Rampant Oinkerism

Morgan Harding, Print Editor

Editors of The Highlander have made a big, sexist “miss-take,” a religious studies professor charges.

Associate Professor and Chair of religious studies Joesph Curran caught the error when perusing an edition of the campus paper earlier in the semester. He spotted one of his female students in the newspaper’s “Man on the Street” section.

Man refers to a man, and this feature had both men and women interviewed. I think as a university and from the journalistic view of a university, it behooves The Highlander to use gender-inclusive language. It is not only appropriate, but it sets a good example to people,” said Curran.

The use of male pronouns and nouns to refer to men and women reflects an earlier age and suggests that women are subordinate to men, according to Curran.

“If you are a woman in a feature that is named ‘Man on the Street,’ that is inherently disrespectful to you and also inaccurate. In the interest of both accuracy and fairness, there are many English words that can be deployed here: person, student, voice—would all be appropriate,” Curran said.

“Man on the Street” opinion features are common in newspapers, but Curran believes use of the male noun in the headline is unacceptable.

“It would only, maybe, be appropriate if the student asking the questions were a man. But if it’s both male and female editors then it’s wrong. If you want to be a sexist oinker, then continue to use these masculine words. If you’re going to change it so there are no more sexist oinkers, then change it,” said Curran.

Curran was surprised that newspaper advisor Melissa Sgroi, who Curran said is a fourth or fifth wave feminist, had not caught the misstep sooner.

“I could not believe that The Highlander still had this vestige of sexist oinkertude in spite of Dr. Sgroi’s guidance,” Curran said.

The use of masculine language is still a big problem, Curran said. He believes that it is even more of an issue when someone could use inclusive words but continues to choose masculine nouns.

“I’ll have students who will write papers about mankind, but humankind is a perfectly acceptable alternative that is gender neutral and refers to all of humanity. To refer to humanity as mankind, I think there is a philosophical way that makes women invisible. IT suggests that women are subordinate and less important than men because the way you refer to all people together is masculine, which suggest that the masculine is the norm and the feminine is less important,” said Curran.

He often sees this with his students and tells them to use gender-inclusive language because it is more accurate and respectful. He feels  if students make a conscious effort to change he into she and mankind into humankind, it will be a step forward in solving this ancient problem.

Curran sees the use of this language as a combination of habit and simplicity.

“If you are referring to a hypothetical person in a paper, calling that person he is easier than calling that person he or she or even the plural,” Curran said.

He also sees this as a problem within the Catholic Church.

“The issue is that you have gender neutral language in reference to God. Christianity teaches that God is neither male nor female but was incarnated in the form of a man. So calling Jesus he is fine but calling God he is not. God is God—neither a man nor a woman. Gender-neutral language in literature has been an issue between those who like to update the liturgy and those who feel the language of the liturgy should be kept as close to the original as possible,” said Curran.

The convention has been to translate these verses into English alternatives that are not gender-inclusive. He said many Catholics struggle with this.

“There is an attempt to be faithful to a text that cannot be well translated into English in a way that is gender-inclusive,” Curran said.

Curran feels that addressing this problem is important, and he thanks The Highlander for responding quickly to the issue.

“You slip into habits of referring to people that are matters of habit. It’s the way it’s always been done, the way your parents talk and it’s just the way it is. We need to be attentive to this. History excluded women from certain roles for many years and now we must challenge these things.”

Editor’s Note:  We thank him, too–Sgroi needs some time.

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