A PROGRESSIVE PRESCRIPTION: EPICENE PRONOUNS AND FEMINISM IN THE CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE
Prior to the standardization movement in grammar, singular they was commonly used as an epicene pronoun, only to be replaced by the male pronoun he as a generic in the eighteenth century. While usage rates for generic he would maintain a majority until the twentieth century, contemporary linguistic research shows that the use of the generic he has greatly declined and that singular they has become the most popular choice, in spite of the fact that many professionals continue to deny its appropriateness. This manuscript will argue that the scholarship of feminist linguists and rhetoricians signals a movement both in society and language that contributed to this change. Using theories of content analysis and intertextuality, data from editions of The Chicago Manual of Style, from 1906 to 2010, were searched for evidence of feminist theories, concepts, and terms introduced by major feminist scholars. The data demonstrate a marked change in the Manual's attempts to increase the presence of women in the Manual and to guide authors and editors in avoiding sexist language. Continued change is necessary as genderneutrality continues to affect policies in education, gender politics, and domestic law.