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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 9:07 pm 
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Shirriff note: This discussion has been split off from the "Buffalo buffalo buffalo" thread in Bag End.

I feel obliged to chide the membership about an increasingly common occurrence, in which spam threads deteriorate into substantive discussions! I mean, come on, people! :x


"Womyn" and "herstory" . . . wow, that takes me back a bit. . . . 8)

But I do think they were on to something, though it can be handled pretty well without maiming the language. Genuine exclusive language, including the often-defended "male includes female" usage, really does exclude people. I was a teenager when my church gave it up (over loud protests from many conservative congregations). I remember thinking, well, whatever—it can't really matter that much. Then, decades later, I went to a couple of services at a church that had not done the same thing. Whoa. I didn't feel as if the service was for me; I felt I was eavesdropping while God talked to the men.

(Isn't "Her-man" the opposite of "He-man"?)

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


Last edited by Primula Baggins on Wed Nov 15, 2006 5:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 8:31 pm 
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:rofl: Great thread. Was just gonna read, but Prim's comment intrigued me- how exactly did your church do it? Did they just add 'and women' whenever the Scripture said 'men'? I'm curious.

Over here, the word 'man' means only 'male', and when you're talking about a member of the human species, there's a separate word. And funnily enough, though that word is of a male gender, there is a synonym used just as frequently that is female. They're almost interchangeable, for both sexes.

So if the psalms and recitations at mass use the male gender, it's okay, because the theory is you're speaking as neither man, nor woman, but a human being. Which just happens to be a male gender word. :p Though it's okay to use the female form too, whichever suits you.

When I compare, there is just a lot more emphasis on the gender in Polish. You can't say 'I was there' for example and be ambiguous. You reveal your sex with every verb you use in first person.

Which makes internet forums a little less confusing. :P

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 8:40 pm 
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I get really annoyed with PC in church. I'm back playing with the folk group at our local church and they've changed the words of some of the Hymns!!!

"you shall speak your words to foreign men" is not the same as "you shall speak your words in foreign lands".

There were others too, and they screwed up the meter and internal rhymes. GRrrrr.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 8:59 pm 
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...and all will understand." :) I like that song. I had a chance to sing church songs when I was in Germany, and it was really fun - I could sing the songs in German because I knew them in English ;).

(Okay, so my German is terrible, but it was still fun!)

The only song I didn't know had the phrase "immer mehr" in it alot, so I asked someone later, and they said it means "ever more" It was neat to find out after the fact what I was saying :P


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 9:22 pm 
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Well, change is hard. But thirty years out from it, we're all used to it. "Rise Up, Ye Men of God" is "Rise Up, O Saints of God," and so on. Most of them work all right.

Rodia, "to all men" becomes "to all people," for example. "Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from Heaven" is just "Who for us, and for our salvation. . . ." It's rather painless, but it makes a big difference, in my opinion.

I can see the linguistic difficulties with trying the same thing in a language where verb form varies by gender, though. :P

Another thing many people in my church do is never attribute a pronoun to God: "we thank God for God's great mercy," etc. Jesus is male, but God is without (beyond) gender.

I think it may be hard for a man to "hear" the difference, because men have always felt included by the old language. But I think the change is important and beneficial.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 10:05 pm 
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I'm no man, and don't particularly care for the difference...I never saw the male form as a threat or anything. To me, the male form was the default because, well, something HAD to be.

But, language and habits change. I can see the reason to say 'Saints of God' rather than 'Men of God', but I would never have had second thoughts about including the women saints in that male pronoun.

Maybe it never bothered me because we give the Virgin Mary a LOT of attention back home, so Church didn't feel like an exclusively male institution. It's not uncommon for her to be called upon without God as an authority behind her- children will be taught to pray to 'Bozia', and 'Bozia' is nothing but an endearing form of 'Goddess'! It's like, God is the Father, Jesus is your brother, but if you have a problem, go ask Mary, cause even if God gets angry at you she'll protect you and convince him to forgive you.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 10:36 pm 
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Prim, I am with you 150% on this issue. The male form does not include me, as a woman - "man," "men," "brothers," "he," etc., do not include me and do not refer to me. It is not "politically correct" to use language that includes a full fifty percent of the population that was previously excluded, but rather, just basically decent.

I feel even more strongly about this with respect to Hebrew. I learned to say many prayers in Hebrew before I learned enough of the Hebrew language to understand what they meant. What a lot of more liberal Jewish congregations have done is to use an egalitarian English translation of the prayers while retaining much of the traditional Hebrew. I was seriously angry when I learned that what I was saying in Hebrew was not the same thing as what I was reading in English.

