“COME ye FORCES ...,” A LINE FROM MACBETH TO STRUCTURE AN ESSAY ON THE ILLUSIVE GENDERLESS EPICENE

 

(quoth Lady Macbeth; the rest of this immortal line from Shakespeare's play continues below, truncated twice more)   

(herein follows a radical solution to the problem of how to cure sexism within our language, indigenous cancer that it is)

 

A huge, silent, insidious crisis beneath the less-than-complacent geodesic plate of English grammar stirs more and more these days and the range of solutions and their ingenuity is breathtaking, but the case is still moot.

The subject, of course, is the genderless epicene, that hideous he/she, him/her thing boggling our syntactic structures with awkward unwieldiness. And there is no one solution for any number of frightfully cogent reasons: mainly, that in the process of evolving out of its inflected structure into an analytic state, the English language was left with certain cracks, one of them, of course, being our beloved dangling participle/modifier. We can't fill in the crack simply, because it's beyond the lexical level. We can incorporate acronyms like SCUBA, vocabulary like cell phone easily enough, but here the diagnosis is more at the root-canal level, viz., a system rather than a simple, namable concept is in need of repair. A declensional system has been found faulty and moreover, our language is at an advanced state of development, so that it would be far more difficult to do, say, what the French Pleaide did in the 17th century, when they had just discovered that their own language could be used to good effect at the literary level, rather than the Latin they had looked to for their esthetics up until then. They could set rules we cannot. Today they tackle gender distinctions at the morphological level, in the throes of determining, e.g., whether women faculty are to be called professeur or professeuse; if the former, le or la professeur, etc., but even this problem is not as systemic as ours. In Israel, within the last one hundred years or so, biblical Hebrew has evolved into the country's national language. But the entire system had to be addressed and was, so that is also a different story, though no doubt an interesting one.

The symptoms of the English/American crux include a clump of genderless pronouns/pronominal adjectives like everyone, each, anyone, no one, that lack adequate and accurate anaphoric representation at the predicate level, viz.:

          1) everyone has his/her preferences.

          2) Each person has their favorite games.

          3) No one like its mother-in-law .

          4) Anyone can live without one's bęte-noire.

Then there are the utter synthetics: people have tried inventing new genderless constructs that never catch on, even among fanatic disciples: Add to this the problem of replacing mankind with humankind. People don't even want to be bothered with curable issues.

Re examples 1-4, the experts can rewrite many of them into the first person plural, and some selected ones into the second person singular or plural, viz.:

          1A) We all have our preferences.

          2A) Each one of you has your favorite games.

or one of my favorites in the context of a generalizing paragraph, for instance:

          lB) Everyone has his preference;

--generic "he" unless quickly followed by

           1C) Each person has her favorite games.

THAT TEND ON MORTAL SPIRITS ...

To name some extreme solutions, we could operate on our pronoun/pronominal adjective system by eliminating the third person singular altogether. If the social upheavals of the late sixties rocked our linguistic system and identified the gender bias within our language that not only reflected it but nurtured and perpetrated it ... imagine what effects eliminating the third person singular thing from our language might wield on our societal systems and culture. It's a drastic step with the advantage that it leaves no room for hesitation or inconsistency. It just plain old says NO to any use at all of the third person singular.

It might force a democracy where oligarchy exists now-it might breach unbridgeable gaps; it could create beggars of kings and kings of beggars. It would force compassion upon hostility and totally eliminate the possibility of plotting behind anyone's back.

Along with eliminating the third person singular, we would of course eliminate ALL gender distinctions from language.

UNSEX US HERE

We must transcend this binary opposition that so sets us at odds and rules our behavior. We must understand that biology is a very small portion of existence that seems to have permeated and dominates our culture. Let us overthrow this demon and transcend it. Let us decree a day in which all gender distinctions are eliminated. Let us decide that we are all simply human beings and begin deducing a new culture from there, electing some other ruling factor besides the shallowness of gender.

Is this latter decision a direct outgrowth of eliminating gender distinctions from English? Perhaps one anticipates the other, necessitates the other. Language can be both a mover and a mirror. But the problem of the epicene pronoun/pronominal adjective transcends linguistics. When we truly solve it, our society and culture will have been entirely overhauled. Whether the linguistic change comes first, or the societal one, who knows? But one cannot exist without the other. Until then, in our day-to-day-speech and written composition, we are stuck with the cracks, guaranteed.

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