A writing guide at Purdue University advises students to avoid words with “man” in them — such as “mailman” and “mankind” — in order to write “in a non-sexist, non-biased way.”
“Although MAN in its original sense carried the dual meaning of adult human and adult male, its meaning has come to be so closely identified with adult male that the generic use of MAN and other words with masculine markers should be avoided,” the guide states.
“Writing in a non-sexist, non-biased way is both ethically sound and effective,” it advises. “Non-sexist writing is necessary for most audiences; if you write in a sexist manner and alienate much of your audience from your discussion, your writing will be much less effective.”
According to the guide, “mankind” should be replaced with words such as “humanity,” “people,” and “human beings,” and “mailman” should be replaced with “mail carrier.” One of the other words it cautions against is “man-made,” suggesting that students use instead the word “synthetic,” “manufactured,” or “machine-made.”
I’m all for gender equality, but I have to say that this seems a bit overblown. I’m a woman (not to brag), and I can tell you that there is approximately a zero percent chance that seeing a word like “mankind” in someone’s work would “alienate” me as the guide suggests. It’s just not that serious, and I’m just not that sensitive.
What’s more, I can admit that I have used the words “mankind” and “man-made” in my own writing and speaking, and I really resent the idea that this means I’m being sexist against myself.
All of this has gotten out of control. Earlier this month, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau actually corrected a woman who said “mankind” at a town-hall event, telling her to say “peoplekind” instead. Even aside from the fact that “peoplekind” is not a word, that’s still absolutely insane. Honestly, if I had been in that situation and actually had a man tell me that I was discriminating against myself through the use of the words I myself had chosen to use, then I think my head would have exploded. He didn’t come off as caring or compassionate, he came off as sanctimonious and ridiculous — which isn’t surprising, seeing as sanctimoniousness is really what this entire movement is about.
That’s right: I’d bet that both Trudeau and the writers of this Purdue guide completely understand that no women out there are actually being hurt by words like “mankind” — they just want to show off how ethically superior they are to everyone else.
This story was previously covered in an article on Campus Reform.