IEET > Rights > Vision > Contributors > P. Tittle > Futurism > PostGender
Ms. and Mr.
P. Tittle   Mar 6, 2012   Bite-Sized Subversion  

I’m in this world, okay, and the people identify each other by sex.  All the time.  No kidding.  It’s like ‘Female Person Jenkins ‘ and ‘Male Person Ellis’ or ‘Person-with-Uterus Jenkins’ and ‘Person-with-Penis Ellis’, I don’t know the exact translation.  But sex-identity is a mandatory prefix.  They distinguish males from females.  Before they do anything else.

It bothers me.  It irritates me.  It pisses me off.  I mean, what’s so damned special about my sex that it has to be part of my name?  Surely my values, my interests, my abilities, my character – these aspects define my self more than my sex does.

And anyway shouldn’t I be the one to decide what parts of my self are important enough to be part of my name?  Maybe I want to be identified by my uterus, but maybe I want to be identified by my occupation.  Hell, maybe I want to identified by my blood type.

The thing is, they consider it polite.  Polite!  To draw such relentless attention to details of my anatomy!  In fact, they think that to call someone just by their name, without the penis/uterus prefix, is rude.  So it’s really hard to say anything. And it’s even harder to do anything.  I mean, I tried just saying “Dave” one time and everybody turned and stared at me. No kidding.  I tried to hold my ground, but I heard myself say “Sorry, I mean, ‘Mr. Ellis’.”  And everybody smiled with relief.

I even tried variations once.  I thought if I loosened up the custom a bit, it’d be easier to get rid of it altogether.  Sort of like food that’s dried onto dishes you haven’t washed in a week.

Anyway, next time I put on my best smile and said “Dickhead Ellis”.  Everybody turned and stared.  Worse than last time. Again, I found myself saying “Sorry, I meant ‘Penis Person, Male Person, Mr. Ellis’.”

Surely this can’t be good, this obsessive marking of sex, this insistent separating of human beings into male and female.  Talk about paving the superhighway to sex discrimination.  I wanted to shout “Look, it’s not like it has to be this way!”  Why not just call people by their names, ‘Dave’ or ‘Mary’?  Too familiar for the formality-prone.  Then how about using their surname, ‘Ellis’ or ‘Jenkins’?  Too rude for the etiquette-addicted.  How about an all-purpose sex-neutral prefix like ‘Doctor’ but without the professional implications; how about just ‘Person’ – ‘Person Ellis’ and ‘Person Jenkins’? 

As for the pronoun problem, they already have a sex-neutral pronoun: ‘it’.  But, stupidly, it’s reserved for animals.  Go figure. 

In this world, animals are accorded the respect of a sex-free identity, but people aren’t.

P. Tittle is the author of Critical Thinking: An Appeal to Reason (Routledge, 2011), Sh*t that Pisses Me Off (Magenta, 2011), Ethical Issues in Business: Inquiries, Cases, and Readings (Broadview, 2000), and What If...Collected Thought Experiments in Philosophy (Longman, 2005). She lives in Canada, and she blogs at www.pegtittle.com.



COMMENTS

Great article P.

I cannot remember the last time I have called somebody Mr. or Ms. I call everyone by their first name (or by their chosen nym), and I insist that others call me by first name. If they don’t like it, they are not forced to talk to me, this is a free world after all, or should be.

The prefix Dr. doesn’t carry a gender implication, but I have always found it comic, and I have always thought that those who insist to be called Dr. are only hiding their deep unPh.D. ignorance behind a title.

The communists had a good answer to this. Call everyone Citizen.

Or Comrade. Strange that in some languages (e.g. mine) Comrade means fascist.

I’ve just had an idea, possibly a bad one. Given that the new, more egalitarian and joyous civilisation that we are trying to create will grow, whether we like it or not, from the existing patriarchal one, and given that in many (especially Latin languages) the masculine traditionally embraces the feminine, why not just all call ourselves Mr? We already call women guys, after all. And we just use the masculine pronouns as well. Somehow I think Valkyrie Ice will not approve, however.

Or, precisely to counteract the existing patriarchal culture, we could all call ourselves Ms and she. I’m up for that as well (just don’t call me a ‘doll’, please).

