Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 18 Nov 1996 to 19 Nov 1996

Subject: Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 18 Nov 1996 to 19 Nov 1996
From: Ginna Watts <gwatts -at- PIM -dot- BC -dot- CA>
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 1996 09:03:31 -0800

Amos Jessup said among other things, (including a dissction of the origin
of 'man' and 'woman'):

> * A related set
> of problems is raised by the use of man in forming the names of
> occupational and social roles such as businessman, chairman, spokesman,
> layman, and freshman, as well as in analogous formations such as
> unsportsmanlike and showmanship..... Several strategies have been
suggested for replacing the
> categorical use of compounds formed with man. Parallel terms like
> businesswoman, spokeswoman, and chairwoman are increasingly used to refer
> to women. Also in use are common-gender terms coined with person, such as
> businessperson, spokesperson, and chairperson. For occupational titles
> ending in man, new standards of official usage have been established by
> U.S. Department of Labor and other government agencies. In official
> contexts terms such as firefighter and police officer are now generally
> used in place of fireman and policeman. *

Okay, outside of the etmology of the word, there are other things at play.
I wrote a paper in psychology in college on this very subject. In several
studies, they discovered that even though test subject accepted the
definition of 'man' being gender neutral, nearly all the particpants
described a verbal picture of a man in various situations.

That is, the test asked people to describe a setting with a chairman, a
policeman, a business man etc. Nearly all the participants (both men and
women) described a man, even though they *agreed* that it could be a woman.
When given true gender neutral words (chair, police officer, manager
etc.They did not use contrived '-person' constructions) and asked to
desribe the scene, women nearly always desribed a woman, men a man. The
study concluded that the word 'man', while inclusive according to the
dictionary, was actually not. I don't care if a 'panel' has accepted it,
the use is quite insidious.

Besides, our language is constantly shifting. It may sound 'needlessly
politically correct' now, but I think our kids will grow up using
completely gender neutral language, and it won't sound strange at all.

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