Sexist language

I’ve recently started watching Star Trek: TOS. This morning, I was looking for something to stare at for ten minutes while I ate my breakfast, and Star Trek: TNG was on, so I figured why not. In the opening monologue, the line “where no man has gone before” has been changed to “where no one has gone before”. Hm, that’s cool. I approve.

As I was cleaning up my breakfast, I started thinking about sexism in language. Like, we talk about “mankind”, but we know when someone says “mankind”, we’re really talking about all humans.  And in “O Canada”, the line “in all thy son’s command” obviously isn’t meant to disrespect women; we all know what it really means. So why not just change it to say what we really mean? Wouldn’t that be more logical? Rather than going from point A to point C to get to point B, just go straight from A to B. It’s much more efficient and requires less thinking power.

But then we have people who want to change the word “mankind” just because it contains the word “man”, and isn’t that going a bit too far? Because then you’d have to change “human” too. And there are already people who have changed the word “woman” to “womyn” because it contains “man”.

So, wait. Rather than changing all these words that contain “man”, why not just change one word? Why not just change “man”?

One of the things that sort of perpetuates sexism is that male is the default. With pronouns, he/him/his is used to refer generically to males or females. In public signage, stick figures are assumed to be men unless they have a skirt. So that’s cool, why not keep “man” as the default, and then have a signifier added on to the word “man” to denote males specifically. We could have “woman” and, I don’t know, “boman”. Then there’s no problem with “mankind” or “human” or “fireman” or “hey, man, don’t hassle me”. They all include both males and females.