Questions on: Political Correctness
"Man, having developed the ability to reason in the abstract, is spiritual by nature"
What about women?
"Aggression is not, and never has been, the solution to mankind's problems."
Why not use the more inclusive 'humankind' instead of mankind? How would it feel if you replaced the word with 'womankind?'
"Man has created his gods in his own image;" "Man has a written language..." "God is the closest word that we can use to refer to a group of certain logical principles. Man has an innate sense of these tenets..."
Women are said to be included in terms and locutions that do not mention our name, like the "brotherhood of man." Women learned the rule of thumb men provided to cope with the problem: "men," of course, means, "men and women," except in those instances in which it does not mean "men and women." To use the excuse that convention in the written language has always deemed it so, is to denigrate women in the name of custom, thereby perpetuating the wrongs of the centuries. As Mary Daly argued in Beyond God the Father, the maleness of the deity reinforces the God qualities of the male. The constant association of the language...with male pronouns and images sends a powerful message to females and males that there is something about maleness that in some unspecified way is superior to females. Women are diminished in comparison to men and must struggle to overcome an alimentation that men never have to deal with. Your website has some very important things to say about sexism. However, you perpetuate the very sexism you seek to teach about when using gender exclusive language.
Of the twenty-two thousand emails that I have received (May 2001) in regard to the website, yours is only the second one addressing political correctness. I find this quite interesting in that, since I do not make any effort to adapt the English language to contemporary trends, I had expected more.
You are obviously well aware of the usage of terms such as ‘mankind’, and so it is obvious to you that I use language appropriate to context. In a few cases, however, ‘man’ is gender-specific: “man has created his gods in his own image...” reflects the patriarchal nature of organised religions; otherwise I would have said “mankind has created the gods in our own image”.
‘Mankind’ means all of humanity, or males in particular; through context, it is defined. If someone wishes to interpret it incorrectly, then the slight is in the eye of the beholder.
I realise that your concern centres on the “maleness” of our language, but how do we deal with this? ‘Humanity’ contains the word ‘man’, as does ‘humankind’, ‘human’, and ‘woman’. ‘Person’ contains ‘son’, ‘female’ contains ‘male’.
Women can only be “diminished in comparison to men” if they wish to believe so. If masculine inferences can be found in particular words, it is only significant when it matters to someone, and it should not matter. Do you think males feel a sense of superiority knowing that “male pronouns and images” exist in our language? It is a non-issue to most people, and speaking from a lifetime’s experience studying the human mind, I can assure you that anyone suggesting a psychological influence is misguided.
Political correctness diverts people from the more important issues. Focusing on “redesigning” our language, when the only problem is intentional misinterpretation, wastes our efforts. Every woman should have the self-confidence to ignore these harmful attempts (by people such as Mary Daly) at making them feel defensive, and “less than a male”. In the greater scheme of things, males exist simply as a genetic resource, while the decisions women make, in that regard, determine the very survival of our species.
You fail to address the more direct, sexist examples on your web page, only two of which I have noted. (>Man has a written language. So do Women. and Man has an innate sense of these tenets - don't women?) Were the shoe on the other foot and all language revolved around women with the resulting hierarchical thinking, your story would change. Language is very important. Your argument that the word "woman" still has the word "man" in it is poor. The word "assume" has the word "ass" in it, but that doesn't mean that you think of an ass when you hear the word used in a sentence.
Your notion that, "Political correctness diverts people from the more important issues," tells me exactly how uninformed you are. This has nothing to do with political correctness (which is a fall back position designed to make the other party look bad - kind of like calling names.) It has everything to do with raising consciousness and awareness. It is a necessary step away from an identified (even by you) patriarchal system and toward a more equal system. This consciousness has already helped - which you should know since you purport to understand about sexism on your web page. Until women earn as much as men etc, etc., the list goes on, then people of consciousness will need to raise awareness. This happens to be one of the tools to do that. Go back and read your response to me and switch all the male words to female words. If you can't see what I'm talking about, then please do not e-mail me back.
