I am reading The Really Hard Problem* by Owen Flanagan for an philosophical independent study of sorts. The book is basically about finding meaning in a material world, and I’m not talking about Madonna’s material world, I’m talking about everything that exists is finite and material and there is no G-d and no metaphysical stuff.
Anyway, Flanagan who teaches as a James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy and Neurobiology at Duke University** and has been published numerous times in academia, DOES NOT USE GENDER INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE. What? This still happens? The Really Hard Problem was published in 2009, Flanagan was a young man during the beginning of the Feminist movement in the 1960’s, he should be down with the gender-inclusive language thing.
UPDATE! I jumped the gun, so to speak, when I wrote this. Flanagan uses female pronouns in his later chapters. My apologizes.
Needless to say, this really bothered me, not only being a woman but also being a minority in the field of philosophy. Women only comprise 21% of Ph.Ds in philosophy.*** I brought it up with a friend and fellow student of philosophy on a bike ride later . His opinion on the matter was that if both genders are equal and mean the same thing (he is just the masculine 3rd person just as she is the feminine 3rd person) then what does it matter if someone uses just he or just she in their writing? When it comes down to it if what gender pronoun Flanagan uses does not affect the premises of his argument. So why care?
My friend raised a good point, my only retort was that Flanagan excludes a whole people from his examples, which if you are arguing a universal point, as Flanagan is doing, looks un-universal. So, yeah my counterargument sucked and I was embarrassed. I want to know what you all think,
Does it matter if you use gender inclusive language when it comes down to it? Why or why not?
*His title is a smart-ass take on David Chalmer’s “hard problem of consciousness” (why do we have qualitative phenomenological experience at all).
** Vom, I have major beef with the wannabe “Princeton” of the South. But that’s neither here nor there, I just wanted to get in a little ad hominem action.
***“Salary, Promotion, and Tenure Status of Minority and Women Faculty in U.S. Colleges and Universities.”National Center for Education Statistics, Statistical Analysis Report, March 2000; U.S. Department of Education, Office of Education Research and Improvement, Report # NCES 2000–173;1993 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF:93). See also “Characteristics and Attitudes of Instructional Faculty and Staff in the Humanities.” National Center For Education Statistics, E.D. Tabs, July 1997. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Education Research and Improvement, Report # NCES 97-973;1993 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF-93).