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Once again, the so called inclusive language is on the public discussion forum, except that this time it has to do with Canada’s national anthem.
On January 31, 2018, the Canadian Senate passed a bill that renders the national anthem gender neutral. Thus, the national anthem has been altered by replacing “in all thy sons command” with “in all of us command” as part of a push to strike gendered language from O Canada. Since 1980, when O Canada officially became the country’s anthem, 12 bills have been introduced in the House to strip the gendered reference to “sons”, which some have argued is discriminatory. All attempts have failed until now.
What’s the matter with inclusive language? Is our language really that exclusive that we have to fight for inclusivity? In Ontario, teachers require their students to use so called inclusive language. And not only do students face this pressure, but also writers from many editors.
The question is, why shall we impose this requirement? I don’t think we should, and I will say why. Do I or anyone have anything against “daughters”? Do we have something against daughters in particular, or women in general? Certainly not. On the contrary, anyone who is rational is pleased that there are two sexes instead of one or none. This is a fact that makes the world a much more interesting and colorful place. Imagine a world without women, how sad and depressing it would be! But at the same time, I am not, and am sure most people out there are not, one of those who are angry with the language and wish to punish it by imposing their own rules and views on it, or perhaps their own personal reasons for not liking the word “sons.” It seems an exaggeration to state, as Independent Quebec Sen. Chantal Petitclerc did, that she was “jealous” of those athletes headed to Pyeongchang to compete at the winter games and will finally be able to sing a gender neutral anthem: “I can only imagine what they’ll feel when they’re on the step of that podium.”
Therefore, we should draw a line at ideologically motivated censorship of innocent words. For example, in the Canadian national anthem, the word “sons” has always been understood to refer to both sons and daughters. “Sons” is already an inclusive word. It is similar to the case of the pronoun “he,” or the expression “hey guys.” In English, the pronoun “he” has always been understood to refer to a person of either sex, except where the context clearly indicates the masculine. Same with “hey guys!” It is already inclusive. This is how the language has spontaneously developed, and this is the language that we use. If in order to create a fictional development you need to police the grammar, then there is something going seriously wrong in our midst, and we need to question it.
If anyone chooses to speak and write differently, and use the words or pronouns they desire, certainly they may do so. But then the same courtesy should be extended to those that do not agree.
In the meantime, since our language includes masculine, feminine, neuter, and authentically inclusive terms, any rational being who “feels excluded” has only himself, herself, themselves or itself to blame. Forgive me if I forgot a pronoun, it’s not my intention to provoke or call the attention of the grammar police.
By the way, if the word “sons” and the pronoun “he” are sexists, how come the word “daughters” and the pronoun “she” aren’t? After all, and this is the funny thing, in the English language, you can read “he” or even sing “in all thy sons command” without thinking of a man, but no one ever reads “she” without thinking of a woman.
Dr. Pablo Iturrieta, PhD
Doctor in Political Philosophy