Posted on | May 11, 2011 | 21 Comments
“Kate Swift, Writer Who Rooted Out Sexism in Language, Dies at 87,” reads the New York Times obituary headline, to which we might cheerfully add: “And Not a Moment Too Soon!”
Ms. Swift turned her attention to the issue of sexist language when she and Casey Miller, her companion, formed a professional editing partnership in 1970 and were asked to copy-edit a sex education manual for junior high school students.
The stated goal of the manual was to encourage mutual respect and equality between boys and girls, but Ms. Swift and Ms. Miller, who died in 1997, concluded that the author’s intent was being undermined by the English language.
“We suddenly realized what was keeping his message — his good message — from getting across, and it hit us like a bombshell,” Ms. Swift said in a 1994 interview for the National Council of Teachers of English. “It was the pronouns! They were overwhelmingly masculine gendered.”
Read the whole thing, which was sent to me by Dave C. from At the Point of a Gun, who should therefore get all the hate-mail from angry feminists. (And let’s face it: If you weren’t angry all the time, you wouldn’t really be much of a feminist, would you?)