Grammar, Poor Editing, Pronoun/Antecedent, Sexist Language

My Female Doctor in “His” Room


This is the second of three errors I found while waiting for my doctor, who, as I mentioned in my earlier post (click here for a reminder), was female.

So you can see why I couldn’t help snapping a picture of this sexist note.

“Please ask your doctor while he is in the room.” I don’t know what I would have done if I had needed a work note and had to ask my female doctor for it while “he” was in the room. I might have looked oddly at her and wondered curiously if she really was, in fact, female. I also might have questioned the legitimacy of the clinic; did this clinic require all its female doctors (there are several) to partake in a sex change so that the pronoun use on the notice was accurate? That’s quite doubtful.

I like to give writers the benefit of the doubt; I try to avoid assuming that every perceived error I find is, in fact, wrong. I usually run through all the possibilities that would make an error correct (e.g., “The Sisters Brothers“). But I think it is probably safe to say that this notice indubitably contains an error. I don’t think my doctor had a sex change, and the other female physicians probably didn’t, either.

A better way to write this, then, would be “. . . please ask your doctor while he or she is in the room. . . .”

There. Now all the doctors in the clinic — both male and female — are accounted for.


2 thoughts on “My Female Doctor in “His” Room”

    1. I agree, Tony. That would make it much better. I try to avoid the “his or her” construction whenever possible. Thanks for the suggestion!

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