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Irony of Ironies!

Carol Brevart-Demm’s article in the July 2010 Bulletin celebrates Rebecca Chopp’s inauguration as Swarthmore’s first woman president. But in summarizing one of the themes of the inauguration, Brévart-Demm hauls forth an outdated, sexist locution, “man’s centuries-long disrespect for nature and his fellow men.”  There seems, on careful re-reading, to be no editorial necessity for this choice. Wordsworth, in the sonnet read at the inauguration, solves the problem by referring to all humanity as “we”: “Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” The boxed summary of President Chopp’s address speaks of the College’s responsibility to help “heal and preserve humanity’s relation to Nature and to itself.”

In the early 1970’s, I was writing ninth-grade vocabulary exercises to help students learn to make gender-neutral choices in everyday language: firefighter, mail carrier, police officer, flight attendant. “Server” instead of waitress or waiter. I expected that this fight had been won long ago at Swarthmore.

Pat Jones Parnell ’45
Stratham, N.H

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