Friday, March 25, 2011
It's a boy!
Naturally, I’m thinking about gender.
We’ve been keeping track of Cholmondeley for three months, ever since he was the size of an almond. As he grew, we called him the Kiwi, the Peach, and the Hamster. But now that we know his gender, he’s a person.
I know, I know. Depending on your philosophy, he’s been a person since the moment he was conceived, or possibly from all eternity. Or, on the other hand, he won’t be a person until he’s born, or possibly later, but is in the process of becoming one. Gender has nothing to do with it.
But I’m not speaking scientifically or theologically or philosophically or politically. I’m just saying how I feel, as his grandmother. I can imagine him now, this second grandson of mine. I can think about how he’ll look in those little-boy outfits at Carson’s that line the aisle between women’s lingerie and the women’s lounge (their marketers know that grandmothers are likely to walk that way). I can wonder if his tastes will run to stuffed bunnies or board books or finger paints or drums.
Some years ago, when I was working for a religion publishing company, several authors and I got into lengthy discussions about gender pronouns. Our editorial policy insisted upon gender neutrality in referring to people, but we were fuzzier about how to refer to God.
One author upbraided me every time she noticed a book of ours using masculine pronouns for God. God is neither male nor female, she rightly observed, and using he, him, and his when writing about God perpetuates misleading stereotypes.
Another author rightly observed that we simply can’t speak of an individual person without gender references. To refuse to use personal pronouns for God, this author insisted, was to rob God of God’s personal characteristics and to turn God into some kind of impersonal force – besides, of course, butchering the English language.
I agree with both authors, and I suggest that for the next four millennia – equal to about the amount of time we monotheists have been calling God he – we call God she. Feminine pronouns are as inaccurate as masculine pronouns, they do an equally good job of emphasizing God’s personal nature, and for many people they make God seem warmer and more accessible, sort of like the Blessed Virgin.
Myself, I like to think of God as a large, comfortable, but no-nonsense woman who hugs me when I need to be hugged and chews me out when I need to behave. I call her LaHoveh. She’s certainly a mother and, given how long she’s been in business, she’s clearly a grandmother too. I imagine she’s already looking out for Cholmondeley.