By the way this would make an excellent topic for an IEET poll. I do think we should choose one or the other, rather than trying to invent something new. How about a global referendum?

Hmm? So how does the military deal with this issue?

RIPLEY!

Blacks have a great deal of ‘Soul’, so let’s take a page from them and say “bro” and “sista” rather than ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs./Ms.’
—short, sweet, but complete.
In the military, it would be bro and sista as well; the term for the CO (commanding officer) would be:
“The MA-AN!”...

“Colonel Potter is the MA-AN!”

Intomorrow, i can’t believe you missed the point altogether.  Which was to GET RID OF sex-identifying naming. 

Peter, yes, bad idea.  That’s what people have been saying for DECADES…“oh why not just use ‘policeman’, we all know it really refers to both”.  So tell me, when I say “The student forgot his books”, you REALLY pictured a girl??  You see?  Using male pronouns makes us invisible no matter how much you insist they are inclusive.  They’re not.  (Besides, of course, the whole ‘whose apartment do we move into when we decide to live together’ question; or, otherwise put, ‘whose board room do we meet in when we want to negotiate?’) 

Perhaps you guys 😉 should speak other languages. For example, Hungarian is gender -neutral.

Really?  I didn’t know there was a completely gender-neutral language.  There are NO gender-differentiating prefixes, pronouns, titles, etc.?  What is the word for Mr. and Ms.?  his and her?  he and she? 

And would you say the Hungarian culture/society is as sexist as those in which sex is entrenched in its very language?

@P. re “There are NO gender-differentiating prefixes, pronouns, titles”

Titles yes, prefixes and pronouns no.

re “would you say the Hungarian culture/society is as sexist as those in which sex is entrenched in its very language?”

More!!! 😉

Other genderless languages:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender-neutrality_in_genderless_languages

It is very interesting to note that gender-neutrality in language does not seem to correlate with gender-neutrality in society.

Yeah.  I know the Whorf hypothesis has been discredited, but I’ve always refused to believe our language has no influence on our thought. Hm.

Of course, Hungary isn’t exactly an island.

Still.

I am persuaded that the Whorf hypothesis makes a lot of sense. Btw I re-discovered it independently when writing my high school graduation essay!

I am sure language does influence our thought patterns, and quite significantly, but I guess the influence may be subtle.

How about that Alfred Kallir guy (Sign and Design)? - I remember I read something from him, he said that even each letter of our alphabet has its (his? her?) own gender. He tried to trace the ideographic origins of our alphabet, and he saw sexy signs everywhere. For example, according to him, “G” is the sign of a pregnant woman. “M” is also female, while “P” is definitely male.

If he was right (but somehow he did not persuade me too much), then we cannot really get rid of gender in our language. Unless we also change our alphabet.

Anyway, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t understand why being recognized as a male/female entity should be annoying. I mean, language is a social thing, it belongs to people. They use it, and they make the rules. If people care about your gender, they will try to identify your gender. Hermits only can afford aphasia. Not social individuals. Anyway, c’mon, saying Mr./Mrs. is not an act of aggression, nor an insult. Take it easy. There is no hostility. Should speakers simply pretend they do not see your macroscopic sexual features, even when they notice them, or even purposefully search for them? We already have enough euphemisms and linguistic manipulations around. Words are just words. We might get the illusion that changing our linguistic habits will automatically cancel our sexual prejudices. It won’t happen.

If I might take something from Carlin - our language is fine, the people are fucked!

“Intomorrow, i can’t believe you missed the point altogether. Which was to GET RID OF sex-identifying naming.”

You have reason not to believe I missed the point because I did not- only a ‘tard would. I was being facetious because we are so stuck in the 20th century I don’t know what to think; and some are stuck in the 19th century. Peg, I make light not because your topic is not to be taken seriously, it is an important subject, yet whenever I discuss modernizing/postmodernizing issues with the maddening crowd—a certain percentage of whom we have to convince to so much as continue to inch forward—it is akin to being a visitor from outer space: the Earthlings nod and say “how interesting but what has it to with me and my family?”
And this cuts across all topics; will go to Giulio’s Future Day thread to write much the same.
At any rate, I prefer something vulgar such as bros ‘n’ hos to Ladies and Gentlemen, which has become risibly archaic. Most women probably subliminally dislike the smarm of “ladies”; most men are not gentle. So I will take bros ‘n’ hos over Mr. and Mrs./Ms.
If we cannot be free, at least we can be bolshie!

