Air Force Censors “Gendered Language” — Declaration, Constitution Next

The Virginian-Pilot reports the US Air Force has taken down posters hung at Langley Air Force Base because they contained “gendered language.” The Air Force had previously defended the posters against accusations by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein that they violated regulations on religion. With that avenue closed, the National Organization for Women rolled in and declared the posters “sexist” because they referred to “men” and “gentlemen”. The Air Force now says [emphasis added]

With additional time to review all seven posters outside the narrower, primarily religious context of the original complaint about two of them, we concluded the gendered language used in the display interfered with intended messages about personal integrity.

We’ve chosen to update the display with something that reflects the diverse and inclusive force we are today.

How the Air Force believes “gendered language” “interfere[s]” with “personal integrity” might make a fascinating discussion.

For his part, Mikey Weinstein — ignored by the Air Force, again — appeared offended that the Air Force hadn’t called him to let him know the posters were removed.

We’re obviously happy, but [the Air Force] are clearly sore losers.

The original posters quoted Air Force Regulations from the 1950s on behavior and culture.  Perhaps the promised updated display will be something more inspiring and patriotic, and will call to mind the Nation Airmen are fighting to protect.

Perhaps the Declaration of Independence, which set the stage for the Nation as we know it:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men

That won’t work.  Gendered language there, and its even capitalized.

Perhaps the US Constitution, speaking about the Executive Branch in Article I, of which the Air Force is a part:

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and…

Gendered language there.  Why were the Founding Fathers Parents so sexist they assumed the President (and Senators, and Representatives) would be men?

Perhaps the Air Force should abstain from the Nation’s founding documents, then, given the likelihood of sexism in those antiquated writings. How about the moving and inspiring speech that many grade schoolers still memorize, President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address?

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent…

The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it…

Gendered language there. Women even fought and died and Gettysburg. Who knew Lincoln was sexist? And to think he still graces our currency.

Perhaps the Air Force could move forward a few more years to avoid causing intestinal discomfort in its Airmen by picking a more “modern” quotation. The Air Force song should be relevant, given that it’s still an official Air Force message:

Verse 2:
Minds of men fashioned a crate of thunder
Sent it high into the blue
Hands of men blasted the world a-sunder
How they lived God only knew!
Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer
Gave us wings, ever to soar!

It would appear the Air Force song is sexist, as it obscures Rosie the Riveter with men.

As they’re running out of military references, perhaps the Air Force could branch out to more accepted civil rights authorities like Martin Luther King, Jr, who should be a safe option:

When we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to…

Gendered language from MLK, too? How about JFK and his “ask not what your country can do for you…”?

For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life… And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

The American space program that inspired the movie Hidden Figures must be safe, right?

That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.

The desire to scrub “man” from history because it is “sexist” or “gendered” language is, as demonstrated above, both ridiculous and an exercise in futility. Neil Armstrong didn’t think a woman’s place was in the kitchen just because he used the word “man.” Nor did any of the other people or publications cited above intend to or in fact slight women by using the word “man.”

Just because an irrational person had an unreasonable reaction to something does not mean the government or the Air Force did something wrong.

It is a demonstration of post-modern hypersensitivity to become agitated and offended about the use of “man” — particularly when the context of the word was a time well before the recent practice of listing out all the divisions and different categories of a subject or audience.

This is much the same logic that brought the end to the US Air Force Academy’s famous “Bring Me Men” ramp in 2003 — a direct result of a review of sexual assaults at USAFA that had nothing to do with the words above the ramp to the terrazzo.

In 1993 LtGen Bradley Hosmer was superintendent of USAFA when the Bring Me Men ramp was first rumored to be coming down.  In choosing not to take the words of Sam Walter Foss’s poem off the Bring Me Men ramp, Gen Hosmer said

It is not for us to erase our heritage or to rewrite our history. It is our deeds which must speak for the attitudes we want to instill in our cadets and portray to the country.

No one is claiming the Air Force or anyone else should be hanging posters or using quotes that elevate males or denigrate females. Further, to assert that the mere mention of “man” does so is ridiculous (as shown with the recent “Real Men/Real Women” billboard).

We need not “erase our heritage or rewrite our history,” nor do we need to try to re-view it and reinterpret it through a post-modern cultural lens through which it was never meant to be seen.  If we insist on continuously re-evaluating history based on the current social mood, we risk not having any history at all.

Ultimately, this is much ado about nothing.  Contrary to the concerns of Mikey Weinstein and NOW, Air Force Airmen aren’t wilting flowers that have a case of the vapors every time they see the word “man” or “men.”

After all, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, or their publicly declared preferred sexual practices, they’re all Airmen.

Now at the Air Force Times and Todd Starnes on FoxNews.



  • Anonymous Patriot

    Although the Air Force is not a scholarly institution, I must state that I am deeply perturbed by the use of the term “gendered language”. I am perturbed by the idea that using words like “man” and “mankind” are now viewed as a form of prejudice in our society. I am perturbed by how activists want people to use unpronounceable, fake words like “zhe” or “xi” for the sake of being “gender neutral”.

  • Anonymous Patriot,

    It is a reminder of original sin, and another reminder of why the Gospel is a necessity.

  • It seems this issue had legs not because of so-called gendered language generally but because of a single “gendered” word, namely, “manhood.” Admittedly, I haven’t read every word of every poster, but a reasonable person would have had no reasonable objections to the kind of gendered language you cite above, for the reasons you cite. If I recall correctly, though, one of the posters mentioned “manhood” in a context that might have been welcomed across the board in 1955 but which is not so welcomed in 2017.

    Not unreasonably, encouraging women to pursue manhood in this era, notwithstanding the opening of all combat roles to women, is language that could be considered antithetical to the military’s campaign against sexual assault and the like. Some narratives just take too much time and energy to explain. Defending the notion of manhood for women in this era is one of those. Had “manhood” not been part of the equation, I bet, the posters would still be in place.

    As you mention in your recent article about the Muslim chaplain who is now an Army Division chaplain, however, it’s at least interesting that his advocacy of manhood has not been a negative issue with respect to his recent publicity. Which may be a healthy sign in the grand scheme, as many Christian chaplains would similarly advocate a biblical view of manhood for men (just not for women). Religious freedom for one advances religious freedom for all.

    Most significantly is the Air Force’s clear statement that the posters’ removal had nothing whatsoever to do with their very reasonable mention of faith. Seems like Mr Weinstein is the real sore loser in this case.

    • @Jacob Wright
      Good observations all. We’ve all known for some time that certain left-leaning portions of society particularly hate the word or word-part “man”. The greater point is the mere presence of that word is meaningless. If a particular word choice elevates maleness or denigrates femaleness, sure, deal with it. But if it’s just somebody having a conniption because of those three letters in sequence, as is the case here, it demonstrates their sexism, not everyone else’s.