Do you have pronoun privilege?

An article in the New York Times talks about those silly pronoun-sharing circles that people have to do now in meetings with social justice types and at universities. It’s now considered a “privilege” if you use the correct pronouns for your sex.

A quick note about “privilege,” before I get to the article. Privilege is the flip side of oppression, and it occurs when one group of people has material power over another group of people. Men, as a group, have privilege over women, as a group, because they are at the top of the sex hierarchy, they have material power over women, and they have the ability to extract resources from us. White people, as a group, also have privilege over people of colour, as a group, because we have material power to enact violence against people of colour without facing any repercussions, and we also have the ability to extract resources from them. Oppression happens on a structural level. It’s worked into the system.

People who use the correct pronouns for their sex do not have material power, as a group, over people who do not use the correct pronouns for their sex. People who understand the English language and human reproductive anatomy do not have any power to extract resources from people who invent identities for themselves. This situation does not constitute privilege and oppression, it’s merely a bunch of whiners who are upset that people don’t want to play a silly game with them. Universities should be teaching what privilege and oppression actually are, not confusing people over a very important social issue and turning it into something silly.

Moving right along to the article.

“At some colleges and universities, it’s common for students to introduce themselves, whether in class or in student group meetings, by name, followed by a string of pronouns. “I’m Lizzie; she/her/hers,” for example. I find the exercise discomfiting, but not because I don’t want to know the students’ pronouns. It’s because this ice-breaking ritual, in my experience, is easy only for those for whom the answer is obvious. It can “out” or isolate others, particularly those who are still considering their gender or who have just begun to transition.

When we go around the room in class, students visibly react when they hear that someone they thought looked male goes by female pronouns or vice versa. This happened in my class a few years back. All eyes fell upon this person as if to ask, “If you identify as female, why don’t you try to look the part?” My heart went out to this student, who later told me that she was just beginning to think about her transition and hadn’t yet started to publicly change anything about herself, other than her name. She looked like any other guy in the class, except she had adopted a traditionally female name and used female pronouns on this day when asked.”

You know why people visibly react when a dude declares himself to be female? Because that’s preposterous! Men aren’t women, and everybody knows this. When a man says that he’s a woman, everyone can tell he’s lying. It’s frankly silly to say something that is really obviously not true and expect people to believe it. If a man goes through a process of medically transitioning, then he’s at least demonstrating that he believes his own story, but when a fully-intact male who is making no attempt at looking feminine calls himself a woman, that adds an extra layer of silliness to his claim.

“This is the kind of student for whom we might think the pronoun exercise would be perfect. Once she identified herself, no one would accidentally mis-gender her in class. But in fact, as the student explained to me later, having to say her pronouns in a room full of strangers terrified her. She would have preferred to state her female name and leave it at that. If we had done traditional introductions, some of the students would have put two and two together and assumed she was transitioning; others might have thought she had an unusual name for a guy; some might have thought she was gender queer and comfortable with a male appearance and a female name; and yet others would have shrugged their shoulders and thought, “Whatever.”

With this experience in mind, I decided to adopt a compromise solution for this semester: I explained my concerns and said that students should list their pronouns along with their names only if they were so inclined. I also said that as a class we will refer to one another by our first names (community building) or the pronoun “they” (grammar evolves!). This strategy seemed to work. Half of the students disclosed their pronouns and the other half just introduced themselves in the standard way. No one became the object of scrutiny.”

Yes, language evolves, but human reproductive anatomy hasn’t evolved at all. We still come in two sexes, male and female, and reproduce by combining a sperm from the male with an egg from the female. Everyone knows this and we know how to identify the two sexes. Even when a tiny minority of people with a particular mental illness force everyone to redefine language, the actual reality of our bodies doesn’t go away.

The special snowflakes who want people to refer to them by their subjective internal feelings rather than their actual sex are the ones who started making everyone do these pronoun introductions, and it was supposed to be for their ‘safety,’ but now they are being made ‘unsafe’ by the exact thing they asked for! You can never please these people. They will be ‘unsafe’ forever, because no matter what you do to try to make them happy, they will find something else to feel ‘unsafe’ over.

