I find it odd that it’s such a big deal for people but I understand. I have always understood “man” to primarily mean “mankind” or “humankind’ the same as defined by Merriam-Webster. I am not fond of changing the meanings to words and I realize more than ever that politics and marketing loves to manipulate, confuse, and contort words to give completely different messages to people. I have been dabbling in poetry and raps for years, so I understand verbal imagery but what politics and marketing (amongst others) does is not verbal imagery it’s lies and deceptions. I guess for me I have always payed attention to wording so I think I am typically pretty good at avoiding biased language but as I watch my writing more from here on out, we will see.
In 1972… some three hundred college students were asked to select from magazines and newspapers a variety of pictures that would appropriately illustrate the different chapters of a sociology textbook being prepared for publication. Half the students were assigned chapter headings like “Social Man”, “Industrial Man”, and “Political Man”. The other half was given different but corresponding headings like “Society”, “Industrial Life”, and “Political Behavior”. Analysis of the pictures selected revealed that in the minds of students of both sexes use of the word man evoked, to a statistically significant degree, images of males only — filtering out recognition of women’s participation in these major areas of life — whereas the corresponding headings without man evoked images of both males and females…. The authors concluded, “This is rather convincing evidence that when you use the word man generically, people do tend to think male, and tend not to think female” ([Miller et al. 1980, pages 19-20], quoted by Spertus; emphasis added).