Inclusive Language: help or hindrance?

Faith

Within the Catholic Church in NZ (and from what I’ve heard, in many other English-speaking countries) there is huge debate over ‘inclusive language’ – for example, ‘humankind’ instead of ‘mankind’. On the surface it seems like a natural step in equality and acceptance, but is it needed? And is it actually helpful?

Check out this interesting article by Kenneth D. Whitehead, which discusses the shortcomings of inclusive language and the mentality behind it:

How, for example, can we make the simple generic statement, “All men are brothers,” using inclusive language? It is possible, of course, to say, “All men and women are brothers and sisters”; but in addition to what even a feminist such as Fadiman would agree is the ungainliness of such a construction, there is the not inconsiderable fact that it does not mean exactly the same thing as the original expression. Moreover, it is not generic in its reference; by making it sex specific, we end up referring only to adult males and females, and children are now excluded…

Then from the NRSV Bible there is the passage from Revelation 21:3-4 reading: “See, the home of God is among mortals [instead of “with men,” as in the Revised Standard Version]. He will dwell with them… and death will be no more….” But how can death be “no more” if those among whom God is dwelling are “mortals”? Unfortunately, many such discrepancies are found in Scripture translations determined to avoid “man” or “men.”

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