I haven’t had to declare my pronouns in any meetings, but some of my friends have. We’ve been discussing how to respond to this as gender abolitionist feminists. I think if I were ever asked this, I’d say that I do not identify with a gender but since my sex is female my pronouns are also female. And rest assured that if ever someone who is unambiguously male or female declares themselves to be the opposite sex, despite the actual evidence, I’m going to be one of those ‘unsafe’ people who rolls her eyes.

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24 thoughts on “Do you have pronoun privilege?

  1. I seriously think that things like this are one of the reasons some people voted for Trump. I know it doesn’t make logical sense, but some people who are pretty far away from the kind of place where people discuss things like “pronoun privilege” just want the silliness to stop.

    Liked by 6 people

    • I’ve heard that suggested a few times. I’m not sure how realistic it is that the trans cult caused people to vote for Trump who would have otherwise voted for Clinton, but maybe for some people it was a factor. I’ve even said myself that all this nonsense will drive middle-of-the-road voters to the republican side. But speaking for myself, I would NEVER vote conservative or republican, no matter what. I’d take a pronoun-sharing circle any day over a Trump presidency.

      Liked by 8 people

      • Totally agree! I would never do such a thing! But I do think ridiculous extremism hurts the cause of inclusion with middle of the roaders who may not always be too thoughtful.

        Liked by 3 people

      • I imagine a few moderates who have school-aged children affected by Obama’s trans accommodation law might have been swayed Republicans, or at least stayed away from the polls, but I doubt it was the major reason.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Dead Wild Roses and commented:
    A look into the pronoun teapot tempest –

    “A quick note about “privilege,” before I get to the article. Privilege is the flip side of oppression, and it occurs when one group of people has material power over another group of people. Men, as a group, have privilege over women, as a group, because they are at the top of the sex hierarchy, they have material power over women, and they have the ability to extract resources from us. White people, as a group, also have privilege over people of colour, as a group, because we have material power to enact violence against people of colour without facing any repercussions, and we also have the ability to extract resources from them. Oppression happens on a structural level. It’s worked into the system.

    People who use the correct pronouns for their sex do not have material power, as a group, over people who do not use the correct pronouns for their sex. People who understand the English language and human reproductive anatomy do not have any power to extract resources from people who invent identities for themselves. This situation does not constitute privilege and oppression, it’s merely a bunch of whiners who are upset that people don’t want to play a silly game with them. Universities should be teaching what privilege and oppression actually are, not confusing people over a very important social issue and turning it into something silly.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • “You know why people visibly react when a dude declares himself to be female? Because that’s preposterous! Men aren’t women, and everybody knows this. When a man says that he’s a woman, everyone can tell he’s lying. It’s frankly silly to say something that is really obviously not true and expect people to believe it. If a man goes through a process of medically transitioning, then he’s at least demonstrating that he believes his own story, but when a fully-intact male who is making no attempt at looking feminine calls himself a woman, that adds an extra layer of silliness to his claim.”

      Precisely. May I also presume to wonder what the actual subject matter of the class in question might be? Unless it is “Gender Studies Under Oppressive Pronouns”…if it’s like, Biology or Geology, I’m hoping there is time, after we all agonize over our real and imagined pronouns, to get to the actual academic material.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. My answer to the pronoun question, should it arise: “You may refer to me by my obvious biological sex.”

    In my 48 years, zero people have ever gotten it wrong, no matter how I was dressed. This despite all the new “science” that says you can never really tell!

    Liked by 6 people

  4. I think if I were ever asked this, I’d say that I do not identify with a gender but since my sex is female my pronouns are also female.

    This is my pretty much my plan – “I go by sex-based rather than gender-based, so my pronouns are female.”

    I also thought about feigning confusion and forcing an explanation. It’s never happened to me yet, so we’ll see what I feel like doing when/if the time comes.

    But, thank goddess, maybe it never will! This nonsense is undoing itself! I laughed so hard. Now we’re not to ask pronouns at all, lest somebody’s inadvertent facial reaction cause discomfort to the trans (or “gender queer” or what have you). Well, good! Then we can just just drop this exercise in stupidity and get on with our lives. 🙂

    Liked by 6 people

  5. The very worst thing about undergrad, post grad, prof training is the ice breakers. I have yet to meet anyone over the age of 10 who doesn’t find them cringeworthy. I suspect if you enjoy them you equally enjoy being prescious about your pronouns.

