Caitlin Jeffers, a Northern Arizona University English major is reportedly facing academic repercussions for the use of word “mankind,” instead of the more gender neutral “humanity” in an essay.
While most dictionaries define “mankind” as “the human race,” which is considered to be gender inclusive, Professor Anne Scott at the Northern Arizona University is sending a message to the student, for having used the word Scott believes is sexist, and “has a history of holding women down.”
“I would be negligent, as a professor who is running a class about the human condition and the assumptions we make about being ‘human,’ if I did not also raise this issue of gendered language and ask my students to respect the need for gender-neutral language,” Scott wrote in an email to the Caitlin Jeffers about her grade. “The words we use matter very much, or else teachers would not be making an issue of this at all, and the MLA would not be making recommendations for gender-neutral language at the national level.”
Professor Scott cites the use of “mankind” as the reason why Jeffers lost a mark out of 50 on her recent English essay in her “Critical Reading and Writing in the University Community” course. She also said that the Modern Language Association (MLA) is working to get gender-neutral guidelines implemented on a national level.
Miss Jeffers claimed that Professor Scott asked students to not use gender-specific terms at the beginning of the semester. However, Jeffers says that she wanted to test the policy to see if Professor Scott would actually penalize her for the use of gender specific language.
After receiving the grade on her essay, Miss Jeffers claims she requested a meeting with Professor Scott to discuss her decision regarding docking a mark off her grade for not abiding by the gender-neutral language guidelines set.
“She told me that ‘mankind’ does not refer to all people, only males. I refuted, stating that it does refer to all people, [but] she proceeded to tell me that I was wrong; ‘mankind’ is sexist, and I should make an effort to look beyond my preset positions and ideologies, as is the focus of the class,” Jeffers claimed.
Professor Scott, however, offered Jeffers the chance to correct her essay to increase her grade, specifically asking Jeffers to remove the word “mankind.”
“I will respect your choice to leave your diction choices ‘as is’ and to make whatever political and linguistic statement you want to make by doing so,” the professor wrote. “By the same token, I will still need to subtract a point because your choice will not be made in the letter or spirit of this particular class, which is all about having you and other students looking beneath your assumptions and understanding that ‘mankind’ does not mean ‘all people’ to all people. It positively does not.”
Reportedly, Scott also sent an email to her class, informing that she will continue to dock marks off students’ essays if they use gender-specific terms.