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As the world battles a pandemic, the UN fights 'gendered language'

You would think that during a global pandemic, the UN would be too busy to engage in divisive identity politics. You would think that, but you'd be wrong.
Libby Emmons and Barrett Wilson Montreal, QC

You would think that during a global pandemic, the UN would be too busy to engage in divisive identity politics. You would think that, but you'd be wrong.

The UN has issued a missive to instruct how we should speak to each other. "What you say matters," they write. "Help create a more equal world by using gender-neutral language if you're unsure about someone's gender or are referring to a group."

The UN has gone to war against language such as: "mankind, chairman, businessman, congressman, policeman, landlord, boyfriend, girlfriend, salesman, manpower, maiden name, firefighter, husband and wife."

Instead, they want us to replace these with "humankind, chair, legislator, representative, police officer, owner, partner, salesperson, workforce, family name, firefighter, and spouse."

The UN should rename itself the Thought Police, because that’s what it has become. Their primary interest in releasing a tweet like this is an interest in controlling what people say and think.

These specific words they've attacked have understood meanings. The UN, however, insists that these universally understood and accepted terms must be replaced with "gender-neutral language."

Problems with this new terminology abound, because in changing the word, in many cases, the meaning is also changed. To use the term "owner" as opposed to "landlord" gives a different impression. A landlord is a person who owns a property and collects rent, a landlord can be male or female. An owner gives no indication of either property ownership or the business of renting accommodations.

A "businessman" and a "representative" are not equivalent terms. A businessman is a person who conducts business, whereas a representative is the front facing person of a company, such as a customer service representative, who would never be called a customer service businessman.

So, too, are a "congressman" and a "lawmaker" two separate ideas. A congressman, for example, is is elected to congress, while a lawmaker could be a city councilman.

To change "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" to "partner" is also a problem, because the term partner indicates a long-term relationship, one with a commitment of, well, partnership. A boyfriend or girlfriend comes with none of these preconceived notions, but indicates a more casual, or early-stage relationships. Workforce is an altogether different concept than manpower, which is a unit of measurement, like horsepower.

Instead of "maiden name" the UN suggests "family name." However, that, too, is disingenuous, and given the UN’s predilection for making things gender neutral, in calling a woman’s father’s name a family name, don’t they realize that, by their own definitions, they are glossing over the patriarchy and not liberating people from it?

Similarly, in rejecting the terms "husband" and "wife" and replacing them with "spouse" we are eliminating the women's work that is associated with wifery. Should a midwife be a midspouse? Surely not. Is husbandry to be replaced with spousery? Because that is a term that has no meaning to suggest what it means to husband. These are not merely terms of a relationship, but verbs that indicate actions performed per a given role.

We have spent nearly a decade listening to how we should make our language and thoughts gender neutral. From remade identities such as Latinx to chastisements over people using the term "guys," the message has been that in order to appease those who do not align with their given sex, we must appeal to the lowest common denominator of sexlessness.

In Spanish and other romance languages, gendered terminology is an integral part of the formation of those languages. It is because we consider English, in so many scenarios, to be a lingua franca that we insist on changing its sound to match these contemporary ideals of inclusivity. But the language is inclusive, and it can be used however we wish to use it. The UN, however, should not be guiding us as to how to do so. Instead, how language is used is the purview of people who live in language, not large multinational NGO's.

Like the push for preferred pronouns, this is another example of progressivist policies actually making things less specific, more generic, and harder for ordinary people to understand. Additionally, there is no need for a large, international institution to be demanding that humankind at large make wholesale changes to language, and so to the way that we think about ourselves.






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