Vanished messages on an old thread

Subject: Vanished messages on an old thread
From: "NIVA Inc." <NIVA -at- MAGI -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 10 Jan 1997 11:31:21 -0500

Please excuse the revival of a discussion that was occurring before Christmas, but I sent the following two messages at that time, and I think that they were turfed out because of the spamming rule. (We have several e-mail addresses, and I sent these *not* from the account that we use to subscribe to the list.) As I feel pretty strongly on this subject and did not see these thoughts voiced by other members, I'm resending. Thanks for your patience. AFB

*************************start message 1

>Regarding the protracted discussion about the suffix -man between, variously,
>Stephen Victor, David Dvorkin, Eric Haddock, and others....

IMO, etymology and neologisms are beside the point.

Do we not all agree that words have *power*? (We all exercise a profession that suggests we believe in the power of words.)

Can we not all agree that words have a *charge* (positive, negative, neutral)? (Would you rather sniff a *odor* or an *aroma*? Why do you think the term *ethnic cleansing* was coined?)

I would suggest that, while some proponents of PC-ness have gone way too far in ascribing *motives* to users of the -man suffix, the use of that suffix has, in fact, perpetuated gender bias through the subtle power it exercises over all our mental processes (which, in normal humans, has been clearly shown to be intimately tied to language). Until gender bias is reduced or eliminated in everyday language usage, I personally do not believe that such bias will be able to be eliminated in societal behaviour.

A couple of years ago, I edited a text dealing with drug research. It persistently spoke about "drug trials in man", which I changed to read "drug trials in humans". The text came back twice with "man" reinstated before I won my argument with the authors. You may or may not be aware that science is beginning to find that the results of many drug trials are significantly altered depending on the gender of the subjects. Furthermore, nearly all drug trials in the past, and many today, use[d] only male subjects. Some women have paid a heavy price (death, disablement) for this lack of research on their bodies' reactions to drugs. Maybe the researchers would think harder about this issue if their texts reflected the reality of the world (two genders)?

While this is an extreme example, conversion to gender neutral terms, when approached with reason (I have no problem with male/female connectors, for example; but I prefer "chair" for the individual presiding over a meeting), is *vital* to a society that is moving in the direction of accepting and encouraging the participation of all its members. And as communicators, I believe that we should be doing everything we can to encourage inclusivity.

*****************************end message 1 / start message 2

> On 20 Nov, Amos Jessup wrote:
><snip> hypersensitivity to anything related to gender is a useless
> and overblown pursuit <snip>

Hypersensitivity, yes. Sensitivity, no way!

> As an offering, consider the following from the American Heritage Usage
> Panel: <snip> 66 percent of the Panel (including 57 percent of the women
> and 71 percent of the men) accepts the word manpower in the sentence:
> *Countries that do not permit women to participate in the work force are
> at a disadvantage in competing with those that do avail themselves
> of that extra source of manpower.* <remainder snipped>

What a lack of imagination in that 66 per cent! How about: "Countries that prohibit women from participating in the work force are at a disadvantage in competing with those that avail themselves of the entire labour pool."?

***************************end message 2

Ann Fothergill-Brown
Senior Editor
Canada's Leading Documentation Firm
mail -at- niva -dot- com

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