Equal society?

This letter is in response to Mr. Wambold’s letter of March 26, 1992. I’m so glad that we have Mr. Wambold’s view that language should remain status quo. He wrote an amusing little letter about the ridiculousness of forcing people to think about what they are saying and writing. Mr. Wambold suggested that if we want to change society and make it more equal, there are other areas in which we can do this. I do not believe that Mr. Wambold realizes the important role language plays in our society.

As a woman in our society, I have felt ever since I was a child that our society is one which works to exclude people. In grade school, when we first learned about professionals, all of the doctors, lawyers and police officers were referred to as “he,” all of the nurses, secretaries and homemakers were referred to as “she.” In history class, we were taught that all of the great explorers, leaders and historical figures were “men.” It was not until I took a women’s studies courses as an undergraduate that I learned that not only could women occupy these roles in history but that they did, and we just never learn about them. I would, however, like to commend the professors in the College of Law who use gender neutral language or who devote equal time referring to lawyers, clients and judges as he or she. I, and I know a lot of my fellow classmates notice, and it makes us feel included in the classroom setting.

In requesting gender neutral language from people, I am not asking them to change every word in their vocabulary. I do not want people to think that the idea of using gender neutral language is an impossible, tedious task. It is not difficult, and it helps all people feel included in the world around them. People can tell me all day that the words “man” and “he” are often used as general terms, which are meant to include the whole world, but the fact is that these words do not include me because I am a “woman” and a “she” and nothing changes that. I just do not believe the word man can refer to men in one sentence and everyone in the next.

I would also like to note that Mr. Wambold mentions that if people are forced to change their language they may end up resenting those who want this change. I just wonder what the results of that would be. Would this resentment lead to the result that women could end up being paid less for doing the same jobs as men, or maybe it would mean that women would be almost entirely excluded from higher political positions such as the Senate or the Presidency or maybe women would be ignored in classrooms because it is thought that if you are a woman you cannot have a valuable or intelligent thought? Oh, I’m sorry these are all things which already happen Mr. Wambold.

What could really happen if people are required to use neutral language? Maybe they will think about what they’ve been saying all these years and what they’ve been taught. Just maybe these people will be forced to think about the fact that any member of society, any gender, any race, should be able to do anything.

P.S. I realize that my own last name ends with the word “man.” Kind of ironic, isn’t it?

Elaine Sofferman

College of Law