The synagogue that I attend has made modifications to all prayers in both Hebrew and English to be gender-inclusive (and gender-neutral where appropriate for inclusion of our trans members.) Having experienced the difference when you are actually part of the group described in each prayer or teaching, I don't think I will ever again attend a place of worship that is unwilling to make the requisite effort to include all of us in its prayers.

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Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
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'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 10:45 pm 
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I truly don't know if the language in our church is "gender inclusive".

:shock:

The only readings that are done are out of the Bible itself, and I think they use the New American Standard... I know for sure it's not the NIV, because that's what we have, and the quotes don't line up. I'll have to check on that, because now I'm wondering!

In the Episcopal faith where I was raised, I know for sure that the older style of "men" and "mankind" were used, and it didn't bother me a whit. I knew it included me. Never even wondered about it, actually.


So when Neil Armstrong said "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind", did anyone hear that as non-inclusive?


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 10:50 pm 
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I never had a problem with the male forms used in the Bible either. Though I'm not opposed against inclusive forms! I feel God's love and care for me whenever I enter a place of worship or open a Bible, no matter the gender words used.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 11:09 pm 
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Anthriel wrote:
In the Episcopal faith where I was raised, I know for sure that the older style of "men" and "mankind" were used, and it didn't bother me a whit. I knew it included me. Never even wondered about it, actually.


Same here.

I think perhaps the best thing to do is let congregations that feel they need to change the words change them...and those that don't, not to. That way, either both methods will live alongside each other, or one will win over naturally and gradually. I don't see changing the words as being progressive, but I don't see anything wrong with it- just as long as it's done out of a genuine need. Otherwise it can quickly turn into the 'womyn' thing. Wasn't there a fad a while back about always using 'his/her' when the gender wasn't implied? It seemed like the right thing to do, but got so annoying people dropped it on their own. What Prim's church does seems like a nice, smooth change; I wouldn't mind that, though it wouldn't be necessary for me.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 11:22 pm 
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Okay, let me make this very simple. I will consider myself included within the terms "man," "men," "brothers," and "he" as soon as men (by which I mean "XYs") understand the terms "woman," "women," "sisters," and "she" to refer to them. Indeed, I will eat my hat (which will require the purchase of said hat) if there is one man here who has ever identified personally (and non-facetiously) with the words woman, women, sisters, or she. And don't give me any nonsense about "man" being a generic term that refers to both men and women, because I will consume a second hat (drastically increasing the financial costs of making this post) if there is more than one man here who would ever accept "woman" as a generic term to refer to both men and women.

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I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 11:40 pm 
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But there IS no generic word term to substitute, was there ever? I understand the male form was picked because history has been mostly a male playground, and thus can be considered a symbol of women being thought to be lesser beings than men, but so many other words were also chosen because of less than sensible beliefs. I really don't see anything that wrong with it.

No man would accept 'woman' as generic. Not right now. But if you changed it and waited a couple hundred years, I bet you'd have your wish!

I think it's just how language evolved, a long time ago, and is no more an offense to women than the ambiguity of the word 'ass' is to donkeys. It's just a hard habit to shake, not a conspiracy of men against women.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 11:43 pm 
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nerdanel wrote:
Okay, let me make this very simple. I will consider myself included within the terms "man," "men," "brothers," and "he" as soon as men (by which I mean "XYs") understand the terms "woman," "women," "sisters," and "she" to refer to them. Indeed, I will eat my hat (which will require the purchase of said hat) if there is one man here who has ever identified personally (and non-facetiously) with the words woman, women, sisters, or she. And don't give me any nonsense about "man" being a generic term that refers to both men and women, because I will consume a second hat (drastically increasing the financial costs of making this post) if there is more than one man here who would ever accept "woman" as a generic term to refer to both men and women.


I generally alternate between "he" and "she" and "him" and "her" when making generic pronoun references. Including in all my legal documents.

Would you like some mustard for that hat, nel? :P

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 11:47 pm 
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Rodia wrote:
But there IS no generic word term to substitute, was there ever?


People; person; humans; human beings; humankind. In the religious context, it may be appropriate to use "children" (i.e. "children of God" rather than "sons of God") In other cases, "men and women," "sons and daughters," "brothers and sisters," etc., would also be perfectly appropriate.

You are right that men would not accept "women" or "woman" as generic terms to refer to themselves - and frankly, not even in a couple of hundred years, because the original change would be impossible to make. And I don't blame them; I am agreeing with them! They are not "women" and should not have to use an inaccurate designator to refer to themselves. I am simply saying that we should require the same level of inclusion as they have always insisted on for themselves.

