In a recent article in CBE, James Nichols tells of a professor who attempted to give equal time to both male and female pronouns in his lectures. It worked this way, “for each time he used male pronouns such as “he” or “his,” he would use an equal number of female pronouns such as “she” or “her.”
After some time a male student could take it no longer and demanded to know, “What’s with this ‘she, she, she, she, sh#*#!?’”
I feel for the guy! I suppose it would be a bit discombobulating for a male to hear more female pronouns than male when someone is addressing the general population. But, we women — we “she’s” — are used to it. Both male and female ears are accustomed to the predominate use of male pronouns.
It’s not until this is pointed out that we start noticing the imbalance in our own language. Most of the time we (at least most of us) know that when a teacher uses the pronoun “he,”
he, oops, I mean the teacher means both a “he and she.”
But that’s quite an assumption on our part that might not be true. So if we want to be clear in our communication and in our teaching we really must pay attention to the he’s and she’s and our words.
In the above paragraph I had originally written ‘he’ in place of ‘the teacher’. I then realized my own use of the male pronoun might imply to some readers that all teachers are meant to be men. They might even assume the pronoun was used correctly. Our assumptions often get us in trouble. Since that’s not what I meant at all I attempted to be more precise. LOL!
Listen for the He’s and the She’s
Next time you’re listening to a podcast or a sermon perk up your ears and take count. Do the male pronouns tally up more than female pronouns?
Nichols, in the CBE article referenced above, makes a valid point, “Our English language, written and spoken, often hides one gender—the female gender. Words matter.”
Why is it so difficult to get our he’s and she’s together?
Maybe we’re just lazy in our communication. Maybe we are deaf to the problem or maybe we’re simply indifferent to it all— that is until the pronouns are turned around and the she’s have it more than the he’s!
Maybe it’s just too cumbersome!
I’ve been following the work of several Christian scientists and Bible scholars who are studying ways for science and genetics to help the Church maintain the traditional view of one human couple — Adam and Eve of Genesis — who populated all of humanity. A few weeks ago I watched an interview on Peaceful Science that aired May 25, 2020. It helped me see how easy it is, even if unintentional, to keep one gender hidden.
Josh Swamidass, a Christian scientist from Peaceful Science was interviewing William Lane Craig, a Christian apologist, from Reasonable Faith. The two were discussing Josh’s new book, The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry (2019). Apparently Swamidass’s work generated some concern for Craig who then wrote the recently released, “In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration” (2021). I highly recommend both books!
The exchange I’m referring to reveals how easy it is to erase a person, to keep a ‘she’ hidden. This takes place nine minutes into the interview and lasts only 24 seconds or so. But when I heard what was said, I was astounded! Then I chuckled to myself! I realized right then and there that this is a clue that just may explain why ‘women’ are inadvertently written out of some male-authored texts.
William Lane Craig, an extremely intelligent and gifted human being, by the way, is speaking and references the historical Adam when he is quickly interrupted by Swamidass, who says, “Adam and Eve, to be clear, I mean.”
Craig chuckles and responds,”Yes, I’m sorry, you’re quite right.” He continues, “I, I use the word historical Adam as shorthand for a historical founding pair Adam and Eve”.
Swamidass, a bit surprised, replies, “Yeah, but Eve is important too, you know.” (Yeah for Swamidass!)
A few more chuckles. Then Craig gives in, but offers his excuse.
“Alright, alright. I know! BUT IT IS CUMBERSOME TO KEEP ADDING HER NAME.”
I just had to put that last comment in bold, LOL. Let that sink in!
It’s too cumbersome to say Adam and Eve. Six letters too much! Two syllables too many!!
I get it! We’re all expected to do the work ourselves! Our minds are to naturally guess what Craig intends to say but doesn’t say.
But after a while — even we get lazy and Eve is lost in our senses, erased from the story, removed from the story in which she, the first woman, features loud and strong!
Getting our ‘he’s and she’s together
And that my friends is how women have been silenced throughout history. One pronoun at a time! And in no time at all the he’s have it and the she’s are nowhere to be found!
We can do better than this!
Let’s commit to getting our ‘he’s and she’s together — for the sake of a better world — for the sake of the gospel, and if that’s not enough, just do it for the sake of each other!