@Peg Whose apartment to move into…yes, that is exactly the question, if we are to plump for “he” or “she”. And as I said, I’m happy to plump for she, in fact it’s probably better.

By a word on why “male includes the female” hasn’t worked so far. It’s because the female has persisted, precisely through the use of “she”, “Ms” and so on. Dispense with the female gender entirely, and gradually the previously-male terms like “policeman” will also lose their male-gender connotations. Will need to introduce the word “he-man” to mean a person with unambiguously male gender, and use the word “man” always to mean human being (irrespective of gender), somewhat like Mensch in German.

The word “gradually” in the previous paragraph is operative, however. During the transitional time all these words will retain elements of their previously male connotations, and this would be discrimatory vis-a-vis women. So the use of “she”, “her”, Ms is to be preferred, to compensate for (i) the existing discrimatory against women (we shouldn’t be making things worse, right? ), and (ii) the lingering pro-male bias of words like “policeman”. This will also help to ensure that hemen and women are confused to a similar degree in this exciting new genderless world. (Also, if the prefix “he-” is to be used to denote male in “hemen”, all the more reason to use “she” for the gender-neutral pronoun.)

Mister.. Sister.. Smister?
John.. Jane.. Joan?
Neuro-sis

“Woman.. Woe-man.. Whoooa-man! .. Hey Jane, get me off this crazy thing called love?”

Hemen.. Shemen.. Amen!

“Hemen.. Shemen…!”

Semen? you need a cold shower!

There is a way to go on this matter: substitute she for he:
God becomes She rather than He, for starters.
We’ll tangle ourselves in knots if we write s/he, or any of the other convolutions.

 

Frenchie-Andre, re “I don’t understand why being recognized as a male/female entity should be annoying”
- First, because in most instances it’s irrelevant
- Second, because it makes sexism soooooo possible/easy

“If people care about your gender, they will try to identify your gender”
- It’s not just a matter of individual people - it’s systemic

“Anyway, c’mon, saying Mr./Mrs. is not an act of aggression, nor an insult”
- Right.  And you throw like a girl.

“Take it easy. There is no hostility”
- Bitch, slut, ho…there are FAR MORE insulting female-based names than there are male-based names

“We already have enough euphemisms”
- Gender-neutral words are not euphemisms

“Words are just words.”
http://www.upou.edu.ph/gender/gender_fair.htm
- http://www.alternet.org/story/48856/
- http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-language/

Ehy, madam, I ain’t French… I more like a whop, you know, macaroni, guineas. You can call me like that, at least it would be more accurate.

And, do you know why those words, by themselves, do not bother me? Because my self esteem does not depend on the way people call me. My personal dignity is not functionally related to surrounding linguistic habits. Of course I react aggressively when I receive verbal attacks, I am not Ghandi, but I really do not care about mere linguistic traditions. But, as I said, maybe it’s just me. By the way, haven’t you noticed that for every

I know there are obvious physical traits that identity Italians. A certain morphology, the way we speak, our gestures. I also know that there are numerous behavioral traits that characterize Italians, often negatively, and - while every individual has his or her own personal history - such traits do exist. I might prefer did not exist. Nevertheless they exist. All I can do, is be responsible for myself - and be a decent man.

It is a fact (sorry, those things are stubborn) that typically female and typically male behavioral patterns exist. Sorry for that, not my fault. Language did not create them. It merely gave a name to them. The differences between men and women are all there, to be seen. Now, we can spot differences without superimposing a moral hierarchy, can we? When I say apples are not pears, do I imply that apples are better? I tried to point out a few biological justifications (i.e. scientific ones) before, but you systematically downplayed them. It seemed like I was trying to mess with some kind of religious dogma for you. And no empirical/logical argument in the world can be stronger than a religious belief.

