Kristi, I guess I’ll have to be educated a little before I can answer this one. I was under the impression that with regard to language feminists were interested in eliminating sexist terms and replacing them with politically correct, gender-neutral language (e.g. chairperson for chairman, representative for congressman, actor for actress, waiter or waitperson for waitress, flight attendant for stewardess, hitperson for hitman?, personkind for mankind? etc.).
The problem I’m having with your question is that I don’t consider or have ever heard about anyone considering – perhaps I lead a sheltered life – mother/mom, daughter, and family to be sexist. Putting labels of ‘waitress’ and ‘waiter’ for females and males respectively is thought not to be politically correct because there is nothing inherent in the job function which should require two separate words, and I can understand that. But a ‘daughter’ and a ‘mother’ are gender-specific and I don’t see any way around that nor can I imagine any reason to want to go around that. If you don’t like ‘mother’ and ‘daughter’ you could always use ‘parent’ and ‘child,’ but when it comes to circumcisions and menstruation, you might want some way of distinguishing between the two. Unlike the word ‘fireman’ which can be replaced by the gender-neutral ‘firefighter’ because there is nothing inherent in the job description relating to sex, mother and daughter do require that the person be female – as far as I know. And as far as ‘family’ and ‘marriage’(a union between to people whether you believe in same sex marriage or not) go, the words have no gender, so why would one need a gender-neutral word to describe it?
Ken G – July 29, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)