENDARY!

  11. …the problem-izers. (Problemators? Problematons? I’m open to suggestions.)

    Problematicatizers? Or maybe problematicators?

    1. Twats.

  12. When did “queer” stop being a slur to hurl at your enemies (or buddies)?

    1. As someone writers feel entitled to lump into the “queer” category, I detest that word and haven’t given in to the appropriation yet. That’s how I hear it, as a slur. And appropriation is oversold. Yeah black people use the n-word among each other and sometimes gay people will call each other faggots in friendly banter, but none of these words actually becomes OK for liberal arts professors to use generally, except “queer.”

      I hate it for a couple reasons. It still denotes “weird,” which is no good. And it lumps gay men, lesbians, transgender people, furries, goths, and assorted straight people who want attention all into one group that is by definition opposed to the “nonqueers,” i.e., plain heterosexuals.

      It’s a binary division that I didn’t sign up for. I don’t have anything more in common with transgender people than I do with heterosexuals. We may be allies in a civil rights struggle, but I don’t see how that struggle is advanced by automatically conceding the normality of straight people.

      1. I take offense to the word “plain”; I identify myself as a taiga heterosexual.

      2. Another excellent piece of trolling!

        By sliding in ‘automatically conceding the normality of straight people’ there right at the end you subtly make us think of the term ‘normal’ and what it means as a conclusory thought. Since the majority of the populace by a fairy wide margin is straight, you’re leading us by the nose to the idea that being straight is the norm so you can then take umbrage as a gay person.

        I swear, reading your posts after I realized that you’re full of shit is a real treat.

  13. Great moments in literature, brought to you by Sarah Lawrence College:

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a [insert relationship status of a person of unspecified gender] in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a [insert relationship of choice with person of unspecified gender].

    [They] was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and [they] had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.

    I am an invisible [person]. [Author’s note: what is the intersectionality of gendered pronouns and under-privileged persons, such as black men?]

    When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, [they] found [themself] changed in [their] bed into a monstrous vermin.

    It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain [they] fell madly in love with [them]. [Author’s note: what is the intersectionality of gendered pronouns and under-privileged persons, such as homosexuals?]

  14. I’m curious if the people who object to the singular they are equally insistent on the use of “ye” and “thou” on account of “you” also being purely plural?

  15. They’ve been requiring gender neutrality in even the most masculine of publishing genres (think firefighter training) for a long time now. It’s a challenge for writers and editors, but it’s not anything new.

    I personally detest using plural pronouns where they don’t belong, similarly hate “he or she” constructions, and loathe swapping “he” and “she” arbitrarily for the sake of balance.

    Then again there are starving children in Bangladesh so it’s not the biggest challenge in the world.

  16. They puts the lotion in their basket.

  17. This excludes professors?

    Unconstitutional conditions: Has there ever been a ruling on whether the state is allowed to use conditional funding to selective enforce something it feels like, eg Title IX, without equally protecting principles that materially are constitutional rights, eg freedom of speech? “Rational basis” review seems inadequate.

  18. Isn’t there a plug-in for Word to automagically randomize the gender pronouns if you are all sensitive about that type of stuff?

  19. Is this movement happening in other languages? For example Is there a push in German speaking countries to get rid of der, die, das, dem, den, des and use some gender neutral pronoun? In Iceland are people pushing to have last names end in “?a?” (it) rather than ‘-son’ or ‘-dottir’?

    1. For example Is there a push in German speaking countries to get rid of der, die, das, dem, den, des and use some gender neutral pronoun?

      This is something completely different.

      “Der”, “die”, and “das” all mean “the”, and the one you use make no logical sense. A pencil is male, but a pen is female. Dogs are all male (regardless of whether the dog in question is actually a male dog). All cats are female (regardless of whether the cat in question is actually female cat). Naturally this makes learning the language more difficult since you have to memorize the arbitray gender of every new word you learn, so it’s not suprising the language is evolving to eliminate the distinction over time.

      1. That’s wrong. Cats as a species are called “Katzen” (plural). A female cat is called “Katze” (singular; plural: “Katzen” [not a mistake]). A male cat is called “Kater” (singular, and plural).

        Pen and pencil are both male. That’s tricky. It depends on the building block “Stift”. Not getting into that. Just know that chalk is female.

        1. “Stift” is specifically a fountain pen. “Feder” is female. And yes, you can use “Kater” (same as you can use “H?ndin” if you really want), but a generic cat is a “Katze” even if it could be male:

          1. Don’t be pathetic.

            Der Bleistift. Der Wachsmalstift. Der Filzstift. Male. – Die Wachsmalkreide. Female. “Stift” is not specifically a fountain pen. Fueller or Fuellfederhalter is specifically a fountain pen. In common parlance, Stift refers to Filzstift. Otherwise it’s roughly taken to be a catch-all for handheld-writing tools of that shape.

