Happy International Pronouns Day 2019
We live in a world where such iniquities as child marriage, female foeticide, the torture and sexual abuse of teenage boys and the trafficking and enslavement of vulnerable human beings continues unabated, not to mention Turkey’s current offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces, during which dozens of innocent civilians have already died and 150,000 people have been forced to flee for their lives. So here’s an idea:
Let’s celebrate #InternationalPronounsDay!
Last year saw the first observance of this new and special annual event, founded by one Shige Sagurai of the University of Maryland. We learn from the project’s official website, that Sagurai’s pronouns are ze/they. The website also asserts that “referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity”.
It so happens that, as a matter of courtesy, I used to call men who claim a feminine identity “she” without even thinking about it because I didn’t know it mattered. I mean, it wasn’t as if they were actually claiming to be women, was it?
But as someone whose human dignity was completely disregarded by a District Judge called Kenneth Grant and a barrister called Jodie Anderson when they tried to force me to use the preferred pronouns of my violent male assailant, Tara Wood aka Wolf – who does claim to be a woman, even though he is known for calling women ‘cuntface’ and telling us to suck his cock – and having endured abuse ever since because I found that particular instruction impossible to obey, I am less inclined these days to prioritise the feelings of those whose sense of what they are is so fragile that they try to compel others to go along with a falsehood.
Nevertheless, I remain open-minded and open to persuasion that pronouns are one of the major issues of our time and that making such a massive fuss about them will not only save countless lives and ultimately be for the good of humankind, it will also make a lot of self-obsessed people feel better by validating their delusions.
What could matter more?
By the way, in case you miss it, the rather sparse International Pronouns Day website promotes another site, which serves as the Church of Identifarians’ equivalent to the Debrett’s Guide to Etiquette. It tells us all we need to know about – to use one of the most outlandish phrases of the modern world – “respecting people’s pronouns”.
Here’s an example:
Hi Akeem, I’m Maria and I haven’t got my head so far up my own arse that I give a flying fuck what pronouns you refer to me by. Nice to meet you!
Seriously, if I had a hot dinner for every time I’ve been deliberately misgendered – i.e. referred to as ‘he’ or called a man – over the past couple of years, my bum would be even bigger than it is now. The point I think those who participate in such asinine behaviour are trying to make is how hurtful it is to be misgendered. Well, if I was an adolescent girl agonising over whether I would ever be pretty enough to get a boyfriend, maybe it would be.
But I’m not. Call me ‘he’, call me ‘sir’, call me ‘Man’. Not only does my human dignity not depend on it, I literally couldn’t give a shit.
Anyway, how to mark International Pronouns Day? Among the many helpful suggestions are:
Thanks for the suggestion. I hope you are enjoying my blog post.
Brilliant! There can be no better way to signal that you are probably the most tedious company imaginable and best avoided.
And remember that once stuff gets shared on social media you lose control over it. I think a page full of pictures of people holding up signs with their pronouns as a source of levity would make an awesome addition to this site.
Warning: if you do this you deserve to be mocked mercilessly. In my local community live survivors of a range of human catastrophes from the Jewish Holocaust to the Srebrenica massacre as well as families bereaved by drug-related gang wars. Don’t expect complaints about “misgendering” to win too much sympathy.
No, I had a much more fun idea for marking this extraordinary day… *drum roll*
As I lay sleepless wondering what I could personally contribute to this very special day, it occurred to me that Wikipedia’s page on it could do with some improvement. I proudly present to you the results here.
I hope you all enjoy indulging yourself showing off your pronouns today. I Ieave you with a couple of important videos.
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As someone who uses “they” pronouns, I hope I can someway explain my reasoning. Gender has always felt like a bear trap snapped around my leg. The idea that, because I was born with a certain set of genitals, there was a certain way I was supposed to act, certain things I was supposed to like, a certain thing I was supposed to be. Calling myself nonbinary, neither a man nor a woman, was a way of saying “fuck society’s interpretation of genitals, I’m just going to be me.” Everytime someone calls me “he” or “she”, it shows that that person has looked at me and made assumptions about who I am. They look at my clothing, my face, my mannerisms, everything about me and assume something about a part of me they will likely never see. A woman doesn’t look any one way. And neither does a man. We are all just people. I’m tired of gender roles and the policing of people according to their genitals. I don’t think that genitals or gender roles should play any part at all in how we talk about others. It’s pointless, it has nothing to do with who someone is as a person. I believe that referring to someone with the pronouns they prefer is such a tiny, insignificant thing, that can bring someone affirmation in their identity, that what reason could you have to NOT call them by this tiny little word that brings them joy. Trans and cis people alike are trapped in the binds of their genitals and gender and I am deeply saddened that people spend their time mocking others for such a tiny thing. When I am called “they”, it makes my day. It says to me, “I am willing to respect you.” When someone calls me “he” or “she”, it hurts. It says to me “I care more about my perception of you than I care about your identity.” That’s it. It’s not the most significant issue of our time by far. There are so many problems I’d rather solve than misgendering. But in times like these, if I can make someone feel respected, I will.
