“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” (Mahatma Gandhi). It’s possible to read this quote in one of two ways. Either you substituted “human” in for man or “male” for man. This changes the quote dramatically. Substituting human in for man implies that the human race is greedy. Substituting male in for man implies that males are greedy. A whole gender got erased from the sentence with the second choice. It seems absurd, yet this happens every day. If you looked up a quote with the word human, you’d probably find the word followed by a male pronoun. This happens almost every single time. Sure, it doesn’t help that the English language doesn’t have an official gender neutral pronoun, but we should be seeing the quotes equally using him/her.
The world hasn’t always been this way. “Man” didn’t mean “male” until the 1300s.” (Oxford Dictionary) Until that time, it solely meant human.
“Man- a human being; especially an adult male human.” (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary.) That’s the definition. It doesn’t mean animal or plant. It means human. It’s a definition that should unite, but instead separates. The definition has turned the power of the human race over to males. It makes life harder for me. Looking back at my life, so much of it is guided by this definition and mindset.
“I can do anything a man can do.” I told a classmate defiantly. I was a third grader standing up to a boy who told me I wasn’t good enough to play a game.
“We can pee standing up.” He shot back. That didn’t make any sense. It was beside the point and a lousy excuse to kick me out of a game. I sat back down at my desk in the classroom. I went away with my spirits broken and it took years until the phrase I had spoken with confidence as a third grader came back as strong. I believed I couldn’t do anything a male could do. As long as there was one difference between us, we weren’t even the same species. I blame the word “man” for this instance. It was the reason I thought I had to prove myself as a human being to my male classmates. And it wasn’t fair.
Oftentimes, I think the word man was made to mean male by males. There’s no way females came up with the idea to cut us out of the human race. That would’ve been ridiculous. But even without our cooperation, it still happened. The word woman became a thing when the definition of man changed. I hate the “Wo” part. It sounds like a clause in a contract. “Human with exception.” Whoever changed this must’ve had to use a powerful force to convince the world. It probably started with religion.
“Women are called women because they came from the womb of a man.” The pastor preached to us. We were little kids eager to accept everything we heard. The pastor would never lie to us. And in his mind he wasn’t. The proof of the word woman was in the bible. But that doesn’t mean that it’s right.
“Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” (qtd. Chozick) Hillary Clinton told this to the UN in 1995. She was confronting all of the male leaders who stood by as women were violated.
The cultural appropriation of the word man to mean male took away rights for women. Man was the gender neutral word in the early english language because it was a shortened version of human. Before the word was changed there were many instances where females were equals. It wasn’t perfect equality but there were still shared rights. Women were practicing doctors, property owners, and leaders. Kicking females out of the use of man was a signal to the world that females didn’t need to be treated like man. Like humans.
The word man nearly ceased to mean human. Women and Men. Two different things, two different meanings, and treated two different ways. Not until recently has it started to come back as man meaning human. It’s mostly in slang nowadays. Calling a person man isn’t formal and it may not even register as a word for human when used. But female or male both get called man, both get called human.
Chozick, Amy. "Hillary Clinton’s Beijing Speech on Women Resonates 20 Years Later." The New York Times. The New York Times, 05 Sept. 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2016.
"Man - Definition of Man in English | Oxford Dictionaries." Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford Dictionaries. Web. 06 Nov. 2016.
Tag, By. "A Quote by Mahatma Gandhi." Goodreads. Web. 06 Nov. 2016.
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary. Estados Unidos: Merriam Webster, 1981. Print.