'Shackling Catholic education to the feminist power-push'
Late last year the Canberra-Goulburn archdiocesan periodical Catholic Voice quoted Mr Glenn Roff, "Chairperson" of the "CEO Gender Equity Committee", as boasting that his diocese's Gender Inclusive Language Guidelines "were so well received by the N.S.W. Catholic Education Commission that the executive secretary has distributed copies to all members". Presumably the document will soon appear in Catholic schools in other dioceses.
This is a disturbing prospect. The Guidelines are intended to condition Catholic school teachers to find offence in terminology which none but feminists would normally consider offensive.
I use the term "condition" deliberately: there is nothing educational about the document. Although the views espoused are rejected by numerous informed, intelligent men and women throughout the English-speaking world, the Guidelines do not so much as acknowledge that contrary opinions exist. Indicative of this is the fact that their "Further Reading" section recommends only two books - Miller and Swift's The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing and Spender's Man Made Language - both of them standard feminist tracts. No dissenting texts or articles rate a mention.
The sloppy thinking which pervades the document is indicated even by its claim to be championing 'inclusive' language. In fact its most hated terms are themselves 'Inclusive.' It objects to he/him/his being used inclusively to encompass both males and females; and to the term "man" being used in an inclusive sense, as in "mankind", as distinct from in an exclusive sense, as in "Men's Room." And in a hare-brained effort to justify this prejudice, the CEO document even objects to the first sentence spoken on the moon - "One small step for man, one giant step for mankind" - alleging that its meaning is ambiguous.
However, while the Guidelines seek to eliminate such adjectives as "man-made" and "man-sized", and such verbs as "to man" and "to master" (as in "to man the pumps" or "to master a language"), there is a telling inconsistency evident. The Guidelines happily use the term "woman", even though the "man" in "wo-man" has exactly the same inclusive meaning and linguistic history as "man" in "mankind." "Woman" comes from Old English "wifman", which means simply "female- man" or "female-person".
Why is "wo-man" acceptable and "mankind" not? The answer is distastefully obvious. The current feminist consensus is to accept "woman" and "women"; and the CEO Guidelines find unjust only those words which the feminists deem to be unjust. If in six months or a year the feminist consensus shifts and demands that "woman" and "women" be written "wimmin" - as many radical feminists have long sought - the CEO Guidelines will no doubt be revised to demand this in the name of "Christian social justice."
In short, the language crusade being promoted through the CEO Gender Inclusive Language Guidelines is not genuinely intended to rectify any objective injustice - it is simply a means of shackling Catholic education to the feminist power-push.
Given this underlying purpose of the CEO Guidelines, it is not surprising that it disdains to be either consistent or coherent. Thus it makes a random leap from objecting to "man" in inclusive words to objecting to its appearance even in words referring only to males. They want "manhood" replaced by "adulthood," "bushman" by "person from the bush", "handyman" by "general worker."
The document makes a further bid for verbal androgeny when it objects to feminine suffixes, as in "authoress," "actress" and "aviatrix," contending that they suggest deviations from a male norm. What, I wonder, are the politically correct substitutes for "princess", "hostess" and "suffragette"?
The most disturbing feature of the CEO Guidelines, however, is not their pervasive foolishness, but their concealment of their underlying motive and inspiration. They give no hint that they are promoting a contentious, sectarian agenda. Not once do they use the word "feminist", let alone acknowledge their feminist inspiration. Yet their adherence to the feminist agenda extends even beyond their propaganda to their rhetorical tactics: they brandish feminist sneer-words - "sexist", "sex stereotyping," "discriminating against" - in order to intimidate into compliance their main target-group, the teachers in Catholic schools.
In short, the Guidelines present ordinary language usage and language development as a social disorder.
Nowhere do the Guidelines acknowledge the obvious parallels between the philosophy of "Femspeak" which they espouse and the philosophy of Newspeak in Orwell's 1984.
Nowhere, either, do the Guidelines address the obvious questions: If our language is offensive to women, why do most women not find it offensive? Why did nobody find it offensive until the feminists contrived to do so twenty years ago? Why, if our language is our common possession, should it be prescriptively changed in deference to arguments which few believe from a power-cult which most abhor?
Most gravely of all for a Catholic document, the Guidelines give no hint that feminist language dogma is part of a far-reaching agenda of "gender-bending" social engineering; or that this dogma is underpinned by the anti-human and anti-Christian "behaviourist" doctrine that we have no "male natures" or "female natures," and that our gender- identities are simply "constructed" by social influences such as language-conventions.
Nobody should forget the dictum of Gough Whitlam's feminist-controlled Royal Commission on Human Relationships (1974-77) - "The human being is made, not born" (Final Report, Vol. 1, 3.40).
Lest anybody thinks that the Guidelines are intended to affect only Catholic school teachers and not pupils, it should be noted that they encourage teachers to vet teaching resources for political correctness: "Stories chosen for classroom use should ... be assessed in terms of the language used and the images portrayed."
Catholic parents have a right to Catholic schooling for their children; and Catholic schools have a corresponding duty not only to teach the Catholic faith to those children - a task which in large measure they perform abysmally - but to exclude from their curricula any teachings which informed, reasonable Catholic parents might find morally offensive.
There is enough malice and conflict in today's world and in today's families without the "New Class" entrenched in Catholic Education seeking to generate more by pushing feminist propaganda into Catholic schools.
Colin Jory is a Catholic secondary school teacher in Canberra and a parent of school-age children.