Saturday, February 3, 2018

Gender-neutrality-mania

I just thought of writing this brief post after I heard the following news.




For those who is not familiar with this "gender-neutrality" concept, it is about making language get rid of so-called gender biasing in references where the term refers to both genders. Once a witty girl told me that "...well, they say reading makes a man perfect, so women are not supposed to be reading ..." As you can see, the word "man" in that famous expression refers to both men and women alike notwithstading the use of word "man" there. Furthermore, that expression can be made gender-neutral simply replacing "man" with "person", so it should be read like "reading makes a person perfect".

More often, you can make any text gender-neutral with simply replacing gender-biased words. Newer gender-neutral words are creeping into the dictionary like chairperson or chair instead of chairman too. However, if you are going to take it further, you find it hard because I for one feel very awkward to use/say the word "batsperson" or just "bat" instead of "batsman". lol... sure enough, it is not easy task to change a naturally developed language in artificial way - well, it would be rather easy to do so, but very difficult if not impossible to make it widespread and be adopted by others.

As a concept I am for gender-neutrality indeed. Not only that, I am also for religion-neutrality (for instance, replacing such words as "AD" with "CE", "BC" with "BCE", etc...) However, practicality is limited here. Naturally the languages all over the world seem to have taken the minimalistic approach when it comes to adopt words. For example, in English the suffixes "-or" and "-er" denote a person who does something. It's by itself gender-neutral. Yet, what if you want to show gender in such words? Would you make two more words (one for masculine, one for feminine) or you just do away with coining only one new word re-using the existing word for one gender (which has historically happened to be related with masculine)? I would also like to elicit an instance from Sinhala language. You may use the suffix "-aa" (-ආ) to denote the doer, and as in English instance just shown above, it is gender-neutral. However, it also denotes the masculine form because the language takes the minimalist approach.

Language predates science and logic. Language was not something constructed by philanthropists, linguists, human right activists, and the learned sitting around a roundtable as Esparanto. Therefore, it is really not bad to let it flow as it has been. Over the time, the language will gradually become neutral, and let it happen. You should not try to force-open a bud.
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