Skip to comments.Kate Swift, Writer Who Rooted Out Sexism in Language, Dies at 87
Posted on 05/10/2011 8:03:30 AM PDT by reaganaut1
Kate Swift, a writer and editor who in two groundbreaking books Words and Women and The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing brought attention to the sexual discrimination embedded in ordinary English usage, died on Saturday in Middletown, Conn. She was 87.
The cause was stomach cancer, her grandniece Corin R. Swift said.
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 authors 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.
The partners turned in a manuscript with suggestions that sex-identifying singular pronouns be made plural, or that pronouns be avoided altogether, and that word order be changed so girls preceded boys as often as the reverse.
The publisher accepted some suggestions and not others, as always happens, Ms. Swift said. But we had been revolutionized."
Now, they wrote in the preface to their first book, Words and Women, everything we read, heard on the radio and television, or worked on professionally confirmed our new awareness that the way English is used to make the simplest points can either acknowledge womens full humanity or relegate the female half of the species to secondary status.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
The next time I watch Deadliest Catch and see a crab fisherwoman will be the first.
Just another example of the insanity that will consume our society word by word.
Right now, in the same state, they’re about to allow transgender men into womens public bathrooms. Kate would be so proud!
English is actually one of the less “sexist” languages.
Most Indo-European (and many other) languages have “gender” as a much more integral part of the language. Most nouns and sometimes verbs are either masculine or feminine, or sometimes neuter.
How do feminists apply this idiotic concept to German or Spanish?
May it rest in peace.
She would have been horrified if she ever visited a plumbing supply house, with all those male and female fittings.
Well played, well played.
The word “firefighter” was not used years ago. The word was “firemen”. It was changed because of this very idea the article talks about.
And some liberals use the word “humankind” because they do indeed have a problem with “mankind”. You’re joking about it here, but some liberals actually think that way.
Hey Kate thank you for watering down our language and helping to dumb down our progeny.
This “feminist” movement is just another aspect of Cultural Marxism, commonly called “political correctness”.
The stupidity and awkwardness involved in changing the language was undertaken with an agenda, to undermine Western Cultural traditional values.
Good riddance to bad rubbish.
And remember the old “Star Trek”? Captain Kirk’s voiceover stated that the mission was “to boldly go where no man has gone before”. By the time of the next generation Star Trek in the 80s and 90s, Captain Picard’s voiceover stated “where no one has gone before”. It was changed because of the concept involved here.
We can talk about politically correct language, but it’s everywhere. We can think of many othe examples besides this one.
I know that in the business world and the medical fields, great pains are taken not to use the pronoun “she” when referring to nurses or secretary/office assistants. Reason being, the liberal idea that it’s sexist to assume that a person in such a job is a woman. The fact that 90%+ are women doesn’t matter, we aren’t supposed to use language that assumes this.
And a long time wasted on PC foolishness.
Jeez, I hope she did something else worthwhile, because massacring one of the loveliest languages the world has ever known was not worth celebrating.
“IT” died and I’m supposed to care.
Don’t think so.
Stomach cancer... hmmm. My father always said that hatred and a unforgiving spirit will manifest itself as cancer in one form or another. Maybe he was on to something.
What nonsense. This is just an excuse for laziness, whining, and failure. As a woman who has been a lawyer for nearly 40 years, and has had her own lawfirm for 20 years, I have always used "he" and "his" as neutral pronouns, and "man" and "mankind" as generic nouns, and it has never held me back from anything. I detest the modern usage of coupling a single noun (eg, child) with a plural pronoun (their). It makes the speaker/writer appear illiterate.
I have never heard from her, but I am sure she was quite the authoress.
Now THAT is funny.
Back in the early Clinton years, I took a trip to the Smithsonian. Went to the Museum of Natural History as part of the tour. I'll never forget as I'm walking around looking at the exhibits they had one of those 'prohibited' signs
over the word "MANKIND" at some of the exhibits. Underneath the sign were the words "Help stamp out sexism in science".
It was truly a barf alert moment.
Grandyoungerrelative dammit! Grandyoungerrelative!!!!
I typically respond by telling them that I speak the English language; and by asking them what language it is that they think they're speaking ... cuz it ain't English.
I beg to differ.
"Firefighter" refers to one who battles a forest fire.
"Fireman" is a person who serves a municipality and who battles urban fires.
I can speak for German.
