Degender the Web - a Chrome extension
What if English had no gender pronouns? Inspired by Farhad Manjoo's essay It's Time for 'They', Degender the Web is a Chrome web browser extension that replaces gendered personal pronouns on most Web pages with "they/them/their".
Degender the Web is both a thought experiment and a behavior change support system. When you install it, you will see how the singular "they" can function as a universal pronoun. As you use it over time, you should become more comfortable with the singular "they" in reading, writing, and speech.
Text that you write or edit, e.g., in a form or on Google Docs, will not be modified. Show what was changed or restore the original text with the click of a button.
Contributions from the community are welcome. Please use this anonymous Google Form to share your feedback:
- if you identify a web page or site on which this extension should not run;
- if you identify situations in which the singular pronoun 'they' is conjugated incorrectly (but first note known issues);
- if you encounter other unexpected behavior (bugs) while using this extension;
- if you have suggestions for additional features;
- if you have positive feedback to share.
If you would like to be invited to participate in a future study evaluating the effectiveness of Degender the Web, please give us your email address.
To learn more about using the singular "they", read some of the following contributed links:
- Understanding Non-Binary People: How to be Respectful and Supportive - A very concise guide provided by the National Center for Transgender Equality.
- What is the Singular They, and Why Should I Use it? - An accessible introduction from Grammarly.
- Singular 'They' - On Merriam-Webster's list of "words we're watching."
- Even A Grammar Geezer Like Me Can Get Used To Gender Neutral Pronouns - How? By practicing!
- Why We Should All Use They/Them Pronouns - An argument for the stronger claim that we should do away with gendered pronouns altogether.
- Actually, We Should Not All Use They/Them Pronouns - A response to the above, by "a mix of queer, nonwhite, non-American, bicultural, trans people."
- Pronoun Privilege - An essay on pronoun use in the classroom.
- They Is My Pronoun - "TIMP focuses on actually using singular they in real life, and on enabling the choice to use gender-neutral pronouns for yourself or for others."
For a review of technology designed to influence language use, see this prior work:
Emma Twersky and Janet Davis. "Don't say that!" An analysis of persuasive systems in the wild. In de Vries, P.W., Oinas-Kukkonen, H., Siemons, L., Beerlage-de Jong, N., van Gemert-Pijnen, L. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Persuasive Technology (PERSUASIVE 2017), Amsterdam, The Netherlands, April 4-6, 2017. Springer, LNCS 10171, pages 215-226.
The fine print
This extension runs the risk of misgendering persons, both trans and cis, who have stated their use of "he/him" or "she/her" prounouns. Though it can never be eliminated entirely, several design features will aim to mitigate that risk. In particular, the extension does not alter personal pronouns on pages that
- include a personal pronoun specifier, such as "he/him" or "she/her";
- include the word "gender" in the page text, suggesting that the page may address gender as a topic.
Other potential mitigation features are currently documented as issues and will be documented here when they are implemented.
A few domains are excluded from this extension due to technical incompatibilities.
Thanks to Kristen Peter Mork for sharing Farhad Manjoo's essay. Thanks also to Sarah Peterson, Ellie Poley, and Syd Ryan for contributing to the links listed above. Thanks to all for conversations about this project.
This work is supported by Whitman College and the Microsoft Chair in Computer Science. Thanks to Gillian Frew for assisting with media strategy.
This Chrome extension is inspired by earlier text replacement extensions such as Honest.
Additional acknowledgments will be added as permissions are obtained.