Re: Gender bias in language

Rosemary Gianno (rgianno@KEENE.EDU)
Fri, 7 Apr 1995 18:57:56 -0500

It seems to me that there are two things to consider here.

1. Whether one uses the term "humankind" or "mankind" depends upon (a)
whether one is even aware that some people (feminists) today perceive these
as different in meaning and (b) whether one cares whether one will offend
these particular people. If you are completely unaware of the controversy
and you use the word "mankind" then of course no one should take offense.
However, if you are aware of the controversy and you persist in using the
word "mankind" then you are declaring to the world that you do not
particularly care whether you offend this particular group of people or
not. That is, of course, your prerogative. You simply need to know that
that is what you are doing. That may be what you want to do. YOu may not
want to associate with anyone who thinks that the difference between these
two words is significant. And that is what the outcome would be.

2. Both "human" and "man" are nouns. However, "human" can be used,
unmodified, as an adjective as in the phrase "human anatomy." If you tried
to use "man" as an adjective, it would need to be modified to "male" as in
"male anatomy." Perhaps this is the source of the idea that "human" is more
representative of both females and males than "man" is.

Rosemary Gianno