Pronouns

Why is the most important thing to continue mentioning when we want to refer to someone in the simplest manner, their gender?

We get along fine with extremely confusingly imprecise pronouns in English, you that could be plural or not, we that could be ‘we but not them’ or ‘we but not you’ or ‘we: I, them, and you’. they that could be a collection of individuals, or a group acting as one, and so on. but heaven forbid we not be precise with the ‘she’s and ‘he’s and ‘hims’ and ‘her’s and etc.

Hypothetical People

These are the illustrative drops of imaginary human who are called into action at a moment’s notice then dismissed without any name, race, age, background, hopes, dreams, even hair colour, but because of a quirk of grammar, they have a GENDER.

Because of this, and because there’s often no other specifiers, you will end up making a commentary or meta commentary or counter commentary or something whether you wanted to or not, drawing attention to gendered stereotypes and expectations and relative populations whether you follow them or counter them, all of which will distract from the point you were trying to make using this ethereal person.

I noticed this so many times in an otherwise very engaging book “Thinkng fast and slow”. It is filled with these hypothical people. The seemingly arbitrary yet accidentally meaningful ‘he’s and ‘she’s became increasingly noticable and distracting, but led to this post so maybe it’s not all bad.

Potential People

Unfilled roles, future children, partners, and other not-yet-specific but-one-day specific people. why. why do we need to gender these. even when it’s probably illegal in things like job descriptions, it still creeps in. Why.

Trans People, Non binary people

Not everyone has a clear answer for ‘what is your gender’, or even ‘what pronouns do you prefer in every case’ because not everyone is consistent. Just chill everyone.

Gods

Whether or not a deity is a multitude or singular, it still manages to end up with gendered pronouns - even the giant spaghetti monster has his noodly appendage praised. (Sidenote: surely it is correct to refer to a triune God as ‘they’? majestic? multiple persons (“it” though genderless, is also personless), and avoids having some folks complaining that using a feminine pronoun for a God who transcends gender will gender God more than using the *cough* default *cough* masculine pronoun. Maybe monotheists prefer explicitly singular pronouns, but prayers addressed to ‘God, you…’ are not questioned.) (Sideonote, the second: I tried for a while to avoid gendered pronouns for God, but it was never unconscious (and is almost entirely impossible while singing worship songs written by others).

Anthropomorphised things

Robots, cars, post-it-note-piles, glass cups, form fields, and pretty much everything is made more awesome when imagining personality, but for these objects to have a personality they can’t be referred to with the impersonal pronoun ‘it’, and we so quickly reach for ‘he’ or ‘she’ (somehow either choice manages to be sexist… how do you do it patriarchy?). BB-8 is not a he. BB-8 is a genderless ball, but BB-8 is full of personality, and the only way I can continue to refer to BB-8 as a person it to use BB-8’s name. Were I to refer to them as they, BB-8 would feel significantly less full of life, and if I call him a he, then he has personality again. How, language? How do you work?

Programmers and copy writers.

Now the self-serving part, If I’m trying to construct a string of text about how this person that you know did a thing, I could use their user name over and over again. ‘catfriend77 wanted you to visit catfriend77’s page of catfriend77’s cat photos’. We could ask catfriend77 their gender so we can construct the sentence simpler in english, but we have no business knowing that, we just host their cat photos. and maybe ‘catfriend77’ is a brand anyway, so our insistence on gender pronouns is frustrated.


Use ‘they’’ more, and embrace the awkwardness of repeating a name 100,000 times, it’s fun.