The UVic Writer's Guide


Generic Man


The word man is ambiguous; it can mean either human being or male human being. As a generic term, it has led to the misrepresentation and exclusion of women; it is also likely to lead to such odd remarks as this one from a student essay:

"It is later in the story that Jane Eyre faces the final type of conflict: man against himself."

Examples and Some Alternatives:

Man
humanity, humankind, men and women, individuals, people.
(The use of the terms "individual" or "person" leads to problems involving the use of the generic masculine pronoun. )
Mankind
humanity, humankind
Primitive man
primitive peoples, primitive men and women, primitive humans
Man-made
synthetic, hand-made
Chairman
chair, chairperson, co-ordinator, moderator.
(Don't use non-parallel terms such as chairman for men and chairperson for women.) Note that the policy of the University of Victoria is to use chair.
Workman
worker
Businessman/woman
business executive


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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated May 13, 1995