Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Critic of Biblical Gender Inclusion: Mansplaining Needed

If you are of the opinion that gender neutral language doesn't matter, consider the following.

The Bible, a text purporting to represent the truth about the human condition is masculine-oriented, thus alienating half of the human population. A defense, authored by one Wayne Grudem, of the masculine-oriented language of this text, ironically, complains that gender-neutral language drops fathers, sons, and brothers from this text thus rendering the text inaccurate and displaying an "antipathy" toward specific men.

To that, I say, welcome to the club, brother.

Yet, aside from that andro egocentrism on display, this fellow's real concern about gender neutral language in the Bible seems particularly rooted in the fear that such language will make essential differences between men and women non-existent. For, if god made them human, rather than first male and then female, on what basis does man assert his natural dominion over woman? As Grudem opines:

"Similarly, the name that God gives to the human race is significant. The word 'man' for the whole human race suggests some male headship in the race. God did not name the race with a Hebrew term that corresponds to our word 'woman,' nor did he choose (or devise) some 'gender neutral' term without male overtones. He named the race with a Hebrew term that most closely corresponds to our English word 'man.'"

In response to the marginally-pressing question of "what if some women feel excluded" by all of this manly language, Grudem sees (only) two alternatives:

"(a) we can change the translation to something less accurate in response to these women's feelings"

When men feel alienated by gender neutral language because it is language that for once does not revolve entirely and almost solely about men, their lives, their rules, their conquests, their heroism, their deeds, their misdeeds, their wives, their families, and-let's face it- their world, their feelings must be addressed as legitimate. When women want a mythical text changed to also include themselves in the human experience, it becomes "less accurate," with the givens being that (1) the Bible is an accurate thing in the first place and that (2) maintaining this "accuracy" trumps women's feeeeeeeelings.

Grudem quickly rejects alternative (a), saying that once we start making small linguistic changes in response to some women's wittle feelings "there will be hundreds of others who will say they feel excluded by calling God 'Father' and calling Christ 'Son.'"

Hundreds, huh? That's cute. As though half of humanity is an itty-bitty teensy-weensy special interest group.

Let's see if his second alternative is any better. Nope, it's not:

"or (b) we can retain the accurate translation and explain that such language in fact is not exclusive if understood correctly -- to say it is exclusive is to misunderstand it."

All that's needed to appease the ignorant womenfolk is for Christians to mansplain to them that male-centrism of the Bible is not actually male-centric at all. Like the Biblical paradox(ymoron) of men and women having an "equal hierarchical relationship" to one another, some women just don't understand the great mysssssstery that is the "neutral masculine" voice.

So how about this one? If women are to accept that "he" really sometimes (but not always) means "he and she" and thus that using a pronoun that is also associated solely with men "doesn't matter," why don't we change the rule and make the feminine "she" the new "neutral"? You know, since it doesn't matter and all. And to those men who object, we shall explain to them that their feewings of alienation are insignificant and the result of their own ignorant misunderstandings.

To end here, throughout Grudem's rather long piece is the running theme that gender-neutral and inclusive language renders a mythical text less truthy, less accurate. Note that in addition to including women within this text in any meaningful way and continually minimizing "feminist" efforts to make the Bible more inclusive by calling such efforts "fads" and "politically correct," we see an incredible resistance to conceptualizing the most supreme being in female, rather than exclusively male, language.

Methinks that what those who are so resistance to gender-inclusive language are really seeking to maintain is male supremacy, which of course is quite different than accuracy.

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