The following is extracted from a new pamphlet entitled God. He/She? Inclusive language and its consequences by Donald DeMarco. The Interim brings it to our readers’ attention in our business of tracing the influence of radical feminism on Christian teachings and on the spiritual and moral nature of the family.
The recent insistence on inclusive language is an obvious development from earlier moves to eradicate gender differences. New school textbooks had to portray men washing the dishes and women replacing fuses. Children have been taught that there are no differences in maternal and paternal roles in the family.
Dr. De Marco opposes the use of inclusive language because it is a misuse of language. Language cannot create reality, he argues; rather it can only reflect it. To introduce inclusive language is to promote bad grammar, obscurity, and elitism as well as confusion and division.
The extract chosen here concerns the current influence of inclusive language on traditional institutions.
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The National Association of Teachers of English has issued guidelines for the removal of generic man from the language adopted by all textbook publishers. Following its American counterpart, the Toronto Metropolitan Separate (Catholic) School Board has published a guideline called Equality in Language which discourages the use of generic “man” because it “perpetuates the invisibility of women and inferior persons (sic).” Since, as we have seen, the generic “man” does include women, it is difficult to find any real basis for these fears. What evidence is there that expressions such as “No man lives by bread alone” causes any woman to think she is part of a “subspecies” of the male? Nowhere in the animal kingdom (though some may find the word “kingdom” to be sexist) is there such a thing as a male species to which a group of females are related as a “subspecies.” The term “subspecies” is taxonomical (like “suborder” and “subclass”), referring to how animals are classified. It conveys no connotation whatsoever of inferiority. Such charges are indeed reckless and intemperate. It is a curious thing that educators never suspected that the pronoun “he” or the generic “man” could cause women to feel inferior until the decade of the Seventies.
The Toronto guideline confidently states that “exclusionary” words can be replaced by “inclusionary” words “without undue distortions of language.” It lists several replacements: Adulthood for manhood, reporter for newsman, and ancestors for forefathers. A closer examination shows that the suggested replacements are not synonyms at all. “Adulthood” refers to age in a way that “manhood” does not; “manhood” conveys a moral implication that “adulthood” does not. We speak of “adult books” and never of “man books.”
A “reporter” may report any number of things other than the news, which is the business of the “newsman.” Moreover, a “newsman” may not “report” the news, but merely gather or process it. The word “ancestors” lacks the immediacy and indentifiability suggested by the word “forefathers.” “Forefathers’ Day,” which celebrates the landing of the pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts, is not likely to be changed to “Ancestors” Day.” Although Equality in Language explicitly objects to “imprecision in communication,” it goes to absurd lengths to encourage it.
As one social observer has remarked, “there is no one over the age of three who has been fooled by “he” into thinking that women are unpersons.” One wonders what all the fuss is about. In fact, through the imposition of artificial restraints, a course of action is taken that logically increases the alienation and distrust between the sexes.
Some critics are making a plea for tolerance. “If someone finds it natural to say, `A creator or creatrix of a work of art should look to his or her audience’,” writes a Harvard philologist, “I uphold his right to say it and my own to wince in return I ask for the same freedom to doubt, to question, to poke fun when appropriate, and (most of all) to speak in my own mother tongue without ipso facto incurring the charge of injustice. Pluck thy pronouns, if they offend thee; but include me out.”
But tolerance is not called for when truth is being sacrificed on the altar of ideology.
One may laugh at feminist neologisms such as “her Story” and “himicanes.” Another might find purely gratuitous the claim that sisterhoods of religious congregations of women are really “minibrotherhoods.” Someone else may consider it an exercise in trivia to find objectionable such words as “virtue,” “virtuoso,” “defensemen,” and “fatherland.” But when the war against “sexist” language enters the arena of liturgy – the official prayer of the faithful – the picture changes dramatically.
The appropriately reverential expression of sacred liturgy precludes laughter and derision. Liturgy is intended to communicate the eternal Word of God. Therefore, wholesale adaptations to passing fads are out of place. Since a church is a place of community worship, ideological tensions are incompatible with its proper atmosphere of peace and unity. These factors of reverence, eternity, and prayer community enshrine language and give it a context of truth.
The more radical proponents of “inclusive” language want to influence liturgy precisely because they want to distract the worshiper from the liturgy itself. Suzanne Scorsone makes an important and valid point in stating that many of the “inclusive” changes suggested in recent years are so obvious, and stock out like such “verbal sore thumbs,” that “the ideological point being made takes precedence in the hearer’s minds over the actual content of the liturgical or Scriptural phrase itself.” (“In the image of God: Male, Female and the Language of the Liturgy, Communio, Summer 1989)
The attempt to re-write Scripture and change liturgy in the interest of adapting to a narrow ideology is not new. During the 1960s, many people wanted to delete the agricultural imagery of the Bible since very few ghetto children had ever seen a lamb or were familiar with other examples of agrarian culture. Donald Bloesch, in his book, The Battle for the Trinity: The Debate Over Inclusive God- Language, documents attempts in the 20s and 30s to accommodate Christianity to National Socialism. He cites Third Reich Bishop Mueller’s revision of the Sermon on the Mount. The King James version of Matthew 5:5 reads: “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.” Bishop Mueller’s version is “Happy is he who bears his suffering like a man; he will find strength never to despair without courage.” Joachim Niedlich, founder of the league for a German Church, urged that hymn books and liturgy be purged of Jewish expressions.