Allyn David says that gender language guidelines at universities are “one of the most stupid things” he’s ever encountered and then asserts, by way of explanation, that “the man in workmanship (and other such words) has nothing to do with gender but rather the one who wields authority or power” (The Advertiser, 16/6/18).
Yes. Precisely. The use of “man” as synonym for “authority” is exactly the reason why a gradual change in such gendered words is being advocated for. Using language in that way quite explicitly suggests that authority or power should be naturally associated with men, more so than with women.
Is encouraging people to use the word “person” or “human” instead of “man” the most pressing issue facing society? No. But it is also true that language has always evolved to reflect the shifting values of a culture.
To rail against such evolution – which might help to gradually alter the attitudes of individuals, normalize the notion of gender equality and help make society safer for women, but will affect your average ‘man on the street’ not a bit – seems ludicrously stupid.
In responding to Lainie Anderson’s eminently reasonable argument for changing the date of Australia Day, Don Johnson asks “for whom” such a change would be of benefit (Sunday Mail, Discussion, 10/9/17).
Quite obviously, it will benefit Indigenous Australians by better respecting and responding to the ongoing cultural pain caused by their historical dispossession: a consequence of British settlement and justified by the falsely applied principle of Terra Nullius. The better question is, “for whose benefit do we continue to hold our day of national celebration on the anniversary of such a morally questionable and legally disingenuous event?”
This is why many people refer to the First Fleet’s arrival under the command of Commodore Arthur Phillip as “Invasion Day.” However, Mr Johnson is mistaken to suggest that Captain James Cook was in attendance. If so, he would certainly deserve recognition as the most uniquely remarkable man in our history, given that Cook had been killed nine years earlier in Hawaii while attempting to kidnap the sovereign ruler of that island.
I wonder what motivates people such as Don to incessantly rewrite history in such an insidiously Stalinist fashion?
I have the greatest sympathy for any victim of sexual violence. Indeed, under-reporting and low rates of conviction for rape are just some of the reasons why it remains so important to challenge the often narrow and damaging ways in which gender roles and, particularly, masculinity are defined in our society. But what in God’s name does Christopher Gellie’s experience of abuse in childhood (Sunday Mail, Discussion, 10/9/17), at the hands of a person he believes to have been homosexual, have to do with the civil and legal rights of LGBT people within a secular, liberal-democratic nation such as Australia?
Mr Gellie’s reference to historical criminalization of homosexuality and it’s continued punishment by death in many places is particularly unsettling, suggesting as it does that he believes, begrudgingly, that the right to continue living is all LGBT deserve from their fellow human beings.
I am frankly astounded that your newspaper would deem it acceptable to publish such hateful, misguided rhetoric under the pretense of civilized debate. His is a disturbing and deeply un-Christian perspective, devoid of love or empathy.
Regarding currently fashionable opposition to changing the date of Australia Day, or better contextualizing historically inaccurate public monuments, conservative commentators such as Dean Jaensch appear to want it both ways when dealing with the question of symbolic representation and its role in our society (Australia Day should be a celebration of unity, not division and conflict).
On the one hand, they say, to ‘change the date’ would be ‘political correctness gone mad’ because Australia Day is only meant to celebrate the best, not the worst, of what our country has been and become. The painful symbolic consequences that result from celebrating Australia’s national unity on a date which marks the beginning of Indigenous people’s original dispossession are dismissed.
On the other hand, calls for change are also met with hysterically hyperbolic ridicule because it would supposedly represent an Orwellian “cleansing” of history likened to the worst cultural crimes of Stalin and National Socialism. Madness, indeed.
Why is the pain felt by Indigenous people because of Australia Day’s current symbolic connotations less important than the desire of conservative white Australians to preserve a symbolically one sided, often inaccurate view of Australian history?
Don de Ieso has a misguided understanding of history, historiography and the socio-cultural purposes of historical remembrance (The Advertiser, Letters, 24/8/17).
Merely to remove statues or monuments from public display is not repressing knowledge of the occurrences and people they depict. Nor does changing the date of Australia Day erase or condemn the entirety of post-1788 society and culture in Australia.
Rather than a “deconstruction” or “transformation” of history, such changes actually reflect a “reconstruction” of previously lost histories: a deeper, more accurate engagement with the complexities of past events and their consequences, particularly for settler-colonial societies like Australia or the United States.
Confederate statues being taken down will be moved to museums, not blown up as ISIS and Taliban fighters have done to cultural and religious monuments. Moreover, it seems farcically and dangerously absurd to compare Holocaust denial with a desire to more appropriately reflect (through symbolically altering our national day of celebration) the grotesquely destructive cultural impact of the stolen generations and real violence suffered by indigenous Australians because of colonisation.
To quote John McEnroe, “you cannot be serious.”
Mick Cearnes makes a frustratingly common category mistake when he suggests that labeling “old white men” as “grumpy”, or blaming them for being over-represented among opponents of social progress, can be equated with the kinds of prejudice experienced by black women, Muslims, or other marginalized social groups (Discussion, Sunday Mail, 06/08/17).
Sexism, racism and other forms of bigotry are not simply about saying ‘mean’ or offensive things to people of a particular gender, nor making stereotypical generalisations about certain racial groups. Such personal slurs are also part of broader political issues involving systemic forms of discrimination and disadvantage.
So, while older, particularly rich, white men can be stereotyped and (choose to be) offended by mean things people say, such ‘slurs’ carry none of the same connections to real social disadvantage, cultural erasure or historical dispossession as they might, say, for a homeless teenager, a queer woman, or an Indigenous Australian.
This is because white men, as white men, are not the victims of any systemic prejudices in our current society. But perhaps we should begin making the grumpy ones demonstrate commitment to our shared values of cheerfulness on pain of deportation. That would be a step toward ending prejudice, surely?