Thursday, March 29, 2012

Is English Gender-neutral?

I constructed the word-histograms for the texts of the 100 books most downloaded over the last 30 days from Project Gutenberg. For the context see my posts on Numerical Text Analysis. Here is a summary and the top 10 words ranked by frequency of occurrence:
Corpus = Top100 in Project Gutenberg

If you think that English is a gender-neutral language, think again.  
Occurrences of 3rd person singular personal pronouns

The masculine pronouns occur almost thrice as often as the feminine ones, consistently for both the subject pronouns (she/he) and the combined (after stemming) possessive (her/hers/his) and object (her/him) pronouns. The proportion of use of the possessive and object pronouns vs. the subject pronouns seems (without running a statistical test) about the same for both genders; were the proportion of object pronouns to be higher for any gender one could interpret it as evidence of objectification of that gender. 

Shouldn't this be called feminist mathematics - mathematics applied to gender studies?, rather than the idiocies and nonsense spouted by the likes of Sandra Harding? I recall reading an essay possibly co-authored by her in the late 1990s on 'feminist mathematics', years after the Alan Socal Social Text hoax. Does anyone know this article? It is a little unfair to keep attacking her 1986 book, even though her 2006 book seems not to show any increased knowledge of science or maths. Poor little kupamanduka. There are biases against girls in math classrooms in the US, and when you google "feminism mathematics" you get mostly references to studies addressing those and other pedagogical biases in math - not what I am taking issue with in this paragraph. 

For another application of  my kind of feminist math, look at my post on sexism in one professional network.

A final aside: I've been reading Amartya Sen's The Conciliatory Indian, and based on one footnote, I think that the sokaled "Project Gutenberg" should really be called "Project Diamond Sutra" honoring the first dated printed book.