Saturday, 19 September 2009

Mork and Ellen

Oh, is it Saturday already? I suppose so.

I had a wonderful morning. I went to a meeting of the International Anglican Women's Network. We watched a film about how African women worked together to bring an end to war and the tyranny of the egregious Charles Taylor in Liberia. They literally put on their jewellery and white clothes, that they were not allowed to wear, and made themselves into an unmoveable wall. Solidarity. They had some strong leaders, Christian women who determined that as Charles Taylor was an outwardly devout Christian, they and their Muslim sisters would 'Pray the Devil back to Hell.'

It was a moving film, but the morning itself was incredible, to be with other women, unapologetic about their own feminism, and seeing it as part of their Christianity.
Inclusive language was a priority for many of the churches, because it is so fundamental.

I found a letter on the subject of inclusive language from the President of the Canadian Auto Workers dated 1997. It takes no prisoners,

"Language is powerful

Language is a uniquely human tool. When we want to express ourselves, we struggle to find the right words. Words can wound, they can soothe, they can explain, they can lie. Words can include and they can exclude. We all know that words can be powerful."

But this paragraph struck me particularly,

"Some of our collective agreements still contain language that is gender-specific. They use the pronoun "he" when referring to jobs that can be, and are, done by people regardless of gender. These agreements usually include a paragraph that says that where there is gender-specific language, that language should be understood to include both men and women. This doesn't cut it. It's a bit like saying "I know your name is Ralph, but we're not used to having Ralphs around here. Joe is easier to remember, so I'll just call you Joe. No hard feelings, eh?" "

I was happy that I hadn't used any gender-specific language in Save-On today, when the young fellow-me-lad at the checkout turned out to have a name tag that said, 'Grace'.
But then she said something that made me think it wasn't gender that was a problem, but possibly alien abduction. In a manner that put me in mind of Mork from Ork, she picked up the bag of tulip bulbs and said in halting English,
'It so wonderful, you put in ground and you get flower,' indeed.

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