Feminism and Changes in Words
Nearly everyone knows that we are living in times of great change. Probably no area has seen such changes as in the case of words themselves. Language is fascinating in many ways, including the reflection that it provides for our culture.
Our guess is that at the time of Moses, David, Jeremiah, and on to the time of Jesus and the apostles, most words remained relatively fixed. But this is not at all the case now. We’re all aware of the effects that technology have had on our vocabulary. Years ago, people would not have known such common terms as television, radio, movie, automobile, telephone, or airplane. More recently we must add hundreds of other terms to the list, such as cassette player, cell phone, smart phone, computer, nuclear energy, laptop, CD, and SUV. Our dictionaries expand to include all of these new words. An exhaustive dictionary today may include 500,000 words which would be far more than anyone could memorize or even recognize.
But I’ve been thinking about the blight of feminism in our day. During the past 100 years, or 50 years, or even 20 years, some words have been replaced because of feministic pursuits, feministic emphases, or feministic changes in culture. Because women have insisted on entering occupations or professions that had been composed only of men, we’ve had to adjust our language to accommodate these feminist changes.
Consider the following terms that ended in “man” since these positions were generally limited to the masculine gender: businessman, congressman, merchantman, councilman, countryman, journeyman, garbage man, midshipman, nurseryman, serviceman, and weatherman. Or consider further these shorter terms: churchman, clergyman, draftsman, gentleman, patrolman, sportsman, craftsman, fisherman, repairman, cattleman, tradesman, policeman, spokesman, freshman, handyman, dairyman, nobleman, woodsman, junkman, plowman, workman, foreman, woodman, newsman, fireman, gunman, oilman, and seaman.
As you notice, the feminism of our country (and probably around the world) has resulted in many changes in traditional terminology. For instance, businessman today is more likely to be replaced by business person, congressman may be referred to as a congress person since so many women are now in congress. Because women have entered church life, we now have clergy instead of clergyman. Policeman has been replaced by police officer, and fireman has been replaced by firefighter. Spokesman has passed away in favor of spokesperson—and the list continues.
Today we have such words as anchorwoman, churchwoman, sportswoman, clergywoman, policewoman, spokeswoman, chairwoman, markswoman, saleswoman, jurywoman, workwoman, and newswoman. Some of this is understandable and acceptable, but sometimes this does reflect changes in the workforce that would not please God but grieve Him.
We can do very little to slow down or change the terminology that is found in secular society. Since women have now entered the police force, it might be difficult to continue with the term, “policeman”! And since women have entered the fire department, we would have trouble continuing to use “fireman.” Since thousands of women have dared to become pastors, preachers, or teachers, it would be impossible to refer to them as “clergymen”! We must face reality—even if that reality is grieving to the God who wants a clear line of distinction between the man and the woman, the male and the female (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). We think it is not wrong for us to go along with fallen society and cultural changes that go along with it—as long as we don’t personally accept these changes that twist and pervert the distinctions that God has imposed.
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
And clever in their own sight!
We know that our present perverted society calls evil good and good evil, and it changes what should not be changed. Indeed, we can say that modern man that is far from God is “wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight”! Let’s us, as followers of Christ Jesus, determine to walk rightly and speak correctly. Let’s not fall into the feministic trap that encourages “unisex” language, “unisex” clothing and hair styles, and “unisex” occupational choices. Let’s determine to reflect the right ways of the Lord as reflected on the pages of Scripture!