Re: gender bias in language

Matthew S. Tomaso (Tomaso@MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU)
Fri, 7 Apr 1995 14:32:24 -0500

Thanks to Valerie Samson for her interesting reply. I have no comment on
the ethnomusicology information, being that I am thoroughly undertrained in
that field. However, the only substantive disagreement we seem to have is
in the first paragraph of her reply. Here is my response:

At 07:41 AM 4/7/95 -0700, Valerie Samson wrote:

>On April 5, Matt Tomaso remarked:
> I think it might be instructive to try to imagine what
>>issues feminists, generally (both men and women), will be excluded from if
>>they (we) dislike the use of the word 'mankind'.
>Self-limitation and self-exclusion result from not tolerating other
>people's use of words. You can exclude yourself from whatever issues or
>discussions you like (or dislike). And to the extent that you are
>preoccupied with subject "A" (redefining terms), your attention cannot be
>engaged in subject "B" (anything else).

well, I'm afraid I have either missed something or this is simply an
over-statement. As Langdon implies in his earlier posts, it is quiet
possible to understand what is meant by an interlocutor using the term
"mankind" inlcusively, without becoming paralysed and obsessed with making
the correction to 'human'. I do, in fact communicate with a few people who
habitually do this - interestingly - one of them is a youthful 65-70 year
old male professor who grins at me every time I correct him. I think that
the idea that my attention can not be engaged in "anything else" because of
my "preoccupation with . . . redefining terms <sic>." is a little much.
Rhetoric and discourse, little substance...

1. Why is the use of the term "human" to mean "human" considered revisionist?
(and how's that for a rhetorical question?)

2. In what sense do you mean 'tolerate' in the above? I don't hit people
or even call them sexist, I just repeat what they said with different words
- loudly enough for them to hear it!

Matt Tomaso, Human.

University of Texas at Austin.