If we followed your reasoning consistently - we would also have to remove a whole lot of other linguistic differentiations. Once you fabricated a language completely devoid of sexual (and racial) differences, you can move on. Let us also remove any reference to our personal character, or to our height,  our weight. Shy, fat, short - have all negative connotations. Since they are irrelevant qualifications, let us remove them, together with their positive opposites. For example, no reference to “high” “highness” “superior”, and terms alike should be allowed. Those terms piss shorties off. All, literally all, physical and behavioral human traits have been associated with moral values. So, do we really want a language that resembles more a totalitarian political agenda (in which, no differentiation can be tolerated), rather than a colorful, real language?

Of course our language today mirrors past patriarchal societies. I do not deny that, and I also disapprove those social orders, often based on unpunished aggressions against women. But removing any sexual references to our language does not help women. It only pleases gender confused individuals - while it makes the ongoing abuses on women even more invisible.

“If we followed your reasoning consistently - we would also have to remove a whole lot of other linguistic differentiations. Once you fabricated a language completely devoid of sexual (and racial) differences, you can move on. Let us also remove any reference to our personal character, or to our height, our weight. Shy, fat, short - have all negative connotations. Since they are irrelevant qualifications, let us remove them, together with their positive opposites. For example, no reference to “high” “highness” “superior”, and terms alike should be allowed. Those terms piss shorties off. All, literally all, physical and behavioral human traits have been associated with moral values. So, do we really want a language that resembles more a totalitarian political agenda (in which, no differentiation can be tolerated), rather than a colorful, real language?”

Bravo!


And thus the dangers of neo-liberalism as they race off the rails towards facism..

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

Déjà vu anyone?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspeak

@Andre@CygnusX1 You can no more destroy words than you can any other Platonic object. But some words, such as “motherfucker” and “whore”, could do with being used less. Perhaps “Mr” and “he” are such?

PS “neo-liberalism…race off the rails towards fascism” is an example of a “slippery slope” argument. Start with one slippery slope argument and eventually you will rush headlong towards disaster. I prefer Jon Stewart’s “I may disagree with you but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler”.

Why can’t I say “whore”? Should say - “sexual assistant” (btw, in Germany they already call certain whores like that), “copulation provider”, “intercourse professional”? I can change the name, but, out there, I will still be able to spot women who happily open their legs for money.

This reminds me one very intelligent sketch from George Carlin, about the word “shellshock” http://namtab29.blogspot.com/2008/06/george-carlin-shell-shock.html.

With years the medical establishment changed the word several times, adding syllables and removing the emotional, human content - until it became “post-traumatic stress disorder”, which indeed sounds like something that could happen to your refrigerator.

Brian: I’m not a roman mum, I’m a kike, a yid, a heebie, a hook-nose, I’m kosher mum, I’m a Red Sea pedestrian, and proud of it!”

Brian: No, no. Please, please please listen. I’ve got one or two things to say.
The Crowd: Tell us! Tell us both of them!
Brian: Look, you’ve got it all wrong. You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves! You’re all individuals!
The Crowd: Yes! We’re all individuals!
Brian: You’re all different!
The Crowd: Yes! We’re all different!
Man in crowd: I’m not…
Man in crowd: Shhh!
Brian: You’ve all got to work it out for yourselves.
The Crowd: Yes! We’ve got to work it out for ourselves!

“Brian?s mother: He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy!”

@André

I didn’t say you can’t say “whore”. I cited this as an example of a word that could do with being used less. In the UK they are frequently called sex workers. I think that’s better. It’s less perjorative. Certain words have come to take on perjorative overtones, or to be associated with historical attitudes that we no longer find acceptable (you know which one I’m thinking of), so it’s generally better to avoid them. This isn’t political correctness gone mad, it’s a good, healthy dose of transformational vocabulary.

I think it’s good that “shell shock” was replaced by “post-traumatic stress disorder”. It’s more precise, and less amenable to being used perjoratively or lazily. For sure we can overdo this kind of thing, and frequently do. Closed professions and intellectual élites love to invent unnecessarily technical jargon and, more perniciously, to deploy it in a way that excludes and confuses the ignorant masses. But once again the danger is that we throw out the baby with the bath water. Technical jargon can also be very helpful by adding precision, and it’s important to be creative about labels in order to help wean us off the limiting, prejudicial attitudes that language can otherwise so easily reinforce.

@CygnusX1 Not sure what your point is, but I also love that film.