I think you’re missing the point hugely. I totally agree with you that society tries to force females into one role and males into another. Women (adult females) must be kind and caring. Men (adult males) tough and strong. Men’s clothes were traditionally more practical for everyday life and women were restricted by their long dresses, they couldn’t ride bicycles or horses easily or do practical jobs.That’s why women fought to make it acceptable in wider society for them to wear trousers. It’s important to note that they weren’t saying I’m no longer female. Wearing trousers was one aspect of breaking down sexist stereotypes and barriers to women.
Women continued to achieve greater equality with men as time went on. The battles women still face are to do with the details in regards to barriers already broken down. For example in the UK at least we’ve had two female Prime Ministers. However women on average still earn less for men, although the reasons for that are not clear. The injustices men suffer is also becoming apparent, for example men are more likely to lose custody of their children. Again the reasons behind this are up for debate. Despite all this it seems quite clear to see that since recorded history began we’ve never had such equality between the sexes. However despite this sexism still exists, men still commit over 80% of violent crime and it stills takes a gamete from a male and a female to reproduce. Sex still matters. He is used to refer to a male and she a female. That is all.
Defining yourself as “they” means that you’re not acknowledging your sex. If you’re intersex then I get it but if you’re then all you’re doing is supporting the biases that “felt like a bear trap snapped around your leg”. Intentionally or not you’re saying I can’t be male, don’t refer to me as he because I wear a dress, or I’m not she because my hair is short and I have never worn a skirt. Social change is a continuous process. By being an ultra feminine man or an ultra masculine woman then you’re part of the change you clearly want to see in the world. If you try to opt out then at best people will just think you’re a fool and at worst you reinforce stereotypes of what a woman or a man is. I’ve recently seen butch women (female) and feminine men (male) who are then referred to as they when that isn’t what they want. I’m sure the people who did this were just trying to be polite, but it never happens to the feminine women or masculine men so clearly intentional or not, it’s reinforcing stereotypes.
I really hope you realise that changing your pronouns isn’t the solution to sexism or personal happiness and you can just be happy with who you are.
I loved that student video. Humour is a great way to show people up. However, it is vitally important that we show some respect for a fragile, easily offended, near-suicidal, oppressed minority, who respect us by telling us to die in a fire after sucking their dicks. Such respect must be reciprocated.
I, too, am a linguist, so it surprises me that, besides being ignorant of so many extremely useful pronouns, traditional English words such as ‘cis’ and ‘misgendering’ had escaped being in my vocabulary for most of my life. I hang my head in shame for having spent too long in the real world.
I’m also puzzled how this radical change of the use of pronouns would work in languages such as Spanish. They’re much more rarely used, because Spanish relies on gender-adjectives instead; for example: ‘Es viejo’ = he is old. (Is old + masculine adjective). ‘Es vieja’ = she is old. (Is old = feminine adjective). Do the more than 300 million Spanish speakers in the world have a new linguistic problem, or do they avoid the problem altogether? Or do they have to say, ‘Es viej%”!**£;$’ ? I foresee this conundrum taking up hundreds of hours of parliamentary time in the Iberian peninsula and South America, but it must be addressed urgently – out of respect.
I await Brexit at the time of writing. However, I can sleep easy knowing that Brex was ‘assigned gender neutral at birth’ by being called an ‘it’. That is of paramount importance.
I just found your blog and I’m glad you’re doing this. Having studied linguistics I feel a particular irritation about this pronoun nonsense.
In fact, I made a video about it and if it’s all right, I’d like to share a link to it in hopes of adding to the conversation. I want to do what I can to help people understand that mangling language is not the way to achieve peace or justice or anything but confusion.
Thanks so much both for your comment and your video.
Brilliant as ever! Thanks for making this day complete…..