Saturday, June 28, 2008

Against Gender-Inclusive Language…

Can "Woman" be included in "Man"?

By Charles R Geter, June 28, 2008

In the book The History of the Franks by St. Gregory of Tours, a certain bishop at one of the councils argued that "woman" could not be included in the term "man". After some persuasion by his fellow bishops he gave up his argument. He raised a question that is useful to explore, and worth examining. Especially in these politically correct days, it is useful to determine whether indeed "woman" is included in "man".

So, what is the problem? Some people have claimed that it is sexist to use the word "man" even in the sense that is used in the Bible, such as (italics added) He said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." According to these people, such terminology is thought to be insulting to women because it does not actually include the term "woman." In order to make the translations more generic in gender, the New Revised Standard edition of the Bible uses all-encompassing translations such as 'Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.' I'm not kidding; this is really from the New Revised Standard! So, we need to determine whether "man" does in fact include women, or whether the term "man" is sexist and should be removed when referring to the human race. Should we replace words like "mankind" with "humankind"? Or is gender-inclusive language a step closer to Orwellian Newspeak?

In St. Gregory of Tours' History of the Franks, the bishop who thought that "woman" was not to be included in "man" was rebuked by the other bishops, who cited Scripture in which the inspired word of God uses the term "man" to refer to the entire human race. St. Gregory writes "[F]or the holy book of the Old Testament tells us that in the beginning, when God created man, 'Male and female created he them, and called their name Adam,' which means earthly man; even so He called the woman Eve, yet of both He used the word 'man'. Similarly our Lord Jesus Christ is called the Son of man, although He was the son of a Virgin, that is to say of a woman. When He was about to change the water into wine, He said to her: 'Woman, what have I to do with thee?' and so on". Indeed the examples that Saint Gregory gives are numerous enough, but there is still more evidence that can be gathered for the purpose of resolving this issue fully.

The earliest definition of the word "Man" (or "Mann") actually meant neither man nor woman specifically, but rather a human being or person. In Old English people distinguished between man and woman by the words wer (man) and wif or cwene (woman). The interesting thing about the word "man" is that slowly it has come to be related to the term "male" more and more. In a way, those of us who realize that it is not wrong to say "man" for mankind or all people everywhere are fighting for the older meaning that is right and proper. I know many women who don't see a problem with the word "man" being used to mean "all people". On the other hand, some women, particularly feminists, see it as offensive. It is silly that feminists would force everyone to use all-inclusive words that blur the lines between man and woman.

The reasoning that seems to be the case for "inclusive-language" assumes something that by no means has been proven: that contrast somehow implies inferiority. Proponents of gender-inclusive words argue that the word "wife" should be replaced with "spouse", or "stewardess" with "flight attendant". Even "actress" should be changed to "actor" (for men and women). My problem with these changes is that they over-generalize. If someone says "wife" you know they're speaking about a woman, but "spouse" suggests nothing other than someone who is married. Context will eventually tell you anyway whether the reference is to a man or a woman, so what's the point in hiding information? The overwhelmingly vast majority of people don't hate women. I never think negatively when I here "she's a nice girl" instead of "that's a nice person", but the end goal of feminists or any proponent of gender-inclusivity is an ideal where the lines of gender disappear.

Men and women are different; while the man is called to be the leader in the support of the family, women have the nurturing mentality that is much better at taking care of children, and of raising a family. Women in many ways can be stronger than men; if not in body, then in soul. Most women live to be older than men. They have the babies, and spend time with them at home while the man works. Implying that a housewife is somehow inferior to the working husband is silly: are the leaders of the government "more important" than the citizens? No, their jobs are different, but if everyone were a citizen, government would be chaos. If every citizen were a politician, similar chaos would occur. The citizens and governmental officials complement each other, balancing the country. Members of government run the country like husbands earn the money. Citizens take care of their own affairs, while trusting the government, like housewives spend much of the time teaching their children, while leaving support to the husband. None of this is "sexist". It's just the way we work. Pretending that men and women are the same doesn't solve anything. A woman who acts exactly like a man is just as problematic as a man who acts like a woman. The problem is not what sex they are, but whether they fulfill what God calls them to do. God makes everyone male or female according to what is particularly best for them. When someone acts completely contrary to their sex, it draws attention for a reason; it's unnatural.

A good reason that "woman" is included in the term "man" is that God made Woman out of Adam's rib. So when Eve is called "Woman", at the same time she is a part of Adam, and in that sense both of them can be referred to as man, as in "the human race". They're differences are present, but the fact that men and women both belong to the human race shows that "man" often is not supposed to be taken as "Males only, so back away all you females", but rather, "God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them." Another thing that strikes me about attacks by feminists is this: If traditional Catholics are so anti-woman, how come the next-greatest person in the entire Church after Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself is Mary, a woman? People don't get this. We respect women a whole lot. The Church is the "Bride of Christ". Is the word "bride" demeaning? Of course not! Much of respecting men and women also concerns recognizing and respecting their differences.

Truly the "gender-inclusivity" some strive for is such a silly problem. Of course it's wrong to treat women as inferior to men; to say to them, "I'm more important than you, men are better/greater/more talented than women" is a great injustice. The movement to allow women to vote was a good thing. But at the same time the feminist agenda seems to be "make women into men", and this twisted objective is accompanied with political correctness that is sickening in its restrictions. We can't say someone is a wife. We can't use the term Missus/Mistress. We can't say Chairman. Can't Can't Can't! Indeed if we continue down the road of disposing with all differences between men and women, our society's serious social problems of today will be nothing to the insanity of tomorrow. Purposefully confusing gender leads to chaos. But it's never too late to go back. Prayer can accomplish much. Let us pray that our society will once again recognize and respect the similarities and differences between men and women.

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