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More Evidence is Needed

Kate McClellan
On Freedom (January 2022)

Dear Editor:

Another wonderful issue in November/December, concerning one of my favorite subjects: words and language. I have a question about one article. In the “Pages for All Ages” story about Sarah Blackborow, it states: “Blackborow even wrote about the divine as a “Mother” at times, although she always wrote about God as a male.”

I question the phrase “wrote about God as a male.” Especially since this magazine issue was about words, I thought it might be good to point out that using male pronouns – or even the word “father” – is not necessarily gendered because many languages, including English, have no non-binary singular pronoun. Therefore, if the gender is unknown or it is a mixed group, the male nouns and pronouns are used. An example from Spanish is that when talking about “parents” the term is “los padres.” Literally that is “the fathers,” but it does not refer to same-sex partners. While many people who use male pronouns do have a gendered view of God, that cannot be assumed from the language without more evidence.  ~~~

– Kate McClellan, Palo Alto Friends Meeting (PacYM)

Language gender identity gendered language

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