Feb 122011

Congrats to Time Magazine for winning the  party like it’s still the sexist 50’s prize for the misogynist assumption implicit in this headline that equates the male gender to both genders.  Or maybe women don’t become immortal or become immortal in a different year she said banging her head.

 February 12, 2011  Posted by on February 12, 2011

  13 Responses to “But When Do Women Become Immortal?”

  1. I dunno…for some reason, “man” or “mankind” used as a generic term for the human species, has never really bothered me as a fe-male. When it comes down to a genetic level, it seems males are based on a female blueprint (blue = baby boys? Yipes!) The X chromosome is half the male gene. (There are no YY’s and even that Y is weaker than the X.) With males seeming to possess the compulsion to “prove they are men” and no cultural or psychological equivalent for women, I can see past the flaw in the language that elevates males to a higher status. There are far worse offenses we should be focusing on.

  2. Patricia, I understand your point, but I disagree. Women have deliberately and systemically been left out of history and language and that is damaging. I don’t need to prove anything, but I do need to be enfranchised. When people talk about the generic as male, I do not feel included.

  3. I understand yours as well. Our history and accomplishments have been minimized and outright stolen (f’rinstance discovery of DNA structure is a good example…) and women’s concerns are dismissed and disregarded socially, financially, medically, in the arts and personally. Mounting a language war seems (to me) trivial and is only going to invite ridicule considering what we are up against on the other fronts. I say go for the big things first, worry about the details later. (Foreign languages actually assign m/f to their nouns…the only way around that is an entire language revolution! At least English leaves the nouns essentially neutral!)

  4. I grew up in a time when mankind and man was supposed to sum it up for us all. To me, those words flow better, sound better, work better. OTOH, I do think Time should know better, and should have said “the year humans become immortal.’ There’s really no excuse for not having done so. Except, perhaps the writer came from a time, like me, where it was used, and thinks, like me, that it just flows better and sounds better.

    Mankind/man is poetic and powerful in these uses. Much more so than saying humankind, which sounds like so much PC artifice. But language must change to reflect our heightened consciousness and evolving values.

    HAHA I’m so conflicted.

  5. I appreciate both of you sharing your thoughts, and Laurie, I grew up in that same time, so I know what you are saying. But times have changed. Also, I have a slew of spam comments that I have blocked that tell me that gender ignorant language has consequences–I am considering using them as illustrations in a post on the topic–I don’t like giving these folks the mic, it isn’t productive in fostering dialog, but they sure do illustrate the damage done.

  6. As a female, this type of language has never really bother me, until you just pointed it out to me. I don’t like that men and women are all being clumped into one group and called MANkind. I can see that it is easier to say, man is a shorter word, but show some respect. If everyone started saying humankind or anything along those lines then there wouldn’t be such an issue. But then again, this is how it has been for years and unfortunately it wont be changing any time soon, but at least it isn’t anything worse.

  7. I agree with you, Fempeace. Malecentric language really bothers me. Would it be that unwieldy to use “humans” in place of “man”? I don’t think so.
    Danyelle, I have to respectfully disagree. Yes, this is how the language has been for years. But it WON’T change any time soon unless we let it be known that this kind of thing is unacceptable. Our language is evolving. There is much more of an attempt at gender-neutral language than there was just a few years ago. But, obviously, as this cover illustrates, we’re not there yet.

  8. Well I’ve yet to see this description ‘mankind gives birth!’ Yet we continue to be told by malestream media such as Time that ‘man/mankind’ is the definitive term for the human race so please tell me why the above phrase ‘mankind gives birth’ is not correct?

    Actually I have a solution and that is to have the term woman define all of humankind and then wait 30 seconds for men to rush to their computers proclaiming they are being invisibilised.

    Remember language is very important because it is used to define humankind and by using the malecentric term ‘man/mankind’ this neatly obliterates the majority of the human race. Man/mankind is not neutral because it describes those human beings who are biological males not females.

    Furthermore because ‘man’ is the supposedly default human this means women have to be constantly referenced whenever malestream media reports news which directly relates to women.

    For example: female police officer wins honour. Now if the report was referring to a male this is what the headline would be ‘police officer wins honour.’ See the default is always male and that means no need to mention the sex of person unless of course they are that inferior (sic) group female. So language does matter which is why racist insults are rightly seen as pejorative not simply words.

  9. Cross-commented at echidne’s:

    Muriel Rukeyser, in her poem “Myth,” puts it well:

    Long afterward, Oedipus, old and blinded, walked the
    roads. He smelled a familiar smell. It was
    the Sphinx. Oedipus said, “I want to ask one question.
    Why didn’t I recognize my mother?” “You gave the
    wrong answer,” said the Sphinx. “But that was what
    made everything possible,” said Oedipus. “No,” she said.
    “When I asked, What walks on four legs in the morning,
    two at noon, and three in the evening, you answered,
    Man. You didn’t say anything about woman.”
    “When you say Man,” said Oedipus, “you include women
    too. Everyone knows that.” She said, “That’s what
    you think.”

    It’s important. It’s critical to stop “disappearing” half the human race by the casual (deliberate? hostile?) pretense that “man” means “woman” too. Were that the case, we would not live in patriarchy, and the word “man” would not exist.

  10. Mostly I concede such language use doesn’t bother me much, especially when intended to have some literary impact. In newspapers and news magazines, however, I think authors and editors should be conscious to stay gender neutral when speaking of humanity.

    Specifically to Laurie, I wanted to say: gender neutral terms are less obviously PC and more androgynous today. I am more likely to take note of he/man/mankind heavy writing than I am person/human variants or the alternate use of “he” and “she” throughout a piece…use of he/she or s/he does bother me though.

    I’m still not so much offended by the use, say of “Man” in the cover here, but I don’t just read over it without a passing thought.

  11. So, doesn’t the word “hu-man” have the same “man” embedded in it? Exactly how far are we going to take this just to make a point? Yes, women have been stripped of humanity throughout the ages and it seems to be a continual struggle. Language no more causes men to be misogynistic any more than freedom of speech causes lies.
    Time may have used “Man” for brevity, but the model they used looks more feminine, so perhaps they evened things out that way. We have come a long way but it is apparent that we have a long way to go. Here we are, comfy at our keyboards with glasses of wine, haggling over minutia while girls are being bought and sold as sex slaves and brood mares again!

  12. I’m going to point out that trafficking has been covered numerous times on this blog and also that it is usually referred to as ‘human’ trafficking even though most of the victims are women and girls. Again, language matters and it is not at the expense of concern about other issues but as an integral part of that concern.

  13. One of the commentators made the comment about masculine and feminine nouns in foreign languages, and someone else commented about the contruction ‘the female police officer’. It’s worth noting that in Spanish you neatly avoid that problem with the use of masuline and feminine nouns. El Medico and La Medica for ‘doctor’, for example, encapsulates a gender distinction without having to specify a female in the role as opposed to the default of male in the role. Also, the assigment of masculine or feminine to a word depends a lot on the root origin of the word and not on any express characteristics of the object being decribed, so you can wind up with la mano, for hand, which is feminine, or la radio, which is also feminine… Ok, pretty pendandic points I admit … : – )

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