Recently there was a student in the news because she was docked a point for using the word “mankind” instead of the word “humankind”. This happened on an English paper at Northern Arizona University. I can remember being at TCU and being encouraged to use what is considered by some to be more gender neutral words such as humankind instead of mankind. If you have never had to have this conversation before, then you are a lucky person.
I want to start out by saying that I understand why certain people want others to use words such as humankind over mankind. I understand that word choice is very important when trying to get thoughts across to people. I understand that to effectively get across an idea you would use different word choice depending on your audience. I speak and lecture publicly quite often, so I understand the importance of using effective terminology.
However, considering the fact that the student was writing a college level paper with an audience of a college English professor, the use of the word mankind should have been perfectly appropriate barring any sexual bias from the professor. Clearly though, the professor is sexually biased. A college English professor should be using their knowledge to teach people about the proper meaning of words, not to exaggerate and proliferate an incorrect use of the word. A college English professor should be above the hype, not give into the hype.
By definition, the word “mankind” refers to all humans, both male and female. If anyone refuses to acknowledge this, then they are truth deniers. The only people who would have a problem with this word are people who are insecure with gender issues or who are ignorant of the correct definition of the word. People who are secure with gender issues and are knowledgeable of the definition of the word do not struggle with this word. So amusingly it is the people who fight to remove the use of mankind, those who are trying to be more gender sensitive, they are the ones who struggle with gender issues.
I am sure there are some people out there who would say to me, “Curtis, you just do not know the heart of the issue because you cannot relate to being a woman and having to label yourself under mankind.” To that I reply with, “I can absolutely relate to having to label myself under a term that seems to have a gender discrepancy.” How? See below.
I am a Christian. Do you know what one of the most common labels for Christians is? The bride of Christ. That is right, me, as a man, have to call myself the bride of Christ. Do you see how emasculating that could be if I decided to get all tied up in that term? Do you see how I could start a movement to relabel the traditional term so that men would not feel as feminized?
So why do I not get tied up in that term? Because I understand the meaning of the word. I understand that the word is not trying to emasculate anyone. I understand that the word is meant to show the loving relationship that God has for His children. (Ah, being called a child as a grown adult, yet another word I could get up in arms about … .) I rise above the hype and land on truth.
There is nothing wrong with the phrase the bride of Christ to describe male believers in Christ. The reason that there is nothing wrong with it is because it is not trying to project a gender identification onto anyone. The same is true for the word mankind. The word is not meant to project any gender identification.
So to those English professors who are insisting that mankind not be used to describe a group of people, I say stop betraying your profession. Instead of exaggerating and proliferating the false concept that “mankind” is a sexist word, you ought to be rightly instructing your students that “mankind” is gender neutral.