instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Sexing up language

I've had it with cleaning up after you and your boozehound football buddies.

Here's what I don't get: The people who say "All men are created equal" is sexist are the same people who say "She is a great actress" is sexist. "Man" cannot be used with inclusive intent; "actor" must be. (Linguistically, I think, their rule is that "man" is always a "marked form" and "actor" never is.)

If I understand him correctly, I think Jcecil3 would say that, as a noun, "sexist" is exclusive; it can only refer to men. This because men have power over women. I'm not sure what that buys us, besides needing a word that means "is to women as 'sexist' is to men."

I suspect the key is power. What is sought by inclusive language advocates -- maybe not all, but many -- seems to be, not that women and girls be included in a particular community, but that they be included in a particular power sharing structure.

Which is fine, I suppose. I think, however, that if power is the goal, they should make that clear by avoiding the language of justice.

(Link to Fr. Mankowski's article from The New Gasparian. Particularly insightful was the observation, "The project that is termed 'inclusive language' is in fact an etiquette," and the point that attempts at "de-sexing the English Language" (to use the title from an essay from the first issue of Ms.) wind up over-sexing it.)