Amen and awoman

Filed under: when praying in Congress goes wrong. Is awoman even a word?

women praying

To paraphrase Ross Geller, congresspeople say all kinds of… stuff.

On 4th January, The New York Post reported on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver closing Congress’s opening prayer with the phrase “amen and awoman”:

May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us and give us peace,” Cleaver said during his two-minute invocation, “peace in our families, peace across this land, and dare I ask, o Lord, peace even in this chamber.

We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma, and ‘God’ known by many names by many different faiths. Amen and awoman.

I’m no stranger to this kind of gendered prayer; the God interlude from OutKast’s Speakerboxx/The Love Below uses a similar variation:

Amen
Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry
A-lady

But that was in jest. Cleaver meant what he said. Victor Mair from Language Log dissected the utterance, with etymologies of the word “amen” and, for those who didn’t know, it isn’t connected to the word “man” in any way.

Old English, from Late Latin amen, from Ecclesiastical Greek amen, from Hebrew amen “truth,” used adverbially as an expression of agreement (as in Deuteronomy xxvii.26, I Kings i.36), from Semitic root a-m-n “to be trustworthy, confirm, support.”

There’s something to be said about the trustworthiness, confirmation, support of men but that’s for another day. Needless to say, you don’t need to feminise the word “amen” but what Congress should do is make women’s lives better—especially women of colour—with better legislation for their rights and their bodies.

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