More specifically: when you want to talk about everybody’s hats, do you use the traditional masculine his–Everyone has his hat–or do you adopt the gender-neutral but grammatically dubious their?
I try to avoid the situations altogether, rewording sentences to remove any temptation to choose one way or the other. But, for the record, I think that using “their” is the closest solution we have right now. This is one of the few areas in which I disagree with my gurus Strunk and White–as Geoff Pullum so concisely rebuts them (emphasis mine):
Is it your brother or your sister who can hold his breath for five minutes?
In any case, the quest for a more inclusive pronoun in English pales in comparison to the struggles that countries with more gender-dependent languages must undertake, countries in which the words themselves exclude women by their very nature. And even the folks in these countries are making changes, so this language conservatism in English should go right at the window, as far as I’m concerned. If singular “they” was good enough for Jane Austen, it’s good enough for me.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about the two non-English cultures I’m most familiar with, Spain and Germany, and how their speakers are taking gender inclusion in language into their own hands, clunky though it may be.