IT is most unfortunate that the language most commonly used (next to Chinese Mandarin) internationally and virtually, English, is a patriarchal language. There are varied discourses as to why English is a patriarchal language. Perhaps, however, the single most convincing proof is the word "MANKIND."
The etymology of the the first root word, "man," is arguably traceable to the Sanskrit word "manu" that means human or 'thinking creature,' which should supposedly indicate the gender neutrality of "mankind." However, the fact is that "man" has come to refer to an adult human male (and "woman," its opposite female), with the original neutral term/meaning having been replaced by other terms such as "person.'
In other words, the word "mankind" literally means 'the kind/tribe/totality of men' and to make it mean 'the collective human race' is to stretch its literal meaning in a rather sexist fashion. Moreover, a dated definition of "mankind" exactly means just that--you guess it--"men considered collectively, as distinct from women."
For today's observance of International Women's Day, it should perhaps be fitting if English-language users become more conscious of using non-sexist words and pronouns when referring to humankind or to people in general. Let us say "s/he" instead of "he" when referring to an unspecified individual of either sex. Let us write "people," instead of "men," when referring to human beings in general. Let us type "human" instead of "man" when referring to an unspecified person of either sex. Let us utter "humankind" instead of "mankind" when referring to the collective race of homo sapiens. Let us use "s/he," "people," "human," and "humankind" when referring to either woman or man in order to help stop the sexism in language, or the sexist use of English.
There is this Whorfian perspective that language casts power over people's perception. A feminist version of this hypothesis presents how the view of the world by women [and men] has been entirely dictated by patriachal language from the start.
And why not? Recent studies in psychology point to some truth behind the ancient Gaelic proverb--"If a man loses his language he loses his world." That language plays some role in molding human thought are now being proved by science:
"In studies where subjects identify colored patches, language-processing brain areas are activated long before decisions are made, suggesting that these areas of the brain are directly involved in perceptual decisions."
By consciously using the available neutral or more neutral words in English, we can help effect a world that is more gender-egalitarian and, thus, less unpleasant in humanitarian terms.
Using non-sexist language is, of course, politically correct. Moreover, it is LESS biologically incorrect. Using male words as the default when referring to people in general is actually antithetical to human biology. It should be noted that FEMALE is the default in humans--as reflected in the double in "XX" chromosome of females (a defective/non-present Y chromosome automatically leads to a female human embryo).
Thus, if we even want to be just a wee bit scientific and true to human nature, sexist, patriachal words should be out and word choice be more neutral.
It is rather delightful how my native tongue, Tagalog (Filipino) presents no such sexist language issue. There is no literal (without regard to the supposed encompassing definition) translation for the word "mankind" into Tagalog. The encompassing "humankind" translated to the gender neutral "sangkatauhan." This is not surprising at all if one considers how pre-Spanish, pre-Islam society of the Philippines presented uncanny gender equality.
*Note, however, that because of Spanish influence re gendering of personal nouns, male citizens of the Philippines are referred to as Filipinos (Pilipino) and the females, Filipinas (Pilipinas), with the former being the default. Note further, though, that our country name was given by Spain.
Photo art: Jesusa Bernardo
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