Letters - 26 May 2017

From gender awareness to the adult children of alcoholics

Tweaking the testimonies

In the paragraph entitled ‘Equality’ in the article ‘Tweaking the testimonies’ (19 May) the phrase ‘gender niceties’ was used. This should have been ‘gender awareness’ and the sentence, in the article, should have read ‘1981 was too early for gender awareness’. This was due to an editorial oversight.

Richard Seebohm

I appreciated the article on ‘Tweaking the testimonies’ but I want to respond to the phrase ‘gender niceties’. I’m sure the author did not intend this, but ‘niceties’ rather implies a fine point or a subtle distinction and thus belittles the importance of gender-equal or gender-neutral language.

Gender-inclusive language is an essential part of ending women’s second-class status in the world. Language matters: it both reflects and causes thoughts, attitudes and cultural values. Quakers have played an admirable role since early times in embracing and promoting women’s equality. However, being Quakers does not exempt us from having internalised the sexist assumptions that are inevitable in everyone, women and men, because we were all born into in a male-dominated culture – just as we all carry racist attitudes because we have grown up in a racist society.

For example, despite decades of feminism I still sometimes catch myself assuming that a doctor being referred to is a man, or imagine the person referred to is white. We’ve come a long way, as Friends and as a culture, and we still have a long way to go. It is not our fault but it is our responsibility to discern what needs to change. Let us lovingly support and encourage each other as we seek to root out our unexamined sexist (and racist/able-bodied/homophobic) words and actions and replace them with more egalitarian and inclusive ones.

Sheila Rose Bright

Editor: The author of the article did change ‘gender niceties’ but unfortunately his correction was not published.

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