    Like

  6. Ohhhh the pronoun question. I have been thinking about how to reply. These folks are so good at intimidation. They know how to earn social currency in their little game and delude themselves into thinking they OWN the moral high-ground. In their world, the rules are:

    a) play this pronoun game and you’re a “good” and “moral” person
    b) even more points if you have a pronoun other than what would normally be used for your biological sex
    c) refuse to play the pronoun game and you’re a “bad” and “immoral” and “evil” person akin to an extreme racist

    I have to dig up serious courage to go against their rules because I have this issue where I want people to not brand me as an evil person. But I think that I need to get the hell over it.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. The thing that irritates me the most is this “language evolves!” thing. Because they don’t understand the mechanism whereby language evolves. Language evolves by being acquired natively by new speakers, who (via the language acquisition process) each build up a grammar in their mind. The mental grammar a child acquires will be subtly different from the grammars of their parents, because a community’s transmission of its language(s) to a baby is a complicated and imperfect process. (Each of us can probably think of a few differences between the way we speak and the way our parents do.) But that change is in no way intentional. Some individual or committee can’t decree “okay, this is the way the language works now” just by fiat. Doesn’t work that way.

    “Singular ‘they'” has been a thing for centuries; you can even find it in Shakespeare. English speakers have been saying things like “If someone calls, tell them I’m not here” and “everyone has their own book” for generations, and it’s perfectly natural (despite the grammar pedants who whine “but Latin!” about such things). “This is Alice; they’re my neighbor” is a new and different usage, and it’s silly to pretend it isn’t. That’s the one that sounds unnatural to my ear (and probably yours). “Right-thinking” people love to conflate these two things, but it’s actually kind of dishonest to do so.

    The other thing they’ll say if you raise your eyebrows at pronouns like ‘ze’ or ‘xie’, or call them “made-up pronouns”, is “But all words are made up!” Uh, OK, “coined pronouns”, then. Still clearly different from the words inherited from Old English (or from Proto-Germanic, etc.). Happy now? (No, they’re invariably not.)

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Honestly like… the other reason pronoun circles are kind of dumb? You don’t address people by their third-person pronouns >.>

    Like if I were to go to one of these pronoun circles (idk where i’d find one, I assume they do those in our gender studies classes or something) and say “I’m anomie, she/her pronouns please” people are going to respond “hi, nice to meet you.” And not “hi, nice to meet her” because that would make no sense. And if they need to refer to me in the third person whilst I’m sitting there, they aren’t going to say “yeah, she’s also doing a degree in basket weaving, you two should talk” when that “she” could refer to any of 3.5 billion people, they will use my name, “yeah, anomie’s also doing a degree, etc”

    It’s literally just, either a way to signal that you’re a “trans ally” because you’re so good and virtuous, or a way to signal that you’re trans without actually bothering to transition or do anything. It basically only benefits privileged wankers and is just kind of awkward for everyone else. Even for most trans people this doesn’t make sense. Like when I go into public spaces and people need to use a third person pronoun to refer to me for some reason, they’re usually going to default to female pronouns because I appear to have female sex characteristics; I don’t have to sit down with them and have a pronoun circle in advance of any interaction. (“Hi, can you please get me this pair of sandals in a size nine? I’m Clarissa Valentina Ashtaroth Ssen’krad Dragontongue, she/her or wolfself pronouns”)

    For an actual trans person having to specify your pronouns can be anxiety-provoking because…. was it not obvious?? Am I deluding myself that I pass the remaining 99% of the time and everyone secretly knows and it’s like the truman show?? Is someone here onto me and that’s why they’re doing this pronoun rigmarole?? If I’m going to be outed, can I trust everyone here?? That bloke over there looks kind of dodgy, even though he said he uses she/her pronouns and is named Lulu… Everyone’s staring at me aren’t they????? Should I pretend I use a different pronoun to throw them off?????? etc…. etc. But even if that’s just relegated to hissing background static, there’s still the fact that for almost every person including almost every trans person, having to specify your pronouns is just… yeah. Kind of silly. Since most of the time we just “pronoun” people based on what they look like and not doing so ends up being weird for everyone.

    Sorry, pet peeve <.< rant over now

    Liked by 2 people

      • This. Pronouns are something for the benefit of other people. Who talk about you in the first person. So, why should any individual person have a preference for specific pronouns?
        You use the pronouns that fit with how the person looks like, because that makes it easier to keep track of who you are talking of.

