Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Inclusive Language

I think for me the whole debate about inclusive language was something I became aware of at theological college. The college worship book had a note at the front that the male pronoun was used generically throughout and, whilst I had no personal opinion on that, I heard many of the female ordinands objecting. This would have been 1981 or so.

In Mapperley 1984 onwards a close friend who was doing women's studies at university corrected me for telling my children to wait for the 'green man' at a crossing. 'It's not a man, it's a person,' she said. 'It has no gender.'

Several glasses of wine and after dinner chats later and I became convinced that a willingness to change my language to inclusive was a key to changing any ingrained prejudice. It kept me thinking about inclusivity.

Always a promoter of gender equality I have, since then, tried very hard to avoid using male pronouns generically or to make assumptions in that direction. I am happy to be corrected when I err and won't get over defensive. Dustmen become refuse collectors even though they are all male. I try not to call the woman who delivers my mail a postman. And so on.

Our church (Holy Trinity with Trendlewood, Nailsea) has a vacancy for a new Rector. We will be encouraging applications from women and men. Several times in public meetings since then people have spoken about the new Rector as if that person would inevitably be a 'he.' I am dismayed to say that I have even done that myself. It may have been short-hand but it was more like lazy-hand. I was wrong.

Please pray for the person, male or female, tall or short, fat or thin, young or old, gay or straight, married or single, black or white who is to be our new Rector. They could even support the Wolves. I can't believe I said that.


Mr Gnome said...


I'm liking her/him already.

(One assumes that suitably qualified gnomes may also apply....)

Mike Peatman said...

No, not a Wolves fan. Not after what they did to Forest. It's the only legitimate reason for discrimination left.

dmk said...

Hey man, how do you manage the manifold manifestations? Drat, I'm going to have to rewrite that.