Language debate beyond rationality

By Beth Behland

There seems to be concern on campus about what it takes to be a woman and that any woman who dislikes the term feminism must hate herself and be unappreciative of the efforts of women throughout history.

And according to recent fan mail, one cannot be against mandating a gender-inclusive language in the English department without being against women, thus the “self-hatred” that Judith Testa has determined in her free psychoanalysis.

This very group of fans that offer their opposition on the “letters to the editor” page are exactly why I choose not to call myself a feminist. I am defintely for women’s rights, and this is obvious by the simple facts of what I have achieved and the things I plan to achieve.

Feminism no longer simply illustrates the image of fighting for equality between the sexes. In this day and age, a slightly different picture comes to mind. Today, feminism tends to depict an image of a person who is a far-left radical with only one political and/or social agenda in mind.

It is this image that gives a dirty connotation to the word feminist, but this can be avoided, as has often occurred in the past by finding a new word to fit the old definition.

A journalism instructor who has spent her life fighting for the rights of women chooses to call herself a humanist, which seems to relay more of an open-minded depiction of an ideal reality. This word seems to work better without the negative stereotype of being too far left to comprehend.

There is no denying the fact that women have fought for their equality to be recognized. But for some, equality is not threatened by the simple use of the pronoun “he” in a generic sense. In the same respect, the words chairman and alderman are not threatening either.

And no matter how one personally feels about gender-inclusive language, it still does not excuse the fact that no college student should be forced to use it when writing an English composition.

With this policy in effect, would a freshman English teacher fail Ernest Hemmingway?

There is an even more disturbing factor mixed in with all of this “gibberish.” Besides there being a vocal group of people against censorship, many of the faculty and administrators involved have been debating the gender-inclusive issue for quite some time.

This debate, however, has been held behind closed doors. Apparently, in the hopes that Lois and Robert Self, along with their cohorts, could slide this issue under the table without any debate.

If the Selfs are so sure this policy is the right thing, why was it a closet issue only among faculty and staff?

Policy that changes the English language should be something that is open for public debate, especially when a student’s constitutional rights are involved.

And do the guinnea pig freshman get a say in whether they want to be in an experimental class?

The issue of a sexist language has been blown beyond rationality and hidden from those who would be most affected. A debate on gender-inclusive language should include all those who might be forced to use or teach it.