Canadians joke about keeping up with political correctness. The accepted name of a group often changes several times before an accurate yet respectful one is agreed upon.
For example, the term ‘mentally retarded’ is now considered politically incorrect for it is a label that automatically identifies a person as less than, slower than, inferior to the ‘norm’. It was initially replaced with ‘mentally handicapped’ or ‘disabled’, but this still focused on what a person could not do. Now, the preferred term is ‘mentally challenged’, for it doesn’t erase or negate the specific challenges faced by a person. In fact, it invites us to respect the difficulties of these challenges while working together to overcome them.
Words ARE important, for they reflect deeper beliefs and understandings.
Inclusive language is becoming the norm in all academic writings and in journalism. In recent decades, it has slowly made its way into our prayer and worship. We use the more inclusive New Revised Standard Bible for our Lectionary. Our ears have become attuned to a reasoned and rational inclusivity in the reading of God’s Word, and in the singing of our hymns.
I wrote a blog post for NCR highlighting a commentary written by Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, a doctor from Mumbai, for The Tablet. She gives us a window into the Church in India where inclusive language was taken very seriously by her bishops, yet is glaringly missing in the New Roman Missal. Her article is titled New missal makes women invisible.
Louise McEwan has written a thoughtful piece on inclusive language called Speaking about God on her blog, Faith Coloured Glasses.
As a writer, I fret, fuss, and worry over words; knowing that the perfect word or phrase can bring clarity and meaning to a thought. I also know that the wrong word or phrase can be a source of misunderstanding or misinterpretation.
Language IS important. Politically correct language promotes respect amid our differences. Inclusive language insists that we expand the male-centered world view of the past to embrace both women and men in the fullness of their humanity.