Closing The Pronoun Gap: Study Shows ‘She,’ ‘Her’ Get More Mentions In Books (And Yes, It Matters)
10:45 am, August 9th | by Amy Tennery
Admittedly, the idea of counting the number of female pronouns in thousands of books isn’t the sexiest subject. Who wants to count the number of times the words “she,” “her” and “herself” have been written down over the last 108 years? And why would it matter?
Luckily, we don’t have to count; a new study has done this for us. And the report shows the gap between the “he” and the “she” is narrowing — and, yes, it is a big deal.
The study from researchers at the University of Georgia and San Diego State drew on the Google Books archive from 1900 to 2008 and tracked the ratio of male to female pronouns that appeared in all the texts, according to the Associated Press. The more mentions of she/her/herself, researchers argue, the more culturally relevant women are. In a sense, pronouns are the most fascinating social barometer you never thought was in any way fascinating.
The results? In the 1960s the gap reached an all-time high of 4.5:1 — by 2005, that level dipped to 2:1. People are talking about women and the numbers are there to prove it.
And, as researchers pointed out, these have far-reaching implications, showing not only the tremendous strides women have made in publishing and writing but also that folks have decided we’re worth talking about. Cheers all around.
The numbers also suggest that women may be narrowing the book gap faster than we’re gaining ground in other mediums. Consider the utterly depressing statistics for female directors, women constituted just 5 percent of Hollywood directors last year, which was actually down from 1998, when women made up 9 percent. Women had more clout in Hollywood the year the Lewinsky scandal broke than they do today. Simply stunning.