Subscribe to The Chicago Manual of Style Online
Usage and Grammar
Q. I’m editing a translation of an ancient Chinese text, the Dao De Jing, which is largely concerned with describing the ideal “Daoist sage ruler.” The translator has chosen to use the generic masculine pronoun because in the historical context of the text, rulers were exclusively men. (For instance, “Of the best of all rulers, people will only know that he exists.”) I’m inclined to accept this argument, but should I be concerned about gender bias?
A. Although most of us are rooting against gender bias, it probably doesn’t help to write it out of our history. If you’re concerned about the effect the language will have on impressionable readers, work with the translator to include a note about gender issues in that historical context.