Pedantic Feminist cont’d
For those of you who have seen the comments on my last post, a regular topic of disagreement with Eddy once again reared its head. Although I will be responding to his latest comment eventually, I thought that I ought to finish this post first.
When we last left our blogger, he was discussing how we need to reclaim ‘man’ as gender neutral. What he had yet to truly discuss, was why.
I have, in my short time on this planet studied a great number of languages. Despite never achieving more than a very very basic grounding in most of them, there was a trend that I noticed. A large percentage of languages, when addressed a mixed gendered group, will prefer masculine forms. This goes so far that even if there is only one male in a large group, one would use masculine collective nouns.
For the first fifteen years of my life, I attended a small private school on the east coast. There were no more than 150 students enrolled in the school at any time and that included four kindergartens and first through eighth grade. (an astute observer will notice that I seem to have finished middle school at the comparatively advanced age of fifteen. This is something which I may discuss at a later date.) In the grade above mine, there was a class composed of ten students, of whom only one was male. Despite this gender ratio, the Hebrew teacher referred to the students as talmidim, the Spanish teacher as los estudiantes, and the German teacher as die studenten (seemingly in contrast to the others, but one must remember that all German plurals use the feminine article).
When we learned this standard of pluralisation, I remember being surprised, and a bit shocked. Why were women being subordinated to men in language? I didn’t see them being subordinated in reality.
Why would men be “more important” in religious texts when the only Rabbi of whom I could think was female?
It was years before I realised what this implied. At the time, I thought that it was just a linguistic quirk. Now, having studied the history of western civilizations spanning millennia, I notice the pattern of dismissal of women, and the undercurrent of fear.
The current debate over reproductive rights is another in a long line of manifestations of wermen’s fear of wifmen’s reproductive abilities. There is no more sense in trying to mitigate an individual’s control of their generative abilities than there was in Zeus swallowing Metis for fear of her offspring.
Really, that’s why I call myself a feminist. Sure, there is a great deal more to it than that, but that is the Aristotelian first cause. In the nearly three thousand years since Hesiod wrote of Uranus stopping up Gaia’s womb so that she could bear no more children, we have stopped using amputation and blood-letting as panaceas, we have stopped leaving sickly children out to die of exposure, and we have stopped killing people to propitiate a plethora of gods, why then, do we continue to treat women with less care and respect than men?
Why do we still marginalise them in our language?