Re: gender bias in language

Thomas W. Rimkus (trimkus@COMP.UARK.EDU)
Fri, 7 Apr 1995 05:06:47 -0500

On Thu, 6 Apr 1995, Faybienne Geenhuizen wrote:

> The indignity of having to refer to oneself (female) as "man" is not
> sufficient to warrant annoying one's professor, who may have indicated
> (here, and perhaps subtly in his class) that he might be offended by it.
Then simply choose not to be indignant by interpreting the situation
according to the intended meaning of the author. If discrimination is
meant by the use of the term, then by all means call on it. But if the
term is used without descrimination, why spend all the energy on putting
meaning into it which is not there? Don't take the looser mentality by
assuming everyone uses the term "man" with sexist intent.

The important issue here is not whether or not a female is worried how
her professor will feel about the use of the terms but how the academic
community is perceived by the society at large. Dr. John D. OBrien's
recent post is a welcome addition to the growing realization that
academia is in trouble mainly because it refuses to communicate with
the rest of the world (remember the "meaning of gender" debate on this list
not so long ago?). While Affirmative Action seems to be making the
plight of women and minorities better to some degree, it is fundamentally
flawed because it attempts to correct discrimination with discrimination.
This flaw is being picked up on by the religious right and will be played
against those women and minorities as the pendulum swings the other way. The
better solution is to simply work toward determining a person's rewards by its
(no gender) accomplishments. This is understandable and achievable only
if the participants in the issue can get across the sexist abyss created
by extremists on both sides. One will never cross the abyss, however, by
continuing to spout the line, whether it is "feminism" or "PC" dogma of
any sort. Nor will the "recalcitrant" element of the society at large be
brought to understanding by threat (which is the emotion created by AA
in many). Academia, the supposed source of intellectual growth in society,
must find a better form of leadership than to arrogantly attempt to dictate
morality to the masses and feminism must find a better way to broaden
the minds of the enemy than by narrowing their own.

Tom Rimkus
Madison County