In some respects, it seems obvious to me, we live in an increasingly mad world, one in which ideology demands that we ignore the evidence plainly before our eyes and reject what all sentient human beings before us have known to be true (and obviously true). This is certainly the case with respect to what some have taken to calling “neurosexism.”
The following article, by an internationally respected neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine, considers a book that is plainly based upon “a deeply ingrained, implicit, very powerful yet 100 percent false assumption that if women and men are to be considered “equal,” they have to be “the same””:
For reasons that I hope will become clear, this reminds me of a story that I recounted to some friends just yesterday:
Many years ago, I was involved in a conversation with an academic acquaintance — a Germanist trained at an Ivy League graduate school — who was and is something of a radical leftist (and, for whatever it may be worth, as far as I can tell, an atheist). He was educating me on the evils of gender distinctions in language, the wickedness of terms like stewardess and manhole and the like, and the desirability of eliminating such gendered terms to the maximum extent possible.
So I hatched a plot.
If, I said, gendered nouns and pronouns were an important component of the chains that held women down, and if minimizing them or avoiding them would be an important element in eliminating those chains, wouldn’t it stand to reason that a language that was free, or virtually free, of such distinctions would, over time, tend to yield a culture and society that were more friendly to women?
Yes. He enthusiastically agreed that a society freed from such linguistic differences would, on the whole, be much more “feminist,” in important ways, than ours.
I told him that I knew a language in which there was no distinction at all between he, she, and it, in which a single ungendered pronoun covered them all.
He was interested. Or perhaps I should say that he took the bait.
The language that I had in mind was Persian — or, if you will, Neo-Persian (often called Farsi). The Persian pronoun equivalent of English he and she is او (u or āo), and the equivalent of him and her is او را (u rā or āo rā). The feminist utopia that I had in mind, of course, was the Islamic Republic of Iran, of which the official language is Persian.
Had the conversation occurred a bit later, I might perhaps have referred rather to Pashto, in which the pronouns for he, she, and it are either هغه (hagha), for persons who are absent, or, for persons who are present or near, دا (daa). Pashto is the principal language of the Taliban of Afghanistan, another group famous for their ardent feminism.