However, from an English perspective that was about as far as the good news went. “Der Mensch”, according to the ever-present English translations, was still the one and only: “man”. And the linguistic overruling of woman’s (bold) presence did not stop here; a photography exhibition advertised with a female chimney sweep above the capture: “Kleider machen Leute” read instead of the literal translation “Clothes make people” as “Clothes make the man”. In short, we might (be allowed to) see ‘woman’ but at least in the English language, we definitely read only ‘man’.
|Clothes make the man?|
But why does this matter? Well, a less critical eye, or indeed most second language learners, might take these (mis)translations as read and simply accept the linguistic reduction of ‘human’ to ‘man’. And in a world where English is pretty much the default language for international communication, the meaning of humanity might just conveniently regress back to connoting just the one human. And in one giant sweep patriarchy puts all of women’s global (linguistic) achievements back to square one.
So swiftly to the point, we need to keep challenging the English language if we want to (continue to) be considered fully human. Not just for our own sake, but for the sake of all our feminist linguist sisters who daily chip away at the dominance of ‘hombre’, ‘homme’, ‘uomo’, ‘丁’, ‘мужчи́на’, ‘Mann’...