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LINGOWISE| Feminists and gender-neutral terms

Feminists have long been advocating the use of gender-neutral terms. Yet, we find it so difficult to junk these sexist terms. So for most of us women still man space shuttles, man booths, display true sportsmanship and do man-sized jobs.

india Updated: Dec 03, 2005 11:55 IST

Feminists have long been advocating the use of gender-neutral terms. Yet, we find it so difficult to junk these sexist terms. So for most of us women still man space shuttles, man booths, display true sportsmanship and do man-sized jobs. We still refer to women honchos heading heavy duty multi-national corps as chairmen; women entrepreneurs as businessmen, women cops as policemen, women firefighters as firemen, and we pay the ultimate compliment to women writers by referring to their great penmanship.

And how can we ever forget mankind a word we can’t seem to do without, and use it so often assuming it includes womankind. It’s also rather amusing how we describe women who break occupational stereotypes and enter the so-called male domains woman pilots, female doctors. We make this mistake because the pronouns we employ are usually male he, his, him without trying to know the gender of the subject.

We address all our letters to ‘Sir’… forgetting that the recipient could be a woman. Women continue to be linguistically invisible. Traditionally, many writers have used man and words derived from it to designate any or all of the human race regardless of sex. For example: manned himself for the battle ahead; man’s quest for peace and manpower.

Then are the many idioms which we just can’t seem to do without: Like, No man is an island. In fact, the opening credits of Star Trek where no man has gone before were changed following protests to where no one has gone before. The day is not far when we will hear of a gunman (woman shooter) going on a shooting spree, and those who lived would say: Man! That was close.

First Published: Dec 03, 2005 11:44 IST