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Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say, Know What You’re Saying.

March 9, 2010

I don’t like the word “random.” I feel like it’s become a cop-out word. I mean, it’s okay in its purest form, like when a lottery winner is randomly selected. But when your favorite TV show is a rerun for no reason or when someone else is parked in your usual spot or when a particularly snotty girl makes an ass of herself in public, that’s not reallllly random. That’s just unfortunate.

You know?

I also don’t like the words “mankind” “fireman” and any word that implies the other sex is not included. Same goes for phrases like “male nurse” (why do we have to qualify the nurse is a male?), “man bag” (okay, so it’s weird he’s carrying a purse, but it’s just a purse, right?) and “bromance” (yes, it’s funny, but come on).

So there are these words, right? These words that imply I’m not included because I have a vagina. And that’s a big deal, right? I mean, my sex wasn’t allowed to vote until 1920. My sex wasn’t considered a full-fledged citizen. My sex was PROPERTY. Because of our vaginas. And apparent need to weep. And our hysteria. And our fantastic breasts. And and and and and OUR INCREDIBLE ABILITY TO SPAWN MORE PEOPLE WITH VAGINAS.

But now I vote. And I have a job. And I can own property. And I can marry. Or not. And I can divorce. Or not. And I don’t have to learn to cook. And I can become a biologist. Or engineer. Or astronaut. Or doctor. Or nurse. Or teacher. And I wear pants. Or I can go naked. And I can still spawn more people with vaginas (REMEMBER THAT).

But language. Language is fundamental. Language shapes our culture which shapes our values. And if our language can’t reflect who we do and do not consider a full member of our society then what good is it?

So please. Please. Use gender-neutral language. Don’t use “man” or “mankind” or “guys” as an umbrella term. It’s not. A man doesn’t have a vagina.

Mankind implies penis.

Humankind implies HUMAN BEING.

Let’s love everyone equally, mmkay?

(And, really, don’t try to debate me in the comments or tell me I’m wrong or get me to see another side of the story. The truth is, I’ve heard it. And I disagree. My blog = my opinion = my truth. Haters to the left.)

22 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2010 5:11 pm

    Well, I was going to comment because I too am a woman and have an opinion but I guess you don’t want to hear it. Thanks for giving us your side of this issue.

  2. March 9, 2010 5:29 pm

    And I’m totally with you on the
    random. Hate.

  3. March 9, 2010 5:59 pm

    Ahh, now I get what you’re saying! I guess I’m honestly the kind of person that has never really thought about that stuff. It’s funny how different people can be. It all depends on what we’re passionate about. πŸ™‚

  4. March 9, 2010 7:14 pm

    Hater tots taste good with mustard? Anyway – this is something I haven’t given as much thought to as you have, and I’ve always been kind of indifferent about words like “mankind,” etc., but I totally see your point. It’s subtle, but it’s important. I love your passion, girlfriend-with-an-offspring-spewing-vagina. πŸ™‚

    • March 10, 2010 3:25 pm

      Thanks Doni, I think many people are blind to the underlying patriarchy of our culture because we think “Oh we’ve come soooo far,” but really, there’s still soooo far to go. Sexism is inherent to our language.

  5. March 9, 2010 10:03 pm

    Interesting post. I think with some words this makes sense – ie, mankind and firemen, because of course mankind refers to women as well and women can be firemen, but with words like “bromance” which refers to a friendship between two men, or man-bag, which refers to a…well, to when a man carries a bag, the other sex actually isn’t included. Bromance doesn’t really refer to women, and that’s fine. There are plenty of words indicating things that refer to women or imply something feminine, and why not? Men and women should be given equal opportunities, sure, but we are fundamentally different in ways, and men have special friendships with other men, or have items of clothing or whatever that are only for them, and why shouldn’t these things have names?

    I don’t know, I guess I just don’t 100% understand your point. You might be excluded from the idea of “Bromance” because you’re a woman, but, so? It’s a word that refers to male-male friendship, why SHOULD you be included? You’re excluded from carrying a man-bag, but of course you’re excluded from something that is simply a term for a male carrying a bag. I don’t call my female friends my “girlfriends”, but lots of women do, and is that wrong, if they’re just friends who happen to be female? Should men take offence because they’re excluded from being able to call their friends “girlfriends”? I’m curious as to why being excluded from “bromance” bothers you, I’d love it if you clarified it for me πŸ™‚

    • March 10, 2010 9:53 am

      That is pretty much the problem I had with this post too. However, I didn’t feel like I was allowed to post anything unless I was in agreement with the post. I was in a crappy mood yesterday and I realize now that I came across as, well…an ass. Sorry about that. That was totally not my intention.

      • March 10, 2010 3:19 pm

        Don’t worry about it, Becs. We all have those days. I hope my reply to Janie helped clarify things for you.

