Gender-Neutral English Language
The English language has evolved through history in a male-centered, patriarchal society. The male orientation of English carries two complementary implications: being male is normative and natural; and therefore, not being male is abnormal and unnatural. The shifting of our language from masculine to gender-neutral may be awkward at first, and our children may wonder what all the fuss was about. The English language is always changing and the future will hold a gender-neutral language.
Throughout the history of the United States, men have been the dominant sex. Men have not only been the documenters of the English language, but also the creators. “Men, especially those with class and race privilege, remain the chief gatekeepers of language: the editors, publishers, rhetoricians, dictionary-makers, broadcasters, high-status educators”(Henley, 1983). The inequalities in the use of language are numerous. “The grammars of the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries give evidence that indicates that most of the names in English are used for exclusive masculine reference (Kramarae, 1981). Some argue that language shapes the attitudes and beliefs of a society, “the language has worked with remarkable success in making it possible for man to perpetuate himself as master, to foster the illusion that women are dependent, and in fact, to subjugate women. Male dominance in language may not only reflect but also be involved in the perpetuation of cultural male dominance” (Caldie, 1981). However, some say that language is a reflection of the values of a society it would be simple to blame men for the bias in the English language.
The word “man” was once interrupted as a generic word referring to all humans, but has gradually narrowed in meaning to become a work that refers to adult male human beings. Thomas Jefferson did not make the gender distinction in declaring that “all men are created equal” and “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” At this time, women were unable to vote and could not argue the language. It probably never occurred to Jefferson that anyone would disagree with this statement. Looking at modern dictionaries indicate that the definition that links “man” with males is the predominant one. Studies of college students and school children indicate that even when the broad definitions of “man” and “men” are taught, they tend to conjure up images of male people only. (Jacobson, 1995) Today “man” is used sometimes to refer solely to male humans, while at other times it is intended to include all human beings. Which meaning is intended is often unclear. Whether the intention, the use of “man” obscures the presence and contribution of women. When we use “man” it conjures up images of male persons only, not females or males and females together. Instead of “The man we want for the job” use “The...