I have a distinct memory that goes back to the 4th grade. It’s 1971…
“When writing or speaking,” the teacher said, “and you don’t know whether the subject is a boy or a girl, we use the pronoun, ‘he’.”
I was instantly offended. “That’s not fair,” I thought as I sat silently in my little school desk holding a worn down #2 pencil.
As the years progressed, it eventually became clear that this lesson set the tone in our nation in many ways. And I learned through high school and on into college, that if I pointed out the many ways in which assuming the masculine was a dangerous and damaging thing psychologically and even socially, especially to women and young girls, that I would be labeled a “Feminazi”.
On the other hand, if I didn’t protest, I seethed inside. Or I wilted inside. It was a pronoun battle I just couldn’t win.
While feelings of frustration were greatly compounded in my Christian world, I did manage to find workarounds. When a portion of scripture began with “Dear Brothers…” I would often quietly insert the feminine by whispering, “And Sisters.” At church I’d do the same. If our pastor used terms like, “mankind” or “man” to refer to all of us, I’d insert the feminine under my breath.
Needless to say, this is an exhausting way to live. But even to this day, when I hear, “All men are created equal…and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”, I cannot resist saying, “Oh…. and women”. (Only these days I’ll say it with some sass.)
Who I am today and where I stand on religion is directly tied to that lesson in school. When “she” and “her” were left out… I felt left out. When the boy sitting next to me in the 4th grade was the subject when we all should have been, I felt less-than. When the preacher left out half the body of Christ in his sermon by neglecting to include one little pronoun, I felt the impact. Many women take this in stride. To me… that’s not a good thing.
I just wonder… should I not have felt that way? Could I not have felt that way?