When I was a teen, I remember being told that “chairman” was a gender neutral term, regardless of the fact that 3/8th of the word is made of letters in a heavily gendered order. I had been told that the word derived from the Latin manus, or “hand”, and hence “chairman” was referring to “the hand that holds the chair”. And I held onto the notion with the steely grip of someone who thought that the old ways were the best.
There are times when I imagine current-me going back and meeting past-me, and the sort of conversations that would arise. In this case, current-me would say to past-me: “Stop being a dick.”
As far as I’ve been able to find, there isn’t much of an explanation as to why they’ve decided to do this. Maybe some pedantic fellow shaking their head while muttering “It’s Latin for hand!”
Regardless of whether it comes from the Latin “manus”, today the word “chairman” now slots in my mind under the vast group of very gendered words such as “fireman”, “policeman”, “postman”, and “superman”. English is an evolving language, and however apocryphal the origins of the word, it seems ridiculous to use “chairman” to describe a position that can be held by someone of any gender.
For a media future’s subject I had to give a presentation of a [poorly translated and/or written piece that took complete obfuscation to new levels] essay by Georg Lukács called “The Phenomenon of Reification.”
To highlight one part of the essay, I called upon Richard Scarry.
I loved his books as a kid. I would pour over them for hours, looking at Mr and Mrs Cat raising their kids in these idealised animal towns. There’s a kind of “lie to children” that we tell that’s exemplified through Richard Scarry. We show kids futures were they could be a police officer, or letter carriers. But at no point will you see a whole bunch of mice working in a call centre. There isn’t a “Richard Scarry’s Day at the Abattior”, which defines all of the roles people could have on the factory chain.
Actually, that last one could be the thing of nightmares…