Sunday, March 11, 2012

Apple doesn't like the word "wife"

You may have seen this story already at View from the Right. Apple has its own word processing software called Pages. If you type a word like "wife" into Pages the proofreader will try to correct you by telling you that you have used a gender specific expression which should be replaced by a gender neutral word like "spouse". Similarly if you type the word "lady" Pages suggests that you change to "woman" or "person".

This is another instance of the attempt to make sex distinctions not matter in a liberal society. It is now considered bad form to write words like wife or lady. These words are gendered and are therefore to be replaced in 'correct' usage.

Lawrence Auster's explanation of why a liberal society can't tolerate sex distinctions is very good:
But why, as I said in the title, must libertarianism, including the hip libertarianism that has always been touted by Apple, turn into PC? How does the belief that we are all free individuals, with no higher entity or authority telling us what do or how to be, mutate into a mad leftist authoritarianism that seeks to banish ordinary words from our language?

It's not hard to understand, but few conservatives and even fewer libertarians understand it. If we are all free individuals, with no authority above us, belonging to no collective categories to which we must conform, then any attribution to us of features or qualities that do not come from our individual choice, such as our sex, is an imposition on us. It violates the core liberal and libertarian principle that we are free, undetermined individuals who choose our own values. In order to be truly free, we must be equally free. And in order to be equally free, we must all become, insofar as possible, sex-neutral beings. Thus Apple's hyper feminist proofreader.

...Again, if you believe that individual freedom is the highest value, then you must also believe that there is nothing higher than individual choice, which in turn means that any larger cultural, biological, or spiritual categories to which we may belong are illegitimate and unjust, because they place limits on our individual choice.

I also liked Jim Kalb's comment in the discussion:
if you choose anything more restricted than the common good as the highest standard in politics, the favored goods (in this case, a particular understanding of freedom as neutral treatment of the goals of individuals) will end up destroying non-favored goods that in a more rational system would be balanced against the favored goods You'll end with something oppressive.

In other words, politics should be about the balancing of a range of goods. There is no magic formula for getting this right - it's a matter of wise leadership, learning from the past, thinking through the logical consequences of policies and so on. The better the balance, the more successful in the long run that society is likely to be.

If, on the other hand, you make just one good the overriding principle (which in a liberal society is the principle of maximising individual autonomy) then other goods will be either banished or neglected or, at least, not taken seriously enough as public goods to be sustained. The end result isn't freedom or individual flourishing but an intrusive state (it has to be intrusive to suppress the non-favoured goods) and individual alienation (as the larger connections in society have been broken in favour of the sole, overriding good of autonomy).


  1. Google and Microsoft word do not recognize the word "misandry". Even blogger does not recognize it!

  2. Anon @ 9:41:00

    It's little things like misandry and misandrist not being recognised by software that let people know there is a real agenda going on behind the scenes.
    From what I tell, feminists hate the word misandry it makes them go into an incoherent rage that men have a word to identify their behaviour.
    Why is this the case with leftist and their interest groups they don't like to be named.
    It is a clever strategy with out a name they can't be identified, they can't be discussed. Similarly without a name for Feminists behaviour the issue cannot be discussed.
    Particularly West Africans are an interesting case of this they seem to be constantly trying to ban ways of describing them. Bantu was banned and then several names that are now considered naughty words are "banned" by them. Even harmless words they decided on come under fire from their own people. They want to replace African American the PC description with just black which was originally considered offensive to them.

  3. Maybe they think it should be Ms-andry, not Mis-andry? ;)

  4. So we should try to liberate ourselves from our gender? A fish might just as well try to liberate itself from water.

  5. Using language to believe there are no sex differences between men and women? How clever. Sorry folks but masculinity and femininity is immutable. It's part of who men and women are.

  6. 'Similarly if you type the word "lady" Pages suggests that you change to "woman" or "person".'

    But surely "woman" is just as gender-specific as "wife" - why don't the Apple Thought Police outlaw that word as well?

  7. At least one Microsoft Word bugbear of times past is no longer operative - users can now do what years ago they could not do, namely, type "Palestinian" without the spell-checker (in either Australian English or US English) demanding that they use some alternative term. A tiny victory for people with brains, I suppose.