The German language has three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter.
As Mark Twain famously pointed out in his essay "The Awful German Language" (part of "A Tramp Abroad"), there are numerous examples of nouns not at all corresponding to their grammatic genders (the word for "turnip," for example, is feminine, while the word for "girl" is neuter).
Many occupational designations end in "-er" (e.g., "der Lehrer" = "the teacher"), and can be simply femininized by adding "-in": "der Lehrer" then becomes "die Lehrerin."
So in most cases, it's possible to feminize words without too much clumsiness.
The problems start when writers insist upon feminizing the PLURAL so that both genders are accounted for: "die LehrerInnen" (= "teacher/Esses") - even though, according to standard rules, the Plural can account for both sexes / mixed groups.
And the situation gets really silly when nouns which are NEUTRAL are forceably feminized, as with the neutral word "Mitglied" ("i.e., "member" - as in "member of a club or organization"), the Plural of which is "Mitglieder." Because the Singular "Mitglied" is pluralized by adding "-er," and "-er" LOOKS like a masculine ending, they twist this into "MitgliederInnen."
As a side note, the (neutral) noun "das Fräulein" ("the young lady" or "Miss" as an honorific / form of address) has become taboo, since it is a diminutive of "Frau," and is hence regarded as condescending. Only my gray temples protect me from contemptuous looks when I address, e.g., waitresses ("servers?"; ""serveresses?") using this now antiquated form of address.
In fact, on 9/11, when I heard that “firefighter” were on the scene, I wondered how they got there from Colorado so fast.
Homosexualism destroys society.
So she was ground zero for the feminazi movement? Good riddance.
No tears here for the lesbo writer.
One word Nazi has inspired many more word Nazis.
Her personual deservers to be tossed down a personhole.
It's a shame she was too stupid to grasp the concept in later life.
My little girl decided her little spray bottle was distinct from her brother's. His is a mister, hers is pink, and therefore, a misses.
hopefully with her passing the PC will start to fade with her.
I'm not sure...maybe it says in her o-bitch-uary ;-).
Didn't even tell us who the ushims were.
The apple hit Newton on the head because it was the macho thing to do.
The assault on the "-man" occupation words predated the latest spasm of feminism. When those two, er, women got that particular bee in their lacy bonnets, they were hitching an ideological ride on an earlier disapproval of the association of work with one's sex.
In the early 1960s, I recall hearing firemen described as "fye-uh fightas" in suburban New York by callers to a local radio talk show. They were calling in to support some action against the City of New York by one of the firemen's unions.
The distinction in the air then was that, to firemen and their wives, it sounded more professional and educated to identify yourself by your technical expertisefighting firesrather than as a man doing a job because he was from the working-class caste, as the word "fireman" might imply.
At the same time, for similar reasons, in place of "policeman," a man would describe himself as a "pu-leese aw-fissa," and instead of a "garbage man," he was a "sanitation woika." They're still cops, firemen, and garbagemen to me, and I like 'em just fine. And as you've probably noticed, in private, firemen still call themselves "firemen."
Both feminism and working-class self-consciousness view the idea of work being a function of one's body as limiting to class aspirations: The higher you go on the social scale, the less connection there is between your body and your work. At the end of the day, "firefighters" still put out fires. Meanwhile, feminists . . . I haven't figured out exactly what they do, but it's a lot of talk, and very little work.
Thanks for nothing.
A lot of us don’t have issues with being women.
Well, there’s a wasted life.
I wonder if there are genders in Hell?
The feminist manipulation of language was based on misrepresentations, but was necessary to create the aura of victimhood around women and to provide the feminazis a “basis” for harassing and intimidating people over minutiae so that they would be afraid to raise the bigger issues.
Feminism was manufactured by the left and males interested in women becoming “more available”.
Feminism destroys, and it has a legacy worse than Nazism.
“May it rest in peace.”
Stomach cancer. That’s aggressive.
I don’t mind saying “he or she” at all, but it is one of those points where the cultural marxists came in demanding this change and we all went along with it — why not, we thought? Maybe it was a good idea.
I’ve teased out what I think is one of the tropes of the leftists. Tell people they must do something they already do. Then tell them they must do something that they don’t already do, but would like to do. Then tell them they must do something they don’t care about either way.
Then start telling them they must do something they do not want to do. Frog in the pot.
Fixed it old school style.