Member Rara Avis
Sometimes, there are worse things than looking unPC, K. In my opinion, bad writing is usually one of those things.
There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that our choice of language greatly influences our way of thinking, and the elimination of grossly prejudicial labels helps, in at least some small way, to eliminate prejudice. But it has always been much easier to eliminate words than to change them.
Psychologists tell us that gender differentiation is built into human behavior at the lowest possible levels. Meet another person ever so briefly, on the street or at a party, and you may not later recall their name, their face, or what they were wearing or doing, but you will always be able to tell us their gender. Gender seemingly implants itself on our psyche when nothing else about a person does. Not surprisingly, then, our languages reflect our preoccupation with sex. It's almost impossible to talk about anything of substance without stumbling across gender specific words.
Should we bow to the PC movement and use awkward constructs like he/she or s/he? Not, in my opinion, if we care about the real intent behind our words. Such devices immediately yank the reader out of the world we are building for them and dilute the message we are trying to impart. Sure, gender equality is important. But you CANNOT explore two important themes without both suffering. Throwing an awkward construct into your carefully crafted words, just to appease the activists, is akin to slapping the reader up side the head.
I think we can choose to be politically correct or we can choose to be good writers, but even the best among us can rarely be both.
My mistress' or master's eyes are nothing like the sun,
Coral is far more red than his or her lips' red.
If snow be white, why then his or her breasts are dun;
If hair be wires, black wires grow on his or her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in his or her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress or master reeks.
I love to hear him/her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound.
I grant I never saw a god or goddess go:
My mistress or master when s/he walks treads on the ground.
And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any he or she belied with false compare
Sonnet 130 - William Shakespeare