I did not intend to make you “look bad” by referring to political correctness. I use the English language as it is defined, and by definition, I consider it an appropriate term, and no affront was intended.
politically correct (p-lt-kl k-rkt) adj. Abbr. PC, p.c.
1.Of, relating to, or supporting a program of broad social, political, and educational change, especially to redress historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.
I have used the term ‘man’ according to conventional usage.
man (mn) n., pl. men (mn.)
1.An adult male human being.
2.A human being regardless of sex or age; a person.
3.A human being or an adult male human being belonging to a specific occupation, group, nationality, or other category. Often used in combination: a milkman; a congressman; a freeman.
4.The human race; mankind: man's quest for peace.
5.Zoology. A member of the genus Homo, family Hominidae, order Primates, class Mammalia, characterized by erect posture and an opposable thumb, especially a member of the only extant species, Homo sapiens, distinguished by a highly developed brain, the capacity for abstract reasoning, and the ability to communicate by means of organized speech and record information in a variety of symbolic systems.
6.A male human being endowed with qualities, such as strength, considered characteristic of manhood.
7.Theology. In Christianity and Judaism, a being composed of a body and a soul or spirit.
[Middle English from Old English mann; see man-1 in Indo-European Roots.]
Usage Note: Traditionally, man and words derived from it have been used generically to designate any or all of the human race irrespective of sex. In Old English this was the principal sense of man, which meant “a human being” regardless of sex; the words wer and wyf (or wpman and wifman) were used to refer to “a male human being” and “a female human being” respectively. But in Middle English man displaced wer as the term for “a male human being,” while wyfman (which evolved into present-day woman) was retained for “a female human being.”
[The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.]
As you can see, in only two of its seven definitions, does it apply specifically to a male. I generally write from a scientific perspective, and the zoological definition is most appropriate.
I stand by my statement that this is a divergence from the issues that really matter. What has this focus on language accomplished? Even you consider ‘politically correct’ a derogatory term. Many people now use ‘feminist’ as a belittling expression, and I suspect if I had written the word in my last email, you would have been even more cross with me. The attempts at raising awareness in this way have backfired. What shall we do about French? Everything under the Sun is either masculine or feminine.
Obviously, we must move toward a better system, and this is accomplished through the concept of fairness. Women made incredible gains long before anyone decided to worry about supposedly inappropriate linguistics. We are trending in the right direction, but many feminist leaders are trying to impose a sense of inferiority upon women, in order to further their agenda.
WHY should you feel a need to be “equal” to a man? WHY should young girls be taught that this is their goal? ALL people should be treated fairly; choosing one gender is a narrow perspective, when there are people of both genders suffering mistreatment all over the world. I won’t accept an argument about “one step at a time”, or “one issue has pre-eminence”; we are all human beings, and awareness must be generic. As long as people adopt an “us against them” mentality, then it is a self-serving attitude; even if the “self” is an identifiable group.
In my mind fighting over semantics is trivial when most humans (of both sexes) never know a day without hunger while the Western world battles pandemic obesity; where Westerners can afford their precious designer running shoes because children in the Developing Nations (of both sexes) are used as slaves by our corporations; where our so-called environmental awareness leads to us put our toxic factories in the Third World, causing incidents like the Bhopal disaster, which killed thousands of people (of both sexes) in the most horrible ways imaginable.
I know that women specifically are subject to ghastly treatment in some cultures, and that is obviously something that must be changed. Does a "more competitive" wage for women in the United States stop the circumcision of females in African tribal cultures? Does raising awareness of male/female inequities through complaining about the structure of our language prevent some Hindu couples from killing female babies?
Men and women are not equal. Both follow innate gender-specific agendas, and shall always be different. We are not striving for equality, our goal is fairness; and fairness by its very nature cannot be applied to only one segment of humanity. “Resulting hierarchical thinking”? -- only if one wishes to think so. [back to FAQ index]
Copyright 1998 - 2002 B.W.Holmes - all rights reserved (unless noted otherwise). Quotes from ancient literary works do not carry a copyright.