Just received my size 50 knitting needles in the mail, and I’m pretty sure these are weapons, not craft making tools
The cat’s face
Scott Woods (X)
The quote I used in this post.
Okay, a bit more on why I’m so down on gendered pronouns!
WHAT’S A PRONOUN?
(Source is this weird make-your-own-bingo site. I don’t know how you would play this game.)
Pronouns are words like he, she, them, it, etc. They’re words that take the place of people, so we can say “Ryan sauntered into the beachhouse. His pecs were so interesting! He always suspected as much” instead of “Ryan sauntered into the beachhouse. Ryan’s pecs were so interesting! Ryan always suspected as much”.
They are useful when you don’t want to sound like a robot.
WHAT’S A GENDERED PRONOUN?
A pronoun that tells you what the gender of the person is! He and she are two of them. They is genderless, while it suggests (to many people) a lack of humanity, and with it a lack of gender (as distinct from just not having it specified). One person might get mad if you call them “it”. Another person might get mad if you call their pets “it”.
DON’T WE ALREADY HAVE GENDER-FREE PRONOUNS?
Aha, caught me there, didn’t you? I said “One person might get mad if you call them ‘it’”, and them there is a genderless plural pronoun being used on individual, can’t we use them and they and other versions as gender-free pronouns? Couldn’t their pecs be interesting, even if there’s just one person there? Because they probably are.
Interesting, I mean.
(Hugh Jackman’s pecs, found while searching for “cool pecs”) (okay it was a Google Alert for “cool pecs”) (okay it was a Google Alert for “cool pecs +wolverine hopefully??”)
And yeah, we could. But we don’t. A lot of style guides recommend “him/her” (and, to make it more equal, making every second one “her/him” to mix it up). But that’s messy, ugly, hard to say and impossible to say often (“Ryan sauntered into the beachhouse. His or her pecs were so interesting! She or he always suspected as much”) and puts us right back to sounding like robots. Not to mention how it completely breaks down when someone who ISN’T situated in the gender binary has pecs we want to talk about.
I have a book on dog training that randomly chooses “his” or “her” every time a dog pronoun is needed. I get the idea, but the final result is a quantum dog that changes genders during a single trick. It’s distracting. It’s messy. It’s a crude hack using tools (good ol’ gendered pronouns) that were broken in the first place. And so pointless! Nobody cares about these dog’s genders. The book ITSELF doesn’t even care. It just wants to teach me how to make my dog lie down and sit pretty but it can’t do that without getting mired down in imaginary dog gender identities.
We can do better.
We need to kill the gendered pronouns.
GENDERED PRONOUNS ARE BORING AND STUPID AND WE SHOULD MURDER THEM.
(A stock photo of a body outline. I say, could this stock photo be purchased on some manner of online stock photo website? If only this could be clarified somehow??)
Here’s a sentence:
She had no more choices left. Except one. Grinning wildly, she initiated the Omega Device.
Here’s what English says about that sentence:
The most important thing to know about anyone in the world is their gender, and I need to know it the second you tell me about someone.
"She initiated the Omega Device" tells you what I wanted it to (the Omega device has been initiated by someone, and Shit is about to Go Down, Omega-Wise) but it also tells you a woman is doing it. But no big deal, right? Who cares if we have to talk about gender when talking about Omega Devices and The People Who Initiate Them? It adds colour to the scene! Now everyone can imagine a smokin-hot babe with that Omega Device, instead of a smokin-hot hunk, and rest easy knowing their imagination is correct. What’s the problem, right? We’re getting extra information about the scene for free!
But it’s not! There’s an opportunity cost. We could be bake in literally any other fact we can imagine into our languages. We could have pronouns where, instead of someone’s gender, they told you their mood. Their bone density. Heck, we could have pronouns that tell you their HOPES AND DREAMS. We could live in a world of pronouns that indicate a speaker’s certainty that the person being referred to is ACTUALLY that person, and not a robot duplicate, and we could have a different pronoun to suggest that while the person may not be a robot duplicate, we haven’t entirely ruled out illegal clone. These are crazy suggestions, but that’s the point: anything is possible in language! We invented it! And we can reinvent whatever we want!
He’s me, Ryan. Man! Don’t you wish “he” there told you something even marginally more useful than gender identity, like at least my Facebook relationship status? OH WELL, GUESS YOU’LL NEVER KNOW
And yet we’ve settled on gender.
And it is settling. It’s settling for irrelevant, for boring, for pointless. Is gender really so important to us English speakers that it is, quite literally, all we can talk about? Kill it. Kill it, and build a language with pronouns that do better.
And while we’re at it, let’s not forget to build in a full set of neutral pronouns, pronouns that say “this person or animal or object’s gender/age/android status is irrelevant here, so WHO FRIGGIN’ CARES”. Because there will be times, I promise, when we won’t want to talk about androids, the same way there are times now where we don’t want to talk about gender, but we’re forced to because that’s the language we’ve settled on. Settled for.
And then, finally and at last, we could all stop obsessing about what genders real and imaginary people are like it’s the most important thing in the world. Because it’s really not.
Especially when there could be illegal cloning going on, and the Omega Device has just been initiated.