We’ve posed this question before…
Let me set it up for you a bit: I was listening to a college radio station on the way to work. The hostette is a well-known veteran (read: “old“) leftist, who’s been whining for decades about how tough it is for women in America.
For a guest the hostette had another veteran feminist whiner on — a folk singer (Some of the very finest whiners are “folk singers.”). The hostette asked the folk singer for a song, and the folk singer said that she was going to do a song about how “religion had hijacked spirituality.”
After I finished laughing at that particular codswallop, the folk singer busted out another one: “This song is about how we always make God a male, [there followed a brief, half-witted disquisition about bearded old men and stuff] and how that helps to construct the patriarchy, and contributes to men lording it all over women, and all that twaddle.”
That’s a paraphrase, but I captured the meaning. (Okay, the folk singer might not have said, “and all that twaddle.”)
That brought me back to a conversation I had with a colleague, now somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty-six years ago. The conversation went roughly like this: You know, feminists always wonder why we call God “he,” but they never question the idea that the Devil’s a “he.”
Hmmmmm… good point! It’s been twenty-six years since that conversation, and still my friend — and I — are the only ones I’ve ever encountered to have posed that obviously important question.(1)
So, to summarize, for feminists, God’s a “she,” but the Devil’s a “he?”
Have you encountered anyone who’s posed that other, shall we say… inconvenient metaphysical question?
(1) I mean in the sense of anyone, whom anyone takes seriously, earnestly asking the question “Is the Devil a ‘he’ or a ‘she?””
Now, I know the answer to that other question. In fact, it’s easy. “He” is just the generic pronoun.
When you have no idea, and it’s not important to have an idea, about whom you’re speaking, you get to use “he” because, well, because the sex of the person being discussed is irrelevant, a throwaway. “He” is a shortcut you get to use so when you don’t have to ascribe actual humanity to the person being discussed.
If the sex of a person is somehow germane to the discussion, then the conversation participants will get specific about the pronouns they use.
Linguistically speaking, there’s no advantage to men or boys in having their pronoun used as the generic, the default, the fallback, the non-person pronoun.