You might have read recently that Berkeley, California (always in the vanguard of progressive ideas) is leading the way to a new genderless future.* The city voted to purge gender from its communications. And it’s about time. I mean, how thoughtless it is to say “manhole” when instead you can say “maintenance hole” which Berkeley is suggesting.
Berkeley is just picking up on a trend that has been going on for some time, “stewardesses” have become “flight attendants” and “waiter” and “waitresses” are now called “servers”, and “chairman” has morphed to “chairperson”. The gender bias has been rooted in our culture for too long, and must be completely eliminated if we are going to have a truly egalitarian society. If Joe Biden knows what’s good for him, he’ll stop saying, “C’mon, man.” And start saying, “C’mon, human.” Or maybe he should be saying,, “C’mon, huperson.”
“Policeman” needs to change to “policeperson”, “no-man’s land” to “no-human’s land,” “manhandling” to “humanhandling” and “menopause” to “personopause.”
And the Berkeley City Council takes the issue to it’s logical extreme, getting rid of gendered pronouns like “he” and “she” and using “they” instead. So we should no longer say of someone, “He’s his own man.” To be correct, we should now characterize them as, “They are their own person.”
While we’re at it, might as well deal with “woman” and “men”. “Woman” is easy=”woperson”. “Man” is trickier. The best I can do is, “otherperson”. Maybe the folks in Berkeley will weigh in on this one.
So how do you signal the difference between public bathrooms when you can’t use “his’ or “hers” or “ladies” and “men’s”. The Three Notched Brewing Company in Charlottesville has figured it out. The former ladies room now has “Sally” painted on the door and the men’s room has “Jack”. Not exactly gender neutral but heading in the right direction.
Getting to true gender equality will take some work across our entire culture.
The song that includes the term, “Mr. Sandman,” will have to be changed to “Mr, Sandperson, bring me a dream…” and the “Girl from Ipanema” to the “Human from Ipanema.” “Man in the Moon” to “Person in the Moon” and “Rooter-Man” will have to become “Rooter-Human,” “Manpower” changes to “Personpower” and “manufacture” to “humanufacture.”
You will no longer “man a station”, you will “person a station”, and you won’t “manage” anything anymore. You will “personage” them instead. You will not call your dog, “man’s best friend,” he will now be “a human’s best friend.” And “one-upmanship” becomes “one-uppersonship”.
While initially, words like “humanufacture”, “personage” and “one-uppersonship” might seem awkward or even confusing, in a decade or so everyone will come to appreciate the importance of the change and the words will be rolling off everyone’s tongues.
Now being creatures of habit, going to a true genderless language might be a bit tough for us. As tempted as you might be to say, “Boy, oh boy, did you see that home run?” You’ll have to catch yourself and instead exclaim, “Small person, oh small person, did you see that home run?”
In time, famous works of literature will need to be retranslated as in, “The Old Otherperson and the Sea”. In newspeak, the opening paragraph would now read, “They was an otherperson who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and they had gone eighty-four days without taking a fish. In the first forty days, a small person had been with the otherperson. But after forty days without a fish, the small person’s parents had told the small person that the otherperson was now definitely saleo, which is the worst form of unlucky, and the small person had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish the first week. It made the small person sad to see the otherperson come in with his skiff empty and he always went down to help the otherperson…” You get the idea.
Now when you cross the pond, you run into some real problems. Take “German” for instance. Does that become “Gerperson”? Hmm, might have to leave this one up to the E.U.
You have to thank the folks in Berkeley for pointing the way out of the sticky wicket we’ve been in. I mean how many years have we called it a “manhole” without realizing the harm we’ve been doing when in reality it’s so easy and so correct just to call it a “maintenance hole.”
You go, BCC!