Tuesday, March 08, 2011

International Women's Day: 'Humankind,' not the patriarchal term, please

IT is most unfortunate that the language most commonly used (next to Chinese Mandarin) internationally and virtually, English, is a patriarchal language. May iba't ibang diskurso kung bakit pabor sa pangingibabaw ng kalalakihan ang Ingles. Perhaps, however, the single most convincing proof is the word "MANKIND."

The etymology of the the first root word, "man," is arguably traceable to the Sanskrit word "manu" that means human or 'thinking creature,' which should supposedly indicate the gender neutrality of "mankind." However, the fact is that "man" has come to refer to an adult human male (and "woman," its opposite female), with the original neutral term/meaning having been replaced by other terms such as "person.'
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/mann#Old_English




In other words, the word "mankind" literally means 'the kind/tribe/totality of men' and to make it mean 'the collective human race' is to stretch its literal meaning in a rather sexist fashion. Moreover, a dated definition of "mankind" exactly means just that--you guess it--"men considered collectively, as distinct from women."
http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/dictionary/DictionaryResults.aspx?lextype=3&search=mankind

For today's observance of International Women's Day, it should perhaps be fitting if English-language users become more conscious of using non-sexist words and pronouns when referring to humankind or to people in general. Let us say "s/he" instead of "he" when referring to an unspecified individual of either sex. Let us write "people," instead of "men," when referring to human beings in general. Let us type "human" instead of "man" when referring to an unspecified person of either sex. Let us utter "humankind" instead of "mankind" when referring to the collective race of homo sapiens. Let us use "s/he," "people," "human," and "humankind" when referring to either woman or man in order to help stop the sexism in language, or the sexist use of English.

There is this Whorfian perspective that language casts power over people's perception. A feminist version of this hypothesis presents how the view of the world by women [and men] has been entirely dictated by patriachal language from the start.
http://books.google.com/books?id=2rM_wCfhGx8C&pg=PA232&dq=english+is+%22patriarchal+language%22&hl=en&ei=IjF2TZ74Jcr5rAeGs4TACg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=english%20is%20%22patriarchal%20language%22&f=false

At bakit nga hindi? Ang mga bagong pag-aaral sa sikolohiya ngayon ay nagtuturo kung paanong may katotohanan ang lumang salawikain na Gaelic--"Pag nawala ang wika sa isang tao ay mawawala din ang mundo niya." Na ang wika kahit papaano ay may ginagampanan sa paghubog ng kaisipan ng tao ay pinapatunay na ngayon ng agham:

"In studies where subjects identify colored patches, language-processing brain areas are activated long before decisions are made, suggesting that these areas of the brain are directly involved in perceptual decisions."
http://scienceline.org/2011/01/the-world-through-language/


By consciously using the available neutral or more neutral words in English, we can help effect a world that is more gender-egalitarian and, thus, less unpleasant in humanitarian terms.

Using non-sexist language is, of course, politically correct. Moreover, it is LESS biologically incorrect. Using male words as the default when referring to people in general is actually antithetical to human biology. It should be noted that FEMALE is the default in humans--as reflected in the double in "XX" chromosome of females (a defective/non-present Y chromosome automatically leads to a female human embryo).
http://www.cogsci.ucsd.edu/~pineda/COGS17/Overheads/Sex.ppt


Thus, if we even want to be just a wee bit scientific and true to human nature, sexist, patriarchal words should be out and word choice be more neutral.

Nakakatuwa na sa wikang Pilipino ay walang ganitong problema.* Walang literal na salin ang "mankind" sa Tagalog. Ang salin ng "humankind" ay "sangkatauhan." Hindi nakakapagtaka dahil ang lipunan natin bago dumating ang Kastila at Islam ay tunay na patas sa kababaihan at kalalakihan.

Siyanga pala, madalas kong nakikita na ang salin daw sa Ingles ng Kataastaasang, Kagalanggalangang Katipunan nang manga Anak nang Bayan (KKK),ay "Supreme and Venerable Society of the Sons of the People." Maling-mali ito dahil unang-una ay may mga Katipunera o babae sa Katipunan. Isa pa, dahil hindi mala-patriyarkal and wikang Pilipino, ang dapat na salin ng KKK sa Ingles ay tugma sa kahulugan--'Supreme and Venerable Society of the CHILDREN of the People/Nation.'


*Note, however, that because of Spanish influence re gendering of personal nouns, male citizens of the Philippines are referred to as Filipinos (Pilipino) and the females, Filipinas (Pilipinas), with the former being the default. Note further, though, that our country name was given by Spain. 

_____


Photo art: Jesusa Bernardo


Raw photo credit:

http://www.choosingraw.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/women_s_day_0.gif

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mankind or humankind... it should be noted that etymologically "man" originated from Sanskrit term manusya or manasa --predominantly thinking being.

Jesusa Bernardo said...

hi anonymous. i think i already addressed your point with paragraph 2:

"The etymology of the the first root word, "man," is arguably traceable to the Sanskrit word "manu" that means human or 'thinking creature,' which should supposedly indicate the gender neutrality of "mankind." However, the fact is that "man" has come to refer to an adult human male (and "woman," its opposite female), with the original neutral term/meaning having been replaced by other terms such as "person.'"

:)

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