Centurion: What’s this, then? “Romanes eunt domus”? People called Romanes, they go, the house?
Brian: It says, “Romans go home. ”
Centurion: No it doesn’t ! What’s the latin for “Roman”? Come on, come on !
Brian: Er, “Romanus” !
Centurion: Vocative plural of “Romanus” is?
Brian: Er, er, “Romani” !
Centurion: [Writes “Romani” over Brian’s graffiti] “Eunt”? What is “eunt”? Conjugate the verb, “to go” !
Brian: Er, “Ire”. Er, “eo”, “is”, “it”, “imus”, “itis”, “eunt”.
Centurion: So, “eunt” is…?
Brian: Third person plural present indicative, “they go”.
Centurion: But, “Romans, go home” is an order. So you must use…?
[He twists Brian’s ear]
Brian: Aaagh ! The imperative !
Centurion: Which is…?
Brian: Aaaagh ! Er, er, “i” !
Centurion: How many Romans?
Brian: Aaaaagh ! Plural, plural, er, “ite” !
Centurion: [Writes “ite”] “Domus”? Nominative? “Go home” is motion towards, isn’t it?
Brian: Dative !
[the Centurion holds a sword to his throat]
Brian: Aaagh ! Not the dative, not the dative ! Er, er, accusative, “Domum” !
Centurion: But “Domus” takes the locative, which is…?
Brian: Er, “Domum” !
Centurion: [Writes “Domum”] Understand? Now, write it out a hundred times.
Brian: Yes sir. Thank you, sir. Hail Caesar, sir.
Centurion: Hail Caesar ! And if it’s not done by sunrise, I’ll cut your balls off.”

I nominate “lastfour” as a generic honorific. Formally, it can be used with someone’s Social Accountability Number, as in:

“Lastfour 1929 is a banker.”

It can also be used with names or other handles.

“Has lastfour Dawkins written anything lately?”

The plural is “lastfours.”

The honorific can substitute for personal pronouns, in which case it is capitalized:

“Are Lastfours free for dinner?”

“Would Lastfour like grated cheese?”

—Lastfour 0306

“Matthias: Look, I don’t think it should be a sin, just for saying Jehovah.
[Everyone gasps]
Jewish Official: You’re only making it worse for yourself!
Matthias: Making it worse? How can it be worse? Jehovah! Jehovah! Jehovah!
Jewish Official: I’m warning you! If you say Jehovah one more time (gets hit with rock) RIGHT! Who did that? Come on, who did it?
Stoners: She did! She did! (suddenly speaking as men) He! He did! He!
Jewish Official: Was it you?
Stoner: Yes.
Jewish Official: Right…
Stoner: Well you did say Jehovah.
[Crowd throws rocks at the stoner]
Jewish Official: STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT RIGHT NOW! STOP IT! All right, no one is to stone _anyone_ until I blow this whistle. Even… and I want to make this absolutely clear… even if they do say, Jehovah.”
[Crowd stones the Jewish Official to death]

Looks like my last post got things off track.  I mentioned those many sex-based words to illustrate how easy sex-based titles make it to perpetuate a sexist system.  I didn’t mention them as more words we need to get rid of.

My objection is with more or less mandatory routine systemic INSISTENCE on sex-identifiers by the culture (traditions, customs, institutions) - as is the case with Ms. Mr., checking the boxes on multitudinous forms (when one’s sex is irrelevant to the form one is filling out, such as a job or scholarshp application), etc.

Agreed, Peg: Mr., Mrs., Ms., Ladies and gentlemen, all now have an archaic and smarmy ring to them,

“Ladies, will you step over here to have a glass of pink bubbly while your misters discuss football?”

Yowser Yowser Yowser.

okay, since my name was taken in vain, I obviously have to comment.

Peter, I truly don’t give a damn about honorifics, though yes, I do prefer to be called by a female one. Val-chan is my preferred though Miss is tolerable.

The main objection I have to being called Mr. is that it is normally used as an insult to tick me off, witness my pet troll over on Acceler8or, who uses it to show off his prejudices against me personally. Considering he was forced to stop calling me “sugar tits” I am almost willing to not eviscerate him (or her considering their ever changing names) first chance I get. By refusing to acknowledge that I am transexual and female, he is attempting to belittle me, but merely demonstrating his own small mindedness and inability to