Recently, while reading for my preaching course, I encountered a little thing in a John Wesley sermon that irked me. He referred to all humans as “man.”
Usually this really doesn’t bug me. But currently, I’m feeling pretty exhausted. Every book that I’m reading refers to humans that way. And I’m starting to wonder–is this really just an archaic piece of language, or am I reading books in which women just don’t matter? I made a facebook status updated about it.
“I’m getting tired of feeling like men are speaking to and about other men only in the books that I’m reading for class. And it occurred to me ‘I should read some feminism to make me feel better.’ But that’s not fair. Women’s concerns shouldn’t be supplementary in dialogue. They should be a part of the dialogue to begin with.”
I feel like I have every right to be annoyed here. With in reason, of course–we can’t disregard so many great minds simply because they had poor views of woman.
But I’m exhausted. I’m trying to think like a man when I read these books. I’m trying to write off my experience as an empowered woman so that I can understand these things better, not make them about gender. They aren’t about gender, really. Especially the use of “man” as human. They’re about the absence of a gender–a gender whose experiences weren’t taken seriously as modes of ethical, spiritual, and theological reasoning for a really, really long time.
And most people will argue that there is nothing essentially different about men and women’s experiences. Maybe that’s true. I’m not sure I believe it. We inhabit bodies, and bodies define our being–even before we are born. Regardless of that, though, there is something societally different about men and women’s experiences: we are raised to behave and act differently by a huge system that we can control only by minuscule bits.
So I am exhausted. Because being a woman matters a lot to me, but I have to erase it when I consider literally any theory presented to me in the texts that I read. I can’t read them at face value, because at face value they aren’t talking to or about me. They’re talking to or about other men. Back then, women’s equality would have been “unthinkable.”
Well now it is thinkable, and has been proven in our society. So should we be saying “this is just archaic language–change it to ‘human’, or he-or-she, or perhaps even they”, or should we be saying “If this thought was approached with equality immediately, would it really be the same thought? Is this true of all humans, or is it true of men? Does this accurately value women’s experience in its presentation? Would it change at all if we did consider women’s experience?”
It is a very complicated problem. It is tiring.