Two words you’ll never catch me using: “seminal” and “disseminate.”
Now: seminal, disseminate, semen. All linked to the notion of the seed, the germination of all things that can grow: the sowing of ideas, of genes, of the next generation of people, texts, and theories. The terms, though we may not think of it in daily use, are innately masculine–innately male. A seminal idea is one that has taken root, has grown, has spread; it engenders offspring in which we can see (genetic) elements of the initial idea, text, or approach. There’s not even a feminine equivalent. What would we say? He’s an ovulant thinker in his field?
As a female scholar, I resent the notion that my ideas may, if I’m lucky, be likened to the very masculine process of impregnation. I resent the paradigm that leads us to consider seminal ideas that allow other thinkers to bear fruit.
It’s just such a
lame limited (edited 10:17 p.m. EDT for ableism: yeesh how did I ever think it was okay to use this word?) way of thinking, especially for scholars who are ostensibly far beyond this masculine approach to scholarship. Besides, we have tons of other possible terms to choose from, as evinced by the brief thesaurus included below:
seminal: critical, crucial, fundamental, important, influential, original, primary, distinctive, distinguished, esteemed, extraordinary, famous, foremost, incomparable, leading, notable, noted, noteworthy, preeminent, prominent, formative, generative, ingenious, innovative, unprecedented, untried, unusual
disseminate: distribute, scatter, broadcast, circulate, diffuse,disperse, promulgate, propagate, publicize, publish, radiate, sow, spread, strew, radiate, bestow, deal out, deliver, devote, disburse, dish out, dispense, mete, communicate, declare, decree, make public, spread, proliferate
I have two close friends, both male, both academics, who use seminal and disseminate with reckless abandon. I don’t guess this post will stop them from using those terms in the future. But it will at least explain why I make a funny face every time they do.