Gender Bias Marks State Of Union Response

Nikki Haley - response to POTUSI found the analyses of President Obama’s State of the Union address and of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s response in behalf of the Republican party as interesting as the speeches themselves.

As a ruthless editor greatly in tune to gender-neutral (or gender-inclusive, as some prefer) language, this line from Gov. Halley’s response stopped me short:

“Our forefathers paved the way for us. Let’s take their values, and their strengths, and rededicate ourselves to doing whatever it takes to keep America the greatest country in the history of man.”

forefathers??? … history of man???

That a prominent public figure would use such male-centric language in 2016 astounds me.

And I’m not talking ‘political correctness’; I’m referring to the fact that women AND men settled our country and have contributed to its development and governance … women AND men have had roles in the history of humankind.

Forebears and humankind or humanity would have been more appropriate and accurate choices.

I have to assume that Gov. Haley was uttering the words of a male speechwriter. But that’s no excuse. Surely she practiced her delivery multiple times.

I hope future proclamations by the accomplished Gov. Haley are free of gender bias. Words and their implications matter.

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

2 thoughts on “Gender Bias Marks State Of Union Response

  1. AvatarJackie Saldana

    I thought your callout of Nikki Haley’s comments was interesting because I actually watched the end of the State of the Union address and her comments. However, what you wrote is not what I thought you were going to say, because at the very end of that sentence you quoted she actually said “the greatest country in the history of man… and woman”. It’s the “and woman” part that I thought you were going to highlight in your blog but you left that out. It doesn’t change your point because it still could have been worded much more inclusively. However, when I heard her say that, I thought it was done very intentionally and I actually felt a little boost of pride as a woman that she so specifically pointed that out. It may have been our “forefathers” that founded this country, but it’s us women that make it great!

    Thank you, Kathy, for your very informative blog. I enjoy reading it and learn a lot each time.

    1. Kathy WatsonKathy Watson Post author

      This is one time I can say I’m glad I was wrong! I did not hear Haley’s address live, Jackie, so I was basing my observation on what was reported about it. The coverage I saw online (the link in this post) left out “… and woman.” Shame on the reporter — but thanks to you for bringing it to my attention.

      I suspect Haley ad-libbed “… and woman” at the time of the broadcast, so I’m happy to say she redeemed herself on at least half of my criticism. I hope “forebears” instead of “forefathers” will catch on eventually.

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