You know the situation: when giving an example of something in a text, you have to think up an imaginary (or composite) human being. "A student of mine", "someone who", "a person that" etc. - so far so good, but what sex do you assign your example? In the days of yore, it was common to "go for the male" (a surprisingly pertinacious attribute of many languages), and for some decades now, authors have been trying to avoid this macho-biased use of language. Some do it by alternating between male and female, others consistently choose female or use the clumsy "(s)he", but these options only serve to highlight the problem, IMNSHO; it feels convoluted, self-congratulating and hyper-PC (politically correct). Which is why it is much better to create a new form that can be used to designate everyone - including the more genderfluid members of the LGBTQ+ community. There is a nice article about this on
where its author (and I'm fine with keeping the "it" for things that really don't have any sexual characteristics at all, like a web page) lists several possible alternatives for "(s)he" like ne, ve or xe; my favorite, and the one I intend to use from now on, being "ze". In the possessive, this becomes "hir" - to be pronounced [here], not [hur]. There are some small pronunciation problems in sentences at times (examples mentioned in the blog above), but in general I really like them. I encountered them last year when reading Kameron Hurley's amazing Worldbreaker trilogy (highly recommended, by the way), and they constitute a surprisingly easy and elegant update patch on your vocabulary.
As English is a fairly sexless language (keeping in character with whole "stiff upper lip" thing, I guess), we don't even have to change most of the nouns. Conductor, baker, driver, engineer - these labels just point out a person doing these things, without assigning a specific gender. There are some exceptions (like actor/actress, or "priestess" because it is still new and unfamiliar), but in general it works just fine. ("Seamstress" could get tricky though.) Other languages (especially Latin-based ones like Spanish, Italian, French or Portuguese) face a much greater challenge, as every word grammatically relating to the object (which can only be male or female) changes as well: la fleur jetée, los versos satánicos, la bella donna, a lua cheia... everything has a sex: rocks, plants, atoms. Black or white, one or zero. (This is not entirely unexpected; Ralph Waldo Emerson already pointed out in his 1836 essay "Nature" that all of our communication is derived from observing nature, where gender just happens to be predominantly binary... German even further complicates matters by adding a third sex, the neutral "das".) So there remains a lot of work to be done, as we would have to change grammar and spelling as well. Work that might already be in progress, as far as I know; but since I write in English exclusively, I'll stick to ze/hir for now. (Change your world one baby step at a time, that's me.)
Another problem women have been facing (and it should be clear that it is always the women who are downgraded, another persistent human disease) is the use of Mrs or Miss. Admittedly this has nothing to do with gender, but in a way it's even worse: the Mrs designated a married woman, and the Miss an unmarried one. (I am not sure whether this was extended to include the actual physical status of virginity, but it is somehow heavily implied.) An old(er), unmarried, woman should thus still be addressed as "Miss", instead of the "Misiz" (mistress - which interestingly enough also gets used to designate an unmarried lover) that indicates she is safely tethered in holy wedlock. (It is still customary for women to change their surname to that of their husband as a further indication of their subjugated status.) Apart from the awkward situation of having to determine how to address an unknown woman, this also put a lot of social pressure on her, as marriage (and subsequent procreation) used to be seen as the ultimate goal for a female. So, starting some 100 years ago, the English language has slowly adopted the maritally more neutral Ms (mizz) - a step forward, to be sure, but we are still stuck with Mr/Ms as the only options on the menu (just fill out any form anywhere on earth). So what if you resent a gender-fixing label? There are some experiments with Mx or Ind (from "individual"); I prefer Mx (even if it somehow implies "mix"), as the Ind again reeks of tortuous PCness.
We don't have to deny our past by publishing new editions of older works with "updated" vocabulary - this was the way people expressed themselves, after all - but for future works, it would be beautiful to include new ideas like these. Future historians will then clearly see the transition, with the emergence of a new, more fluid, genderneutral language around 2000 CE. Who knows how this (and we!) might develop? In Orwell's 1984, language is brutally gutted and maimed; undesired words are ruthlessly excised to create a heavily crippled "newspeak". By expanding our vocabulary and including interesting, even philosophical, new terminology like this, we would do the opposite: create a versatile and pliable communication device to embrace new developments in our history. Language is continually evolving; new words ("meme" being its own recursive definition here) are constantly being coined & picked up, so why not release some new Babelfish into the streams of time? Happy new year!