Re: gender bias in language

Lief M. Hendrickson (hendrick@NOSC.MIL)
Sun, 9 Apr 1995 20:50:56 PDT

On Apr 9, Denise O'Brien wrote:

> Just after sending this to Lief, I decided I wanted to broadcast it
>more widely and so am posting it to the list as a whole. Those of you
>who agree with Lief (and I know you're out there -) ) consider yourselves
>included in the salutation. Cheers....Denise O'Brien

I think maybe Denise wants to "broadcast" something more than she wants
specific answers. However, here's a couple:

> Would you continue to call a category of Americans
>"nigger" rather than "African-American" simply because the former term had
>etymological and historical significance/validity?

I personally try not to use either of the above terms. It seems
rather inaccurate to call a person an "African-American" when, in some
cases their families may have been in "America" for more than half a
dozen generations. Seems to me they're just as "American" as most
others. (This is not intended to get into the past thread of what is
meant by "America", i.e. the different countries that are in North,
Central, and South America. We've discussed that separately.) Are
you signifying current affiliation with one of the countries in
Africa? Do you refer to a second generation European as a "Euro-
American"? Do you refer to a person with red hair as a "red-haired"

>American female natives keep telling you they don't
>want to be called "man" or referred to as "mankind"-----HEY, LISTEN!!!

Sorry to disappoint you, but I don't regard Denise O'Brien as the
spokesperson for all "American female natives" (whatever that
signifys. Does "mankind" now refer to males and non-native non-
American females? Hmmm... this is not good.) I know plenty of
females in the U.S. who do not feel excluded by the word "mankind"- as
covered already. As I've stated, I personally don't object to use of
other words such as "humankind". You may find me doing so, and that
doesn't have any particular significance to this issue. However, if
words such as "mankind" are used by me or anyone else, I object to
coercive redefinition of the word. If you've been taught to abhor
hearing the word, I suggest you stop listening. I suspect that's what
you've already done with much of what other people say when they don't
share your viewpoint. As far as your dictating to me how to refer to
you, I guess it's not an issue because you're perfectly free to
exclude yourself all you want.

Hey guys (BTW it was generally agreed on the list that "guys" is
gender-inclusive. Check past posts), deja vu! We were in the midst
of a gender in language thread last Dec. when I was getting ready to
leave for a ski trip, and guess where I'm going now. I hear the snow's
pretty slushy. With all the warmth, maybe I'll be all thawed out (and
thought out!) when I get back. If you insist on prolonging this a
little longer, I do have one more day but may not be able to say
much. Then I've off for a break. Hopefully, better topics will take
over the discussion, and I'll get back to the back of the room where I
can sit and listen.