The European Union has moved to do away with common words such as “mankind,” “manpower,” and “chairman” and replace them with words and phrases that are more gender-inclusive.
According to an article in the Daily Mail, staff have been instructed to minimize any references to “women or men” in a new rule book titled “Gender Neutral Language in the European Parliament.”
The new rules are meant for EU translators, whose job it is to translate documents among the different languages of the 28 member states.
“Gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language is more than a matter of political correctness,” the book states. “Language powerfully reflects and influences attitudes, behaviour and perceptions.”
“In order to treat all genders equally, efforts have been employed since the 1980s to propose a gender-neutral/gender-fair/non-sexist use of language, so that no gender is privileged, and prejudices against any gender are not perpetuated,” it continues. “’The use in many languages of the word ‘man’ in a wide range of idiomatic expressions which refer to both men and women, such as manpower, layman, man-made, statesmen, committee of wise men, should be discouraged.”
The book advises translators to replace these sorts of words with options that are more politically correct and gender-neutral. For example: “Policeman” and “policewoman” should be replaced with “police officer,” “mankind” should be replaced with “humankind,” and “manmade” should be replaced with “artificial” or “synthetic.” The rules apparently even go so far as to recommend avoiding gender-specific pronouns — think super offensive words such as “he” or “she” — advising that a “complete rephrasing may sometimes be necessary.”
Personally, I disagree with the idea that any of this is “necessary.” I’m a woman, and I can honestly say that I have never, ever in my life been hurt by a word like “manpower” or “mankind.” That’s right: I have never shed a single tear over even a single one of these words. In fact, I have never even felt the least bit uncomfortable or excluded because of them. I guess I just happen to understand that the definitions of those words do mean that I am included. “Mankind” and “humankind” mean the exact same thing, and I really don’t care which one of those two synonyms that any given person chooses to use.
Sexism is a real and pervasive problem in our culture, and I have absolutely no doubt that in Europe it’s the same. Where I disagree, however, is the idea that words like “mankind” or “manpower” have absolutely anything to do with that. If anything, the focus on innocuous little words makes the feminist movement seem petty, as if it didn’t have any real issues to tackle. Given the fact that it does have those issues, I find this to be absolutely tragic. People who care about women should instead focus their energy on the more-serious problems — because that’s the only way that they’re going to ever be solved.