Sexist Language?

"Man" is a simple but important word to go with a simple but important meaning: gender-unidentified member of the species Homo Sapien (or sometimes the whole species). I think today that's the meaning which is intended most often in both writing and speech.

Unfortunately we have also taken the word to mean adult male of the species and we use "he", "him" and "his" to refer to both meanings (plus other males). Some seem to think the "male" meaning of "man" is more important. At present, for instance to a child, wo-man and s-he might seem to mean a different kind of, or accessory to, adult male human, maybe a "man with a womb". Others, in attempts to avoid sexism, complicate the language with words like "he/she", "chairperson", "chair" etc., or distort it by using "they", or avoid such pronouns altogether.

Though I'm told otherwise, it makes sense that the word "man" may have come from the latin "mano" or "manus", meaning hand. A "man" could have been simply an animal with a hand. (By the way, the words "manage", "manipulate", "maneuver" etc. aren't related to "male" but to "mano" - just different words for the verb "handle".)

I think we need to find new words to mean male and continue to use "man", "he", "him" and "his" to mean "person". For instance, to balance "woman", "man with a womb", how about "peman", "man with a penis" (pronounced with short "e")? Now we need some male pronouns. What do you suggest?


Send me your thoughts.
Dan Robinson, danrob@efn.org, Eugene, Oregon
My home page: http://www.efn.org/~danrob/