Friday, August 14, 2015

Gender Neutral Language

Yesterday as I wrote about my marriage anniversary, I thought about my use of the word "spouse."  I've gotten interesting comments through the years about my use of that word.  Some people seem to find it offensive.  Some people suspect that I'm hiding something.  Some people wonder why it matters, since I refer to my spouse with male pronouns--why not use "husband"?

I've been using gender neutral language when I can since the 1980's.  I was an English major, and I really believed that if we made our language more gender neutral, we'd make our society give women more opportunities.  I also had similar beliefs about the gender neutrality of God language.

I could argue that we've been successful.  I could smile fondly at the language activism of my young self.

I thought about refusing to get married until my gay and lesbian friends had the same opportunities.  But honestly, I never thought I'd see that day in my lifetime.

I didn't have my marriage-should-be-sacrament ideals then.  On the contrary, I thought marriage was a trap, a tool of patriarchal culture.  I can still make a case for that view, especially for women who have children. 

But we've made progress in that area.  We still have a distance to travel, but at least it's not legal to rape your wife any more, the way it was when I got married in South Carolina in 1988.

I still like the idea of gender neutral language for all the reasons that I did when I was younger.  I think if we can make all of our language, not just marriage language and God language, more gender neutral, life will be easier for our transgendered brothers and sisters--and easier for us all.

I'm an English major at heart, after all.  I believe that our language shapes us in ways most of us are hardly aware of.  I believe that God calls us to create a more egalitarian society, and a place where we can all start is with the words that come out of our mouths and our pens (or fingers, as the case may be).

2 comments:

John Flanagan said...

Oh my......such nutty thinking today. I suppose the progressives, forever unhappy and in love with their own restless inner selves, would be more than happy to go back a few thousand years and rewrite most of the old literature in a way which reflects a gender neutral theme. Oh how delightful it would be to reinvent the world into the post midernist vision. Our descendants could read the Bible, a revised version of course, and references to God the Father, or the Trinity, could be shaped so ambiguously by some progressive writers it would be hard to determine if there was ever a male or female component to literature. Well....we have come a long way, haven't we? Now we are reduced to the theater of the absurd, and dare I say, thanks to social media and Internet bloggers, the most silly things are shared and the most peculiar ideas advanced.

John Flanagan said...

Oh my......such nutty thinking today. I suppose the progressives, forever unhappy and in love with their own restless inner selves, would be more than happy to go back a few thousand years and rewrite most of the old literature in a way which reflects a gender neutral theme. Oh how delightful it would be to reinvent the world into the post midernist vision. Our descendants could read the Bible, a revised version of course, and references to God the Father, or the Trinity, could be shaped so ambiguously by some progressive writers it would be hard to determine if there was ever a male or female component to literature. Well....we have come a long way, haven't we? Now we are reduced to the theater of the absurd, and dare I say, thanks to social media and Internet bloggers, the most silly things are shared and the most peculiar ideas advanced.