the brotherhood of man

I watched five minutes of the interminable Super Bowl pregame show, but the brief segment I saw included the cast of several NBC shows performing a Broadway song and dance called “The Brotherhood of Man.”

In our day of gender inclusivity, when Bible translators worry that masculine pronouns might offend female readers, when professors tell students to use gender neutral terms—even if it makes their writing less readable, when just last week a woman accused our governor of being sexist for using the term “Michigander” (apparently a female resident of our state should be called a “Michigoose”)—it was surprising to see Brian Williams, Matt Lauer, Ann Curry, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and the cast of their shows happily singing words which I was told are sexist.

Does anyone know what the rules are? Were the NBC celebrities merely being ironic, and I missed the joke? Were female viewers offended by this performance? Should they be? Is it okay to use masculine terms for the human race as long as it’s in a classic song? Or does the performance by the stars of a major network during the Super Bowl—hard to get more mainstream than that—indicate that our preoccupation with gender inclusivity is overblown?

What are the rules, and when are we supposed to follow them?

6 Comments

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  1. I don’t think you’re considering the venue. Only men are allowed to play in the NFL. Any sexism in this little piece pales beside the “manly” game which is so violent that they can only play a few games per year, far less than any other professional sport.

    Did you see that Superbowl ad the point of which is the contention that you can guarantee a hot time in bed by giving a pretty woman flowers?

    Superbowl Sunday may be the most sexist day of the year.

  2. I was thinking the exact same thing when I watched that. Especially in light of the whole “Rachel Held Evans thinks John Piper is a sexist pig for bemoaning the loss of masculinity within the Christian faith” debate. Does anyone else find this kind of stuff exhausting?

  3. Terribly exhausting. I was invited to go to a baby shower for a baby girl. We were instructed not buy “pink girly things” as they were not planning to push this baby (not even born yet) into a world of gender roles where she might have to like pink, dolls, doiles, tea cups..etc. I sent a gift card.

  4. Bill, you would probably prefer the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet.

    Then again, it’s terribly speciesist.

  5. I didn’t watch the show. However, the phrase “brotherhood of man” is indeed phallocentric unless it is specifically intended to refer to males. It is sexist. The right response isn’t to say, “Ha, tu quoque!” Instead we should take it as a reminder that we all have a long way to go in deconstructing the rhetoric of male supremacy.

    Regarding Piper. I for one, pray I will never communicate to my daughter that she needs to be more male to be more like Christ.

  6. Seth:

    I am not as certain as you are that “man” is sexist. At least Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig, and Natalie Morales apparently don’t think so. I don’t want to ever give offense, but neither do I want to take offense for a group that is not offended. I have heard “man” used generically often in the progressive media, by cultural leaders such as Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. So I’m asking whether these leaders are hypocritically sexist or whether the term “man” still has a generic sense in the culture.

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