NAU has been receiving national attention over the last couple of weeks because of one point taken off of an assignment in the English department. Freshman English major Cailin Jeffers is taking a class with professor Anne Scott, which, according to an article published earlier this month by The Lumberjack, covers the human condition.
In this class was Scott’s policy, set after referring to guidelines set by the Modern Language Association (MLA), that students should use gender neutral terms in their writing. So when Jeffers used the word “mankind” in her essay and Scott took a point off for a clear violation of the class policy, it shouldn’t have been a big deal, right? Apparently not.
It’s startling to me that this many people have gotten this upset over the word “mankind.” How hard is it really to just use the gender neutral term? According to the conservative, right-wing news outlet called Campus Reform Jeffers took her story to, yes, it is that hard. How dare this professor, or anyone for that matter, try to tell someone not to use a term that excludes literally half of the population? Mankind means men. Humankind means all humans. This doesn’t seem hard to follow.
And yet here we are, with The Washington Times, The Daily Caller and The Daily Wire all covering this story. Here we are with Scott receiving threatening emails and phone calls over a clear class policy and one point on an assignment.
One point this student knew she would lose if she used the word “mankind.” This wasn’t a surprise or an unfair grade or some liberal agenda Scott tried to sneak into this class. It was explicitly stated in the class policy, and it falls in line with the English department’s standards and it falls in line with MLA guidelines. Also it’s not like Jeffers failed this assignment or was reprimanded in front of the class or anything like that. In my mind, it seems pretty easy to see why Scott is on the right side of this.
I’ll probably never understand why people are so mad about this because, to me, using language that includes everyone, regardless of how they identify, seems like a great idea. To me, it seems like this is one more step forward for a country that’s trying it’s hardest to move backward right now.
Maybe it’s because this is just another one of those radical moves we liberals won’t shut up about. Maybe it’s because conservatives are getting everything they wanted from this presidency (a wall, an impending war, less rights for women and minorities) so now they have more time to get upset about one point on an essay. Maybe it’s because this is one more point for team feminism and men just cannot bear the thought of losing this title. Maybe this is one of those things people think they should be mad about because it sounds like something they should be mad about but they haven’t actually thought it through.
I think there are so many words in the English language that are better than “mankind.” There are so many other words we could use to encompass everyone. I think that the word “mankind” is a symbol for a bigger issue and a symbol for the power men hold in this country. I think that many men are scared, more scared than they’d like to admit, about losing their power and the attack from Scott, who is being painted as a crazy, liberal feminist in this conflict, is unacceptable. It’s too big of a threat to the manhood of this country.
I’d be willing to guess that the majority of the angry emails and phone calls Scott got were from men. I’d also be willing to bet they were from straight, white men, but what do I know? I’m just another liberal hippie who thinks we should stop using the word mankind.
Now, I don’t know Cailin Jeffers, and I don’t want to make any assumptions about why she handled this the way she did. I think it’s important to note she’s entitled to her opinions and she’s entitled to voice those opinions. I’m just suggesting that the rest of us, especially those of you who are upset about this, take a step back and think about what you’re really upset about.