Men's rights advocates & non-gender inclusive language in historic documents

Does anyone know of any instances in which men’s-rights advocates have used non-gender inclusive language in historic documents in an attempt to support their odious cause? For example, say an MRA claimed that the fact that the Declaration of Independence says “all MEN are created equal” Should be taken as evidence that America’s Founding Fathers never intended for women to have an equal voice politically (probably true) and that we should stay with such a ridiculous notion now (obviously bullcrap)?

All MEN are created equal is not gender specific anymore than MANKIND expresses men only.

I know what you mean, but not strictly true, because “mankind” is explicitly inclusive, while “men” may be inclusive but is obviously not explicit about it. The only reason for the syllable “-kind” in the first word is to explicitly include women and children.

Canadian politicians, in the time leading up to women gaining the vote in Canada, quibbled over the term “person” used in the laws, insisting that it meant “male person only”. They were not modern “men’s rights” (ha ha yeah right) advocates, but anyway that turned out to be a linchpin in their losing strategy.

The point is that the original sense of “man” was not gender-specific, and this sense survives until today in words like “human”, “yeoman” and, indeed, “woman”. “Man” in a gender-exclusive sense is a later development, and the two senses have coexisted for a long time, with the particular sense invoked in any usage being determined by context. No one thinks, for example, that when Donne wrote that that “no man is an island” the implications is that women were, or could be, islands. “Mankind” doesn’t include women because females are of the same kind as males; it includes women because males and femals are of the same, single kind called “man”.

You’re mistaken. “Man” as a general term for our species does refer to males in particular as a term for Homo Sapiens in general–and you can’t get away from from the gender specificity because “Homo” is Latin for male person. To pick out just one of your examples, the English word “woman” arises from the root meaning “wife of a man.”
To the OP, I regret that I have no knowledge of MRA advocacy in this regard.

I was under the impression that originally the terms were werman (warrior-person, male) and wyfman (wife-person, female) and eventually the wer got dropped from the former.

No, it doesn’t; it means “person who is a wife”. There was a masculine counterpart, were, which has cognates in many European languages, from Latin vir to Irish fear, but it became obsolete in English as the initially ungenderered man was appropriated.

All the Germanic languages have man or a similar word, and in all of them it has both a gender-inclusive sense and a (later, but often now dominant) gender-exclusive sense

We observe the same evolution in Latin with homo, incidentally, even though so far as I know the words are etymologically unrelated. In classical Latin the primary meaning is the gender-inclusive one, with vir serving as the standard gender-exclusive term, but in post-classical Latin homo comes to be the standard gender-exclusive term, with vir being reserved for contexts where attention si being called to heroism or masculinity.

It is not. The sex-specific term is vir.

But hey, you’re making the same mistake as the people who tried to posit that women don’t have souls (the texts on the soul they’d been reading used homo this and homo that, and as I said they thought that meant “male person” when it meant “person”).

Homo Sapiens doesn’t only include the half of the species which has dicks.

I think you’re both making my point. When word X means males OR both males and females, and word Y means solely males, that doesn’t mean word X is “gender neutral.” The usage still signifies that discourse around our species is male-centered. This applies to Latin just as much as English.

We’ll engage with both males and females and eventually we’ll find the right man for the job.

Lots of languages have a word that primarily means “human” and a word that primarily means “adult male human”, but they often end up bleeding into each other. Is a female lycanthrope a wyfwolf? Is a female humaniform robot a gynoid? Or are “were” and “andros” used gender-neutrally in those words?

I wouldn’t call that “gender-neutrality” - I would call that an example of " the male includes the female" - which is not entirely gender- neutral. Because it’s always the male that includes the female, never the reverse- we would never call male lycanthrope a wyfwolf.

Historically, men of a not-very-feminist viewpoint argued simultaneously that “MEN” includes women (hence no reason to separately mention women) and that it does NOT (hence female applicants or candidates would not be appropriate).

And feminists who made the initial complaints (and started the ruckus that Lindsay Van Gelder eventually referred to as “The Great Personhole Cover Debate” [pdf] ) were pointing to the inconsistency. If “MAN” really were used to refer to the species, it would not work very well as a word that refers to the male folk specifically, but more to the point there was some doublethink going on and feminists had caught them in the act.

It’s not called “gender-neutrality,” if you ever took a women’s studies class: it’s called “male is the default.” Unless you specify that something is female, it’s assumed to be male, with some very rare exceptions. Nurses and teachers (and in the 20th century, secretaries) were assumed to be female. Pretty much every other profession was, and quite often, still is, assumed to be occupied by a male. I was born in 1967, and if any job other than nurse, teacher or secretary, was being performed by a woman, the occupation was preceded by “woman,” or “lady.” A “lady professor,” “lady doctor,” “lady mayor,” “lady cab driver.” I heard that through the entire 1970s. Even to the point where, instead of “policewoman,” people sometimes said “lady policeman.” Thank goodness “police officer” finally caught on.

FWIW, I think “All men are created equal,” was intended to be limited to the male of the species. But we revise and reinterpret all the time. The Declaration of Independence, at any rate, isn’t law: it hold supreme historical significance, second only perhaps to the constitution, but it does not hold any force of law, so it could explicitly say “white, Protestant men,” and would still have no force of law. It would just be an historical curiosity.

I don’t know whether any men’s rights people have tried to use the quote to support their movement, but that would be my argument.

Watch old re-runs of “All in the Family”. I am pretty sure Archie makes the same argument to Mike in one episode where the ERA (Equal Rights Admendment) was a part of the plot.

Many times when my father would mention going to see a “woman doctor”, I would interrupt and ask him why he was seeing a gynecologist. Well, actually, his usual phrasing was “gal doctor”, which is even worse.

You are discussing two different aspects. Yes, the use of man, mankind, etc. was inclusive in meaning at the time when it was written. On the other hand, it is indeed using the masculine word as the default, which shows a level of male centrality in the language and of the other people. This shows up now even in Bible translations, where the inclusive “man” or “he” is now translated in a way that uses inclusive language. (It is, unfortunately, one of the reasons some Christians reject the latest NIV. Though some do have more nuanced points about whether a particular passage was supposed to be inclusive.)

All that said, I think we all know to what the OP was referring: the use of terms that are also used exclusively for males. Have any MRA people argued that this means that women don’t have rights?

I’m sure some have, but the big thing on the MRA scale is to try and present themselves as caring about equality. Furthermore, such an interpretation violates the Constitution when considered with its amendments. And I didn’t even find any accusations that they use such language in a quick use of Google. So the answer to the OP seems to be “no.”

Feminists, on the other hand, have used it to indicate how males seemed to have more worth, and why there had to be an amendment to fix this. It’s a decent argument: only men (with property) were able to vote, to it’s clear that not all interpreted the text to be inclusive.

IIRC, it was Meathead who used that line with Gloria during a heated “discussion” of women’s rights. then eventually some realization… “why am I agreeing with your dad now…?”

A pedantic clever fellow I worked with used to say that the simple grammatical rule was:
“In all cases where desirable, the male embraces the female…”

I had a conversation with an MRA-type B of a day in which he was making just the sort of point I allude to in the OP. Hence the thread.