Toward a gender-neutral “O Canada”

imgresA group of prominent Canadian women have launched a campaign to make the English-language lyrics to Canada’s national anthem more gender-neutral, reports the BBC

“The group, which includes author Margaret Atwood and former Prime Minister Kim Campbell, objects to the line “in all thy sons command”.

“The women say a revision to O Canada’s lyrics would “encapsulate the equality of all Canadians”. In 2010, the government rejected a previous effort to change the words. The campaign, also backed by Senator Nancy Ruth and former Senator Vivienne Poy, calls on Canadians to encourage Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government to alter the official English lyrics to O Canada. They would change the line to “in all of us command”.

“The song was first performed in 1880, with several different versions of the lyrics emerging in the coming years, according to Canadian Heritage. The song took its current form in 1927, and was declared the nation’s official national anthem in 1980.

“The women say the English version of the song at one point contained the line “thou dost in us command”, with that line revised in 1913 to “in all thy sons command”. ‘Long overdue’ The proposed new lyrics coincide with the 100th anniversary of the revision and “have the same meaning” as the earlier version, the group, Restore Our Anthem said. “Restoring the anthem to reflect its original version is the simplest way to encapsulate the equality of all Canadians,” the group said on its website. Ms Atwood said the current official lyrics suggested “only male loyalty is being invoked”. “Restoring these lyrics to gender-neutral is not only an easy fix to make our anthem inclusive for all Canadians, but it’s also long overdue,” she told CBC News. The Canadian government, led by the Conservative Party, dismissed a similar request to change the anthem to more gender-neutral language in 2010. Continue reading “Toward a gender-neutral “O Canada””

Students protest ban on gender-neutral housing

Last week, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students marched the mile from campus to the Board of Governors meeting site to protest the UNC System’s blanket ban, imposed by the board, on gender-neutral housing. InsideHigherEd reports that

“The new policy — which overturned the Chapel Hill Board of Trustees’ endorsement of the housing option —  was approved while students were away for the summer under the reasoning that “there are more practical ways” to make students “safe, comfortable and included,” the board chairman said.


“But it sparked outrage among advocates and campus officials concerned for the well-being of transgender students and others who would prefer to live outside traditionally designated pairs for college roommates.

“Among elite institutions, UNC’s move was unusual – many institutions are in fact moving in the opposite direction. There are now about 150 colleges that offer gender-neutral housing, according to a running count by Campus Pride. Granted, that’s out of more than 4,000 institutions – and it’s taken more than 20 years to get to this point.

“But for many of those campuses, whatever controversy ensued when men and women started living together has dissipated, and officials have moved on to more administrative-type policies. Last month, American University became the latest institution to cover gender reassignment surgery under its student health insurance policies.

“We’re seeing a progression. Trans students and allies have been working now for a number of years at many schools to create gender-inclusive bathrooms and gender-inclusive housing options, because those are pretty basic – to have a place to sleep and a place to pee,” said Genny Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the first campus to offer gender-neutral housing, back in 1992. (A recent settlement by the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights suggests colleges would be wise to provide these options.) “They’re looking now to address other important issues, and so gender in name documentation, hormones and surgeries are coming up more and more frequently for schools that have really begun to address transgender issues.” Continue reading “Students protest ban on gender-neutral housing”

“Yo” as a gender-neutral pronoun

Over the past few decades, we’ve made a lot of changes in the English language to make it more gender neutral. We say “police officer” instead of “policeman,” and “people” instead of “mankind.”images

But there’s one thing we can’t seem to get right: pronouns, reports NPR today: ” We know that if you say, “Every child has his monkey,” it excludes girls. So instead we might say, “Every child has their monkey,” even though it’s not grammatically correct. And “Every child has his or her monkey,” is just clunky.

“But some kids in Baltimore have come up with a solution that has caught the attention of linguists.

“At the UMAR Boxing Gym, you hear the word “yo” a lot. Continue reading ““Yo” as a gender-neutral pronoun”