Facebook scrolling proved fruitful last Saturday night. While perusing down my newsfeed, I came across a quote deserving of full recognition.
“Often the enemy of change is not some powerful oppressive regime, but our own enjoyment of inertia.” Justin Morris, a graduate student in the McMaster Department of Philosophy, reportedly made this comment in a discussion about change.
There are many relevant applications of this quote, but it happened to remind me of the confrontation I experienced earlier in the day, regarding gender inclusive diction. Things like saying humankind, instead of mankind, appear to be small accommodations. Yet, they seem to stir up quite the ruckus upon request. While I recognize and appreciate the seemingly overwhelming effort that many people put towards using gender neutral terms, there is still great resistance to change ways.
Do we blame an overarching system of patriarchy? Or simply, a general unwillingness to change? I would largely argue the latter. In my experience, those who raise a stink over my requests to switch terms typically have one of three reasons for doing so. One, they don’t see why it’s a big deal to begin with. Two, they insist that traditional usage has been the norm for centuries, and so we should keep it. And three, they regard it as a distraction from the real issues at hand. There are better things to worry about, if you will. Ultimately, it is considered an unnecessary and undesired inconvenience to accommodate whiny progressives.
As far as I’m concerned, if it isn’t a big deal to keep it, it also isn’t a big deal to change it. More importantly, the fact that some people are indifferent towards an issue does not account for or cancel out the importance it holds for others.
Furthermore, I’d like to point out that traditional usage does not grant linguistic immunity. Languages are constantly evolving; I see no reason to grant exclusive diction any sort of exception to this reality. Finally, while I gawk at the notion of gender inclusion being some how inferior on the hierarchy of issues, I’d point out that issues cease to function as a “distraction” if they are managed, as opposed to neglected. In other words, by addressing the issue and adapting inclusive language, it ceases to provide a “distraction” from other tasks at hand.
Quite honestly, adding two letters to the word mankind is hardly a significant exertion of effort. While we may have grown accustomed to past usage, we need not let that get in the way of change and progress.