One of the most formidable means for perpetuating any “big lie” is to grant it sacred status. After all, who can question that which is “holy”? This argument is designed to halt any questioning or probing. Such means of applying this strategy include the following examples:
Asserting that the writers of books of the Bible were “inspired by God” as justification for androcentric or misogynous interpretations of various “proof texts” [The fallacies of this tactic are that “none is perfect, no not one” (Rom. 3:10), “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) Even the most righteous and spiritually sincere person is never without possibility of error. The Bible book writers may have been such and indeed inspired by God, yet, like all of us, they themselves were not above human error. The test is clear: Any assertion of truth must be placed along the divine measuring stick—the direct teachings of Christ. If any assertion cannot be found or supported in the direct words or actions of Christ as recorded in the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, then truth is lacking or questionable at best. The fallacy here is that being inspired by God, Who is perfect, does not confer unaffected perfection on the imperfect human being.
It is according to God’s plan. Again, the test: Is it found in or supported by the direct teachings of Christ?
One of the Church Fathers said it, so it must be true. Yet again, the test: Is it found in or supported by the direct teachings of Christ? The quotes of the Church Fathers cited above say enough.
The greatest harm of all this pervasive egotistical anti-woman theology that Christ never taught, by neither His words nor His life, is that it has not been relegated to the past-that it and its detrimental effects persist even today. The blind continue to follow the blind. The damage continues in various degrees in various places.
Similar definitions of androcentrism and androcentric include the following representative and illustrative examples:
The language venue itself is not self-confined. The gender bias of language is so formidable, because it is a major vehicle that chronically carries forward the destructive and tenacious belief system expressed by the Christian Church Fathers cited above and that has severely harmed half of the human population for millennia. Words spoken by so many every day, year in and year out, bolster and prolong the life of those beliefs even beyond general acceptance of many of them. At that point their acceptance is promoted subtly by the ways they are incorporated into speech, when a direct statement of them might be awkward at best and rejection immediately elicited at the other end of the spectrum.
More concretely, nouns, pronouns and sometimes adjectives are used consistently in a way that implies, sometimes overtly, sometimes almost imperceptibly, the false ancient belief that maleness is inherently, necessarily and even desirably (by everyone) the superior standard – the “sun” around which all of the planets of the solar system revolve. This egocentric assumption has as well been touted (by male supremacists) as good and even by divine plan. Christ, however, taught to:
If we apply the test that Christ gave us, we will find the following fruits of androcentrism socially and linguistically. Even a sweeping look at human history reveals an unending pounding of hubris (excessive pride and arrogance), hatred, abuse from the verbal to extreme physical and emotional tortures, violence and even brutal murder. The witch burnings of the Middle Ages are one among many examples brought to mind. With the teachings of Christ as the measuring stick, such fruits of androcentrism and misogyny speak for themselves. The difficult task is to break through them with the humility, compassion and unselfishness to open the eyes, ears, minds and hearts of people so that they can comprehend and move to correct the source of these rotten fruits. The supreme test from Christ's teachings is, "Does it pass the Golden rule test?"
Most prominently we encounter the use of nouns and pronouns that perpetuate a skewed view of gender by omission (failure to acknowledge), minimizing (present as less worthy of note or consideration) or outright denigration of females or overly emphasizing the supposed superiority or inherent importance of males or maleness. A few illustrative examples will suffice:
|In these above examples the terms are equal in respect and authority; however, it is very important to be aware of some gender counterpart terms that are not. Consider the following:|
|Panthers (school athletic team name)||Lady Panthers|
Although the above pairs are gender counterparts, their connotations are not equal. In the first pair, the term “mistress” can mean a woman in charge of something; however, it can have a very unflattering sexual connotation. In the second pair the practice of referring to girls’ or women’s school athletic teams as “Lady” __(mascot)___ implies less competitiveness and athletic prowess of school female teams. It can be said that it takes a lot of the “fight” and therefore respect out of them in the eyes of school athletic fans. Further, the use of “lady” with occupational descriptions (such as “lady doctor” or “women engineer”) diminishes and singles out the person unnecessarily; it is a profession, not a gender. The problem with the third example pair is that the suffix -ette means “diminutive” or small”—in other words, “less than.” Whenever it is added onto a male term to indicate a female of that category, it defines the female as “less.”
Whenever gender counterpart terms are used, it is essential that their meanings and connotations be equal. A very effective and accurate way to avoid problems with many gender counterpart terms is, when possible, to use a truly generic term, such as driver, police officer, pilot, senator or representative (rather than “congressman” or “congresswoman”). The two important questions that determine whether or not it is necessary to single out a person by gender are:
Awareness and knowledge of androcentric language, its origin and “fruits,” give the freedom and empowerment to oppose them by confronting and contradicting it whenever it is encountered, enlightening others by other means as well, especially by being a living example. Study alternatives to androcentric linguistic conventions and make a point to avoid androcentric usage in both speech and writing. The APA (American Psychological Association) and other style manuals now put forth acceptable usage that rejects linguistic androcentrism.
For an excellent to-the-point article on androcentric language, its nature and impact, see “A Line on Life: Our Androcentric Language” by David A. Gershaw, PhD: http://virgil.azwestern.edu/~dag/lol/Androcentric.htm. One of Dr. Gershaw’s most perceptive points is that “Much of sexism is so ingrained in our language, that we don’t even recognize it.” Awareness is the key.
It is here that the “it will be believed” part of “The Big Lie” (See above.) involves its victims. As with other oppressed groups, women have been inundated so heavily for so long with the false beliefs about gender expressed by the immensely influential Christian Church Fathers as voices of their pagan and Old Testament Judaic predecessors that many have internalized (accepted as true) them. That internalization then has caused them to “collude in their own demise.” – that is, against their own personal potential, self-concept, and quality of life. The result is to “live down” to inordinately low expectations. The more women who do this, the more their behaviors impede the efforts of men and women who understand and seek to eliminate its detriment.
This phenomenon is on the order of The Stockholm Syndrome identified in more recent times. “Stockholm syndrome: An extraordinary phenomenon in which a hostage begins to identify with and grow sympathetic to their captor." http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=24038. It is essentially a psychological mechanism in which someone who is oppressed in some way comes to form emotional bonds, identify with and accept the ideas of their captor/oppressor as right and true in order to survive psychologically and often physically. People caught in such a situation are usually unaware of what is really going on and cannot see the oppressiveness of the reality in which they are living. Some forms of this in gender oppression include such as the following:
The origins of the misconceptions and resultant mistreatment of women have been clearly shown in this work. Disclosed as well has been the impetuses for their continuation from ancient times to the present. A final word here to women is to become very conscious of the stereotypes that have been and are still damaging to women and make a point yourself not to live them; to live them is to accept and help perpetuate them. Along those lines, become keenly aware of the androcentric character of the language and how to avoid using those terms yourself, as it is a powerful perpetuator of the stereotypes. Finally, take every opportunity you can to educate others and openly oppose anti-female practices. Knowledge is power—the power to embrace and nurture the truth. The extensive annotated bibliography is an excellent place to go from here.
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