"man" "woman" terminology

Subject: "man" "woman" terminology
From: ENG396AK <eng396ka -at- EXPERT -dot- CC -dot- PURDUE -dot- EDU>
Date: Tue, 2 Nov 1993 08:53:28 EST

Corinne Stefanick says

What do we think about "All men are created equal...."? They really didn't
> mean ALL men and they surely didn't mean women at all when talking about who
> has the right to own land and vote! I'm afraid I bought the notion for many
> years that "men" was a generic term for all of us until I learned
about women's suffrage battles that had to be fought for 50 years.

> Whether we like it or not, "men" doesn't mean all of us.

I was going to let the "man" "woman" terminology discussion slide
because I'm tired of pointing out the point you made very well in the
above post.

Historical/etymological arguments such as "I was taught that 'man' means "all
humans" or "that's the way the Germans did it" and the suggestions
that "'man was fine until recently'" ignore the historical power plays
which surround the acceptance of any language usage. Your example
brought that aspect of language home. It also reminded me that even though
I'm tired of explaining why "man" is not acceptable as a generic/universal
term for "human" and why using "man" as such excludes many women, I
shouldn't give in to my weariness. The point that "man" is not a
universal term is well worth making time and time again.
Some people may not be able understand that point,
being satisfied with a certain sense of language's political
innocence, but others may have not understand the political nature of
the "universal" masculine, a point your example, as I've said, make
clear. Thanks for that post. Sorry I chose to ignore the issue previously.

Kim Ballard
Dept of English
Purdue University
ballardk -at- mace -dot- cc -dot- purdue -dot- edu

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