        I feel tempted to, if I ever am asked about my preferred pronouns, to say “Since you ask, let’s talk about everyone with female pronouns, I think that was very cool in “Ancillary Justice”. So, what do you think about Donald Trump? She’s an idiot, isn’t she?”

        Liked by 3 people

  9. A few months ago, I was at a Friday night Sabbath dinner where one of the guests and her sister suggested we all go around and say our pronouns. It was advertised as Social Justice Shabbat, focused on LGB+++++ issues, but up till that point, it hadn’t really descended into Tumblr-type snowflake territory. One of the women claimed they/them/their pronouns, and our lesbian host’s partner claimed he/him/his. I later creeped her new partner on Facebook, and watched a YouTube video this person did, so I found out her partner identifies as trans and is probably female-bodied. It’s so weird to me to see someone I’ve always known as a lesbian, who was married to another woman for years, suddenly talking about her “boyfriend”!

    I was so tempted to snap, “Do I look like a dude?” And here I thought it was still considered rude to outright ask someone, “Are you a man or a woman?” Making people share pronouns seems like just another form of that leading question. If you truly don’t know someone’s sex (e.g., you only know someone in a mailing list, and that person has a unisex name like Dale or Chris, or the person is extremely androgynous and has a voice that could go either way), there are other ways you can try to figure it out without asking for pronouns or biological sex. There was a very mannish-looking person with a female name in my Children’s Literature class, with a somewhat ambiguous voice, whom I honestly couldn’t figure out. When we were both in the bathroom once time, I was trying to look under the stall to see which direction the feet were facing. Of course, that was long before I hit peak trans!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I wonder do those people, who are going to colleges and universities and sitting in their *pronoun-sharing circles* blathering about privilege; understand just how much classism, xenophobia and racism goes into this nonsense?

    Seeing people who sin by “visibly reacting” to bullshit as evil and privileged ones?
    What about people who can’t afford college education? People who never sat in a *pronoun-sharing circles* and who were never enlightened by pronoun gibberish?
    And what about immigrants? And people who aren’t capable of speaking English fluently? Do they also have “pronoun privilege” over poor (lol), oppressed, college educated special snowflakes?

    I dislike Oppression Olympics, but some people really need to get a grip.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I actually completely agree with you. I went to college, but in my experience people often piss and moan about privilege but it’s all a bunch of navel-gazing bullshit that helps no one. Technically I’m in academia but the bs the trans cult comes up with like this makes me want to scream into a pillow. Social sciences have become so anti-intellectual. The race and ethnic relations class I took was good, but there’s so much navel-gazing. Sorry, but it’s really only worth putting yourself into debt like I did if you’re majoring in STEM or accounting or something where you can get a job. Majoring in social sciences that now teaches that it is literal murder if you fuck up a pronoun just turns you into a fragile snowflake unprepared for the real world.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Pronoun circles are the worst, but I try to use them to my advantage to educate a little if I happen to find myself in one. If I’m in a space where pronoun circles are happening, it’s also likely a space where I’ll get referred to as “he” as a sign of “respect” unless I adamantly declare myself female and that I use female pronouns… So I take the opportunity to clearly state my name and that I use she/her because I am female – and I make sure to say female instead of woman/girl or whatever. Often I’ll still get people calling me “they/them” because in queer circles there’s generally difficulty wrapping ones mind around a female looking the way I do and *not* using male pronouns, but at least at that point I’ve done my best and have a better leg to stand on when I correct them.
    My least favorite part of the pronoun circles is the fact that they’re asking you your pronoun largely to figure out how you should be treated… As if a pronoun correlates to my personality, as if saying I should be referred to as she and her means that I want to be coddled and have doors held for me rather than simply referencing the fact that I’m female.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The pronoun thing is a means of thought control, like in the book 1984. No one refers to someone in the third person pronouns when speaking to them. It’s always, “Hey you, would you like to go get some food.” It’s not “Hey s/he, want to go get some food.” It’s a way of subtly brainwashing people into believing the lie that people can change their sex. Instead of recognizing that it’s a man impersonating woman and that HE’S a creep, suddenly it’s a transwoman and SHE’S doing such and such.

    I must wonder how these people would react to highly gendered languages like Spanish where the objects have gender.

    Liked by 1 person

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