No, Grammar Does Not Cause Sexism

Oct. 30 2014
About Philologos

Philologos, the renowned Jewish-language columnist, appears twice a month in Mosaic. Questions for him may be sent to his email address by clicking here.

Hebrew, like many languages, has a strict system of grammatical gender. Most verb forms indicate whether the subject is male or female; nouns are always either masculine or feminine. A group of females is addressed with a feminine form; a group of males, with a masculine form. For mixed groups, one uses the masculine form—but a few intrepid pioneers of political correctness have attempted to repudiate this last rule. Their reasoning is based on the long-debunked claim that language conditions thought, write Philologos:

The time-honored Hebrew convention . . . was that in addressing a sexually mixed group of people, one employs the masculine form, so that a resort to the feminine sounded bizarre. This had nothing to do, I maintained, with sexism. One should not confuse grammatical form with semantic content. The speakers of any language are quite capable of making the distinction between the two, and Hebrew speakers have no trouble understanding that addressing a classroom of 16 women and 11 men in masculine language is a grammatical technicality that does not exclude the women or privilege the men. In Hebrew, to take another example, the word for “father” is av and the word for “woman” is isha, but in the plural av takes the grammatically feminine form of avot while isha takes the masculine form of nashim. Does this mean that Hebrew speakers think of two or more fathers as females and two or more women as males? That would obviously be an absurd conclusion.

Read more at Forward

More about: Hebrew Grammar, Language, Political correctness

The Diplomatic Goals of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Visit to the U.S.

Yesterday, the Israeli prime minister arrived in the U.S., and he plans to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, but it remains uncertain whether he will meet with President Biden. Nonetheless, Amit Yagur urges Benjamin Netanyahu to use the trip for ordinary as well as public diplomacy—“assuming,” Yagur writes, “there is someone to talk to in the politically turbulent U.S.” He argues that the first priority should be discussing how to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons. But there are other issues to tackle as well:

From the American perspective, as long as Hamas is not the official ruler in the Gaza Strip, any solution agreed upon is good. For Israel, however, it is quite clear that if Hamas remains a legitimate power factor, even if it does not head the leadership in Gaza, sooner or later, Gaza will reach the Hizballah model in Lebanon. To clarify, this means that Hamas is the actual ruler of the Strip, and sooner or later, we will see a [return] of its military capabilities as well as its actual control over the population. . . .

The UN aid organization UNRWA . . . served as a platform for Hamas terrorist elements to establish, disguise, and use UN infrastructure for terrorism. This is beside the fact that UNRWA essentially perpetuates the conflict rather than helps resolve it. How do we remove the UN and UNRWA from the “day after” equation? Can the American aid organization USAID step into UNRWA’s shoes, and what assistance can the U.S. provide to Israel in re-freezing donor-country contributions to UNRWA?

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Gaza War 2023, U.S.-Israel relationship