    • March 10, 2010 3:18 pm

      Hey Janie, thanks for the comment. You’re right about “bromance,” it has nothing to do with women. The point I was trying to make had to do with the qualifying of regular, English words with a gender. For example, a “man bag” is really just a bag, right? Women carry bags, right? Why do men have to carry “man bags” if women don’t carry “woman bags”?
      I totally call my friends “girlfriends,” so you’re right on with that.

  6. March 10, 2010 1:38 am

    I’m kind of okay with the words the way they are…of course I’m also a guy so I haven’t really ever been in the position to feel any animosity toward them. Most words that end in the word man have been adapted to have a gender neutral equivilant. But words that don’t have man/woman at the end of them sometimes need clarification.

    For instance nurse, or purse, or breast causes your brain to think female – when it could just as well be in reference to a man. That’s why I specify man-breast. Strange that that the word vagina a word that should only be associated with women can refer to either a man or a woman – depending on the context.

    I was just thinking when I was reading this that Heman is literraly just two words that mean “male” fused together…I find that weird.

    • March 10, 2010 3:24 pm

      But that’s exactly it, OG. I don’t believe words without man/woman at the end DO need clarification. It exemplifies a culture’s unnatural obsession with needing to know how a person identifies their gender. Why is that so important? So we can put them in boxes?
      Why do we feel the need to call nurses who are males “male nurses”? It implies that it’s not normal for men to be nurses therefore we have to verbalize the idea that, “Oh, he’s not just a nurse, he’s a MALE nurse.” As for man-breast… well, a breast is a breast is a breast, right? When a dude gets breast cancer, that’s exactly what we call it. Why qualify it to determine his gender? If you know that guy, you’re aware that he has breasts… so how is it necessary to say “male-breast?” It’s not. It just highlights the fact that women are “others.” We always will be.

      • March 11, 2010 2:53 pm

        We are now having a debate in my house on what a “breast” actually is.
        Is it the fat that covers the pec muscle? Thus making the word a universal body part.
        Is it the part of the body that contains the mammary glands? Thus making it a female term and in need of the “male/man” addition when talking about men?

        (we are taking out the transgender issue so no need to point that out.)

  7. March 10, 2010 5:26 pm

    Thanks for the clarification πŸ™‚

    However, in the case of male-breast and male-nurse, aren’t we “othering” men, not women? “This is just the male equivalent, it’s not the real thing.” When we say “male nurse” we’re saying that there is something different, and maybe not as good as the real thing, about a man who is a nurse. Of course I believe men should be nurses too and agree we should just call them “nurses”, I just wanted to point that out.

    • March 10, 2010 7:11 pm

      In feminist theory, the “other” is always the woman.I’m reverting back to classic textbook rhetoric. πŸ™‚

  8. March 10, 2010 6:12 pm

    I totally agree with the heart of what you’re saying (and this line of thinking is why I kept my last name when I got married) …

    A couple days ago I was talking about getting the mail and I said, “See if the mailman” came already — And I stopped and thought about how I hate that words like “mailman” just tumble out of my mouth without me giving them a second thought when they are totally sexist. Like you said, language isn’t just language — it represents so much more. When I say the word “mailman” I am imagining a mail carrier that is a man. And that is ridiculous because I’ve never seen the mail carrier at my complex and he/she could very well be a woman! It’s so hard to stop using words like that when you’ve been taught these sexist phrases from a very young age. Ugh.

    I still like saying “guys” though when talking to a bunch of people … I guess because I’m such a surfer California girl or something?! Ha. Yeah, right. I can’t surf!

    • March 10, 2010 7:12 pm

      “Guys” is a hard habit to break. I find myself using it quite regularly. The problem lies in the fact there is no plural “you” in the English language. (Southerners, DON’T tell me “y’all” is the plural you because that’s not a word!!)

  9. March 10, 2010 8:44 pm

    Doni totally beat me to hater tots. That’s what I get for being a crappy blog reader….blame the double spawn I’m currently growing because I am one kick-ass WOMAN!

    Love this post, and I love you. And I miss you. Kind of a lot.

  10. March 11, 2010 1:32 am

    haters to the left… then lovers to the right? COUNT ME IN THE RIGHT!

  11. March 11, 2010 3:53 pm

    Re: Rachel
    This is a fascinating point!!! I am more inclined to say a breast is the mass of fat that covers the pec muscle. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have words for the more medical things that lie within a woman’s breast (i.e. mammaries). However, I am sure that is up for debate.

  12. March 13, 2010 11:51 pm

    Thanks for the reminder to watch what I say (seriously, I know I’m guilty of saying ‘you guys” to a group of girls which is not really cool). This post is also one of the reasons I love you and think you’re totally fabulous.

  13. Gia permalink
    March 22, 2010 2:54 am

    I love the heart behind this post that extends beyond the words. Team Humankind, raise your hands! xxxx. πŸ™‚


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