Gender Issues In Language
Today's society is filled with generic terms, which can be used to address the human race. However, using terms like "man," "him," and "his" to refer to people in a broad sense, creates a feeling of sexism in the language.1 Because these terms have more than one meaning in today's society, they are instinctively taken at the meaning of an adult male. In spite of this, people still use these non-generic terms, even though this simple problem can be resolved easily.
When the word "man" is heard in today's society, there is an automatic mental connection with a mature male. When using "man" as a generic term, there becomes an association problem, and women are unintentionally excluded because of the double meaning of the word. "Ercongota, the daughter of a seventh-century English king, is described in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as 'a wonderful man.'"2 When reading this statement, even though it says that Ercongota is the king's "daughter" I still associate her with being male because she is called a man.
In that time, however, this association would not happen because this term was well known as being a generic term.
In the past women were not seen as equals to men, so by having a general term to describe all people as a whole, women were provided with a sense of pride and equality. However, the women of today have a legal status of equality, and they create their own sense of pride through their personal accomplishments. By referring to women as "men," it undermines their accomplishments and weakens their social position. "The historian Mary Beard pointed out many years ago that most historians use man in ways that obscure women's contributions to civilization; unfortunately they, and others, continue to do so."3
When speaking and writing,