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Monday, August 1, 2011

Manitoba Museum

Took the family (or they took me, depending on how you look at it) to the Manitoba Museum and Science Gallery this weekend. What a great place. First of all, it is a terrific idea to be open Sundays and holidays. Thank you! There were hardly any people in the Science Gallery, compared to the last time we were there, when you had to wait as part of a mob to use certain exhibits. Maybe it was because it was a holiday long weekend and every “good Manitoban” was out at the lake. Or maybe it’s because we parents lack the ambition to drag our kids somewhere they might accidentally learn something while having fun. I don’t have statistics to back either stance up.
However, the Manitoba Museum is still relatively new to me. Not the facility or the exhibits, some of which haven’t changed drastically in thirty years at least, considering I remember them from when I was dragged through there as a kid. No, it’s the name that’s new.
I’m not sure what year they changed it, but when I was growing up (and for a good while after), it was the Museum of Man & Nature. At some point well after feminism got good and rolling, it became vogue to eliminate any reference to “man” and replace it with something more gender-neutral. So the “Museum of Man & Nature” became the “Manitoba Museum.”
(As an aside, how many nerds out there remember when the classic Star Trek quote was changed? “Where no man has gone before” became “where no one has gone before,” and nerds either wept in gender-equality-fueled joy or howled in outrage at the destruction of a classic.)
I fully support equal rights. Not just for women, but for basically every single person out there who gets crapped on because they aren’t the kind of “same” that society currently accepts. Discrimination is stupid, short-sighted, and narrow-minded in the extreme. I just fail to see why we can’t accept that one of the meanings of the word “man” is “the human race.” It’s even in the dictionary; look it up. Using “man” as a descriptor to indicate all of humankind isn’t automatically sexist. Will we go through Shakespeare and find/replace “man” with “human?” Do the same with basically anything written before 1950?
As a male, it is difficult to comment on issues of feminism without immediately being asked “What the hell do you know about a woman’s suffering?” However, from a strictly descriptive viewpoint, “Museum of Man & Nature” is a lot better than “Manitoba Museum.” The latter would be acceptable if there were only one kind of museum, but there isn’t. Manitoba Museum is vague, and therefore unsatisfactory. The place could easily be about Manitoba’s history only.
Then there is the aesthetics of it. I remember when this issue first came up, one of the options being tossed around was “Man and Mother Nature.” I am glad they avoided that misguided attempt to achieve equality. It makes it sound like we’re about to go on a tour of Gaia rather than a learning expedition of science and history. Maybe it’s because my ears are also male (pesky Y chromosome), but “Museum of Man & Nature” sounds better than “Manitoba Museum.” And isn’t the latter name just as bad? MANitoba? How did they miss that one? We may as well be calling our province “Phallica” and Winnipeg “Penisville.” Well, no more!
In honour of the family’s rediscovered solidarity towards the plight of logical absurdity, we pledge to refer to our home province only by its new, gender-neutral name, and encourage you to do the same. From this day forward, we no longer live in “Manitoba.”
We are citizens of “Humanitoba.” Say it with pride.

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