            Read what I wrote: Cats as a species – any “generic” cat – is called “Katze”. Do you just enjoy being redundant, or is there more to this?

            Feder is female, correct. What’s the relevance here?

            1. I had a similar thought just the other day…
              Maybe Sarah Lawrence could appeal to France to De-Gender ALL of the nouns in French?!

              Or, on a similar level, if there’s a French language class at S-L, are the gender labels in French grammar going to be illegal, or what!?

              Shit,… just make Ebonics the Language of Choice for Sarah-Lawrence and have done with it…
              oops, I mean, “haf dun wif it!”

    2. There is, in Germany. Attempts include include turning “cyclist” into “person riding a bicylcle”. Der Radfahrer (male cyclist) und die Radfahrerin (female cyclist) are thus avoided. Same for “student” (turned into “studying person”); of course that’s present progressive (pun incidental), and can be made a single word, a noun, in German (Studierende). Laws are actually rewritten to include the literary genus of both sexes, which is anything but literary genius.

      The entire undertaking is ridiculous. The sun, strength, might, beauty, love, justice, equality, and hope – to name but a few – are grammatically female (die Sonne, die Staerke, die Macht, die Sch?nheit, die Liebe, die Gerechtigkeit, die Gleichheit, und die Hoffnung). I’m waiting for efforts to make that “gender-neutral”.

    3. Heh, good point. Hennis Henniszer or some such. Would get complicated though because Hennis could originally be a -dottir or -son so both would be Hennis Henniszer, -ze, whatever Icelandic is for they ar them I guess. Well screw em they have to change a couple centuries of naming conventions and get with the program! But wait…is that cultural miss appropriation?

      1. I have no idea how they plan on doing this with languages where all nouns are gendered. I guess they could just add unpronounceable X’s at the ends, like Latinx.

  20. And then there are the suggestions relating to sex and orientation

    I’m sure they are just wonderful suggestions. **clears throat** But kindly fuck off, as I intend to say whatever I damned well please.

  21. Also, I would like words to have meanings again, instead of just whatever we “feel”. For instance queer=strange and gay=happy. I mean, I can’t even sing the Flintstones theme without sounding like a flaming fag out to “have a gay ole’ time”.

    1. You probably never got the urge to smoke a fag, either.

  22. Gender is just a social construct and “he” is not inherently gendered and does not inherently mean “male”, as it is just a social construct too, right?
    So why don’t SJWs just start using “he” for everyone and make its usage gender-neutral? Problem solved and as a bonus, everyone gets the “power of the patriarchy”!

    I find it funny that some social constructs need to be broken, while others apparently need to be respected but circumvented…

  23. LGBTQ. I must admit that I don’t understand all of the terms in this acronym. Specifically “queer”. How is a Q different from a G? It wasn’t that many years ago that Q used to be a derogatory terms, now people are demanding they be called Q? Was there some internecine fight where some angrily demanded to be called Q while other fought back to be called G? I don’t get it.

  24. When confronted with this PC nonsense can I still say “bite me”?

  25. 1) Yes, this is fucking stupid.

    2) However: But there are situations where these adjectives are warranted. For example: The college administrator, an avowed enemy of problematic pronouns, commenced his (gasp!) war on the English language.

    Given that the admonishment to avoid the adjectives is, even in this article, presented as being limited to the discussion of sexuality, how is that example relevant?

  26. It is going to be priceless when they try to describe a sexual assault or a pregnancy with gender neutral pronouns. “They was assaulted by it” “They is pregnant”
    1 person? many persons? homosexual assault? there will be no way to tell.

  27. Weird on their ‘About’ page they list the gender breakdown of their undergraduates. Are those admitted or avowed numbers?

  28. The Great Purging has long been underway by those who have the freedom to indulge in excess and over-reach.

    Such is liberal-born and has helped hugely to produce this:

    “Republicans don’t have near as big a woman problem as Democrats have a man problem.” -Wall Street Journal…..1412900814

    And this:

    “The whole Democratic Party is now a smoking pile of rubble: In state government things are worse, if anything. The GOP now controls historical record number of governors’ mansions, including a majority of New England governorships. Tuesday’s election swapped around a few state legislative houses but left Democrats controlling a distinct minority. The same story applies further down ballot, where most elected attorneys general, insurance commissioners, secretaries of state, and so forth are Republicans.”…..ile-rubble

  29. “Do not use the term sex to mean gender, or the term opposite sex, which polarizes gender.”

    Doesn’t the second half of this sentence break the rule established by the first half of the sentence?

  30. What is the correct pronoun for asshole?

    1. Not sure, but it’s synonym is college administrator.

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