Before I went to college, I never realized that I was subliminally dominated by men, betrayed by the very words I uttered every day. Nobody taught me Latin, the gender of the origin of my English nouns; no teacher suggested I could use pronouns referring to generalizations in the neuter, or (goodness gracious!) in the feminine case.
Yet Benjamin Franklin said that “admiration is the daughter of ignorance,” and maybe those who left me in ignorance were gracious.
As a girl I was flattered when, after wearing red white and blue, I was called patriotic. But I never questioned why I couldn’t be matriotic; why patria/patriae (fatherland) instead of matia/matria should form the Latin base-especially when countries are generally formally and informally referred to with feminine pronouns? (Of course, no such Latin noun as matria/matriae exists-subliminal male domination apparently has been an issue for thousands of unhappy years).
Never did I wonder why (in virtually every Latin-based language) unknown or generalized pronouns automatically took masculine form.
“To use his/her as a pronoun simply isn’t technically acceptable.” My mother explained to me after dinner one night, as I stirred my coffee and rebelliously banged my spoon against the rim of my mug.
I told my mother that it was not acceptable for women to vote a hundred years ago, to go to college two hundred years ago, and to sit and eat dinner at the same time as men two thousand years ago.
We both turned and looked at my father and brother.
My roommate at college claimed that she didn’t feel subliminally dominated at all.
“I was like you once.” I assured her patronizingly. (Or matronizingly?) “However, your denial of your subliminal domination is actually confirming evidence of its effect on you. Subliminal domination has been so successfully applied to you that you don’t even realize its affect.”
I’ve found few people who could argue with this logic.
So I go on, grateful to have my eyes open to the tragic utilization of language as a tool to suppress my sisters, happy to have the opportunity to open my sisters’ eyes to their domination, and pleased to insert feminine generic pronouns whenever I have the opportunity.