To be clear, though, I think that this is one of the least important issues facing any group, whether organized religion, feminists, whatever. Everyone has bigger problems to confront, but I do think that it is important and necessary to use inclusive language going forward - both with respect to religion and with respect to everything else. (For instance, I love seeing that California laws do include both "he" and "she" where many federal laws still say "he" only.)

_________________
I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 11:52 pm 
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not something I would recommend
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dictionary.com wrote:
man
1. an adult male person, as distinguished from a boy or a woman.
2. a member of the species Homo sapiens or all the members of this species collectively, without regard to sex: prehistoric man.
3. the human individual as representing the species, without reference to sex; the human race; humankind


All sorts of words have two meanings. This one happens to refer to both a gender and a species. I thoroughly don't see a problem with that...



eta - I do think just using 'he' is wrong. It's inaccurate. 'Man' is not.

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Last edited by yovargas on Tue Nov 14, 2006 11:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 11:52 pm 
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Quote:
I generally alternate between "he" and "she" and "him" and "her" when making generic pronoun references. Including in all my legal documents.

Would you like some mustard for that hat, nel?


Voronwë, first of all, anticipating that you in particular might offer me some seasoning for my hats, I did say "more than one man here" with respect to my second offer to consume a hat. That puts me at least one hat ahead of you. :P

Second, yes, it has become reasonably common to alternate between male and female pronouns in legal documents as generics. I do the same, and many of my male classmates did as well. (Everyone else: sample sentence = "For the plaintiff to state a prima facie case of negligence, she must show the defendant's duty, breach of that duty, causation of her harm, and damages." Two sentences later, "For the plaintiff to establish a claim of battery, he must show...")

Third, though, that is not what I meant by "generic". I mean, do you consider yourself included when you hear "womankind"? Do you understand the pronoun "woman" ever to refer to you? How about, "That's one small step for woman, one giant leap for all womankind." Are you mentioned anywhere in that sentence?

_________________
I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 11:55 pm 
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I think we're hitting a cultural difference here, actually, like I said, we do genders differently. V's comment made me realise that, for example, a lot of legal contracts will use the feminine form because that is the gender of the word 'person' in my language, while 'human' is male. If a man were to say 'I am a person who believes in God' he would say it in the feminine form and never think twice about it! So I am going to step aside here because it's very possible that I've never experienced the exclusion you have simply because of how the language works.


And you're right, those are substitutes for man, though I still don't see why the word can't have two meanings, I honestly don't. It doesn't really have to, and perhaps slowly ridding it of that double meaning is a good thing... But that still leaves the problem of he and she, which I can't think of how to solve, short of saying 'it'. :blackeye:

ETA: I just realised, while 'human' is male, 'humankind' is female. :rofl: I love my language.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 12:01 am 
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nerdanel wrote:
Third, though, that is not what I meant by "generic". I mean, do you consider yourself included when you hear "womankind"? Do you understand the pronoun "woman" ever to refer to you? How about, "That's one small step for woman, one giant leap for all womankind." Are you mentioned anywhere in that sentence?


No, of course not. As you well know.

But your first culinary offer said (and I quote):

Quote:
Indeed, I will eat my hat (which will require the purchase of said hat) if there is one man here who has ever identified personally (and non-facetiously) with the words woman, women, sisters, or she


Happy eating!

In all seriousness, I mostly agree with you (and Prim) about this issue. It's a question of changing attitudes. The language has reflected a patriarchal attitude for so long that it has become largely ingrained. If the attitudes are going to change, the language should as well.

But it's a process.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 12:07 am 
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Quote:
How about, "That's one small step for woman, one giant leap for all womankind." Are you mentioned anywhere in that sentence?


But nel... "woman" has always referred to one gender only (AFAIK!), and "man", as yov points out, can mean the male of the species OR humans in general.

When I read "small step for a man", etc., I am "hearing" the all-inclusive form of the word. Perhaps I shouldn't... perhaps Armstrong WAS only referring to the male gender, and WAS only thinking that walking on the moon was a monumental moment for MALES.

But somehow, that's not the way I think he meant it.

I certainly don't mind making religious texts more gender-neutral; I don't hear it as exclusionary, but if there are women out there who do read it that way, that's something worth fixing.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 12:18 am 
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I know a few songs that use "sister" in the meaning "fellow human", just like "brother" usually does. I've always felt included by that. Depending on the context of course.

I don't feel included in "womankind" that does sort of stress the gender in a way that excludes me.

BTW, 'woman' is from anglo-saxon 'wifman' a compound of 'wife' and 'man'. Clearly not a pc word, we'd better come up with an alternative. And I have a feeling that 'female' is no better.


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