Redefining Man – A Modest Proposal

This is *hopefully* going to be a quickie.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

So – when our constitution was written there were lots of clauses defining the rights and responsibilities of “man” and “men.” Many of our laws still reflect this pronoun preference.

At that time, in that culture/society that word was loosely defined as “white propertied male.” People back then didn’t talk so much about sexual orientation, but I think we can safely add “straight” to the list of included adjectives.

Since that time we have had to add amendments to the constitution to grant basic rights – like citizenship, the right to vote – to African-Americans, women and other minorities.

At present some supreme court justices have said that they do not believe that the 14th amendment, put in place after the civil war to grant equal rights to former slaves and free African-Americans, applies to women! Or gays. Or…

In addition, that amendment was not enough to grant African-Americans the right to vote – that came later, with the 15th amendment. Which did not extend voting rights to women, only to men of all races, regardless of “previous conditions of servitude.”

It took another 50 years for voting rights, aka full citizenship status, to be granted to women.

And still… We’re not really there yet. We are still having battles over what is a right, what is a privilege and who is a real, full citizen.

We see it in the gay rights movement right now, as well as with the renewed push to ratify the ERA – Equal Rights Amendment, which would grant women the same actual, full legal rights and protections currently granted to men in this country. We see it in the push for immigration reform. We see it in the battles for full rights to be granted to disabled and differently abled people, including the right to marry.

But… What if we simply passed an amendment stating that throughout the constitution of the United States of America, the word man would be taken to mean “person.”

Non-gendered, non-racially charged, non-sexual orientated, non-ability specific.

Would that make a difference?

If people were legally defined as equal, would it help?

What if this amendment went a step further and redefined “man” in all legislation to simply “person” and the same for “woman”?

Then on documents regarding one man and one woman – well, it would just be one person and one person.

Is changing the language enough to change minds? Can we get to a place where we are all just people, regardless of the color of our skin, the language our parents speak at home, the organs between our legs – or the legs of the person we love, the gender we identify with in our core, our mental and physical abilities…

Is there a way to get there from here?

Is there a way to include all of the people all at once instead of this piece-meal approach where every couple of decades we recognize the humanity of a new sub-group of our nation’s population? Is there a way to wave a magic wand, or pen, and simply grant the full range of inalienable human rights to every living, breathing person?

Could it be as simple as affording the same rights, privileges and responsibilities of “man” to all people?

human rights

Human rights belong to everyone.



Filed under Naive idealism, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

10 responses to “Redefining Man – A Modest Proposal

  1. tashterd

    wonderfully said

  2. Rogue428

    What about corporations? Aren’t they people too?

  3. Nathaniel

    I like the idea but find myself pessimistic of it working. Laws are the easy part. Long after gay marriage becomes legal, men who are romantically attracted to other men such as myself will still need to be careful. The culture will still present as toxic to us in some places and our lives will still be threatened if we display affection for each other in said places. I think, for women, we may need an overhaul of how we go about doing things, entirely. I am loathe to say as such, since it seems like saying “We just need to believe in ourselves” or some equally insipid tripe, but the problem really is with men. I have considered it and have imagined a few of the big hurdles we will probably have to jump to get to a better society.

    [Normalization of Femininity in Men] Also known as the real reason there is Homophobia, the more ordinary femininity becomes in men (femininity in this context meaning the set of traits that the patriarchal system has arbitrarily declared “feminine” – eg female clothing, showing feelings openly, showing weakness/vulnerability, humility, etc). I think this one will be easier with LGBT acceptance growing, though.

    [Separate Men from their Gender Role] The primary problems that come with feminists and how they deal with men is in understanding that men and their gender are, in most of our minds, indistinguishable. When you say to a man that “Masculinity is harmful (referencing the social construct of masculinity)” most men will, inevitably, hear it as “Men are harmful”. If we can’t find a way to schism us from our gender constructs, I fear most of my side of the sex will turn to MRAism and the like. If we could find a way to free more men from this, then we would see less counter arguments from those relying on natural fallacy and such, I think.

    I wish I had helpful suggestions but my becoming a feminist ally coincided with my realizing I was gay. I can’t help much in changing the minds of others but have given it consideration. My first relationship after realizing I was gay was almost magical (I won’t go into details, but being stripped of the need to be something I wasn’t was liberating in a way I could never imagine – with him I could be girly when I wanted to, manly when I wanted to, and there was no real judgement). If I could show heterosexual guys that sort of liberation then maybe that could help.

    [Find a way to Mature Men] I think the male gender role, while not separated from men, is one of inherent boyhood. Men never have to grow up, really. Like a much more dangerous Peter Pan, they don’t carry the children nor many of the risks that women do everyday. They say my generation sits around playing video games and never learned to grow up but look at history; grown men painting faces on the planes they would fly into World War II, stenciling the numbers of kills they had on their biplanes in World War I, having duels to the death over personal honor instead of relying on diplomacy, and so on. Have men *ever* really been anything but children? I feel that the men who sit around all day at age thirty playing video games are simply a naked expression of what has always been there. What has always been us. Girls don’t mature faster than boys, they mature instead (or, perhaps, in spite) of boys.

    Sorry for the super long post but this all gets me excited when I get to thinking about it. Maybe I should just do my own blog and stop filling out your comments section with these long, unreadable, obtuse posts. Anyways, I enjoyed the article and do agree – while pessimistic, a small push in the right direction is a worthy thing to fight for.

    • Nathaniel,
      Thanks – I like the long, excited, ranty pants replies to my posts – it lets me know that I got at least one person thinking, and that’s a good thing.
      I agree with a lot of your points, and I agree too that I am the wrong person to speak to many of them.
      I can’t come in from the outside of the “man box” and say, “Your box is lame, you should change it.” because it sounds too much like, “you’re lame, you should change.”
      Ultimately, it’s about looking for allies, reaching out and being allies back.
      We’ve got to get past us/them and try existing together.

  4. Taz

    We, the people as in our constitution should mean every person. It should not mean one group. Who gives one group the right to claim superiority over another human.

  5. Pingback: Celebrating the Intention of Liberty and Justice for All | ThinkBannedThoughts Blog

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