From a reader:
I teach students in my courses (all undergrads) how to avoid the use of gender-exclusive language. I’ve seen lightbulbs go off when I share techniques for avoiding awkward constructions, and I think many students readily absorb the idea that their writing should be aimed at everyone, not just at men.
Here’s the dilemma: A former student (now in the workforce) has asked for feedback on his personal statement for grad school applications. His statement is chock-full of gender exclusive language–the kind of language which assumes all philosophers are men. I’m torn about whether to correct it or not. I have loyalty to this student who once took a course with me, but there’s loyalty to my colleagues, whom I may have never met, but who have to deal with a lot of low-level sexism of the kind that drives us all nuts. I wouldn’t want them to exclude him from academe but his wording could be relevant data for someone. It’s his personal statement, not mine. His wording is sexist, and although mine wouldn’t be, I’m not the one asking for inclusion in this community.
My intuition is that the reader should offer advice, not editing new choices into the document but suggesting in one’s email-reply that the language is gender-exclusive. If he doesn’t take the advice, that’s his affair, but if he does then good, because doing so possibly indicates a corrigible future colleague.