Last week I wrote about a tragedy, the fire that burned Notre Dame. I’d have thought this was a fairly safe topic for me to write about, and I was write. Lots of good positive feedback on the column.
But I made a tremendous blunder in the eyes of one reader. A word choice that demonstrates (to her) my personal bias and lack of understanding that evidently she felt I should have as a gay man who fights for straight men in family court. I gather from her email to me that I have fallen short of some politically correct quotient that should demand a full apology from me and probably 30 lashes with a wet towel for my egregious patriarchal dominance of the female population with my language.
You may be wondering what exactly did I write? Generally Pisarra is pretty respectful, mostly rational and though he fights for fathers in child custody cases, seems like an alright kinda guy.
I chose to use a word that was “defined by men” and has the primacy and domination of men over society right up front in its spelling.
I dared to demonstrate my inherent masculine bias by my word choice. See if you can spot it in what I wrote: The damage to such a magnificent example of architecture, community, art and example of the wonder that mankind can create is tremendous and while it remains to be seen if it was an accident or arson, in either case, the emotional, intellectual and religious loss is profound.
See it? Right there. I’m all about oppressing the women of the world in that sentence. If you went back and re-read it, and still can’t find it. Mankind. I used the word mankind, which my inflamed interrogator claims refers solely to men. I was told that I should know better, and should have at least used womankind, which “includes mankind” in it.
I politely and as delicately as I could pointed out that the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Mankind as “the human race : the totality of human beings.” To which I was told that was a convenient definition crafted by men.
Upon receiving the second email that pointed out my biases and obvious ignorance of the politically correct speak we are all supposed to adhere to, at least according to this one reader, I did what we all do. Put it up on Facebook.
Whereupon I was treated to even greater example of stretching this politically correct thing to the point of screaming madness, I was told I should use “humankind” which seems to still incorporate the “mankind” thing, but in the twisted ways of the perpetually pissed off and politically proper people (Can we just start calling them the “PPPPPs” or 5Ps? ) the fact that “mankind” was part of the word was acceptably ameliorated by the “hu”.
Of course, not to be outdone, another friend who is far more astute as this politically correct gamesmanship that I chimed in, “The non-gendered replacement for human is huperchild because, “human => huperson (still gendered since it contains “son”) => huperchild.”
I reached the point of brain freeze then, as the absurdity of this was at astronomical levels in my mind.
I am frequently accused of hating women. Simultaneously I’m told (not infrequently by the same people) that I want to be a woman. Neither of those statements is true. I respect strong women who are able to navigate the world clearly articulating what they want, how they wish to achieve it, and speak clearly. I have no desire to spend my life in heels, constantly worried about makeup and what the other women are saying about me.
As a man who defends men in family court, I’ve had to deal with a lot of women over the past 20 years. What I’ve learned is this: there are strong women who are self-confident and usually I love working with them. (Often when they’re lawyers we become great friends). I’ve had to deal with women who are lying, cheating, manipulators who want to play the victim when in fact they are the perpetrators of abuse and violence. I don’t like working with them. Same goes for the men I have worked with, I think it’s not actually about gender(?) sex(?)
I believe that a strong woman can be an amazing force for good in this world. I think they should be honored, respected and held up to esteem. I believe that the use of outrage and victimhood over a word choice like mankind does nothing to advance equality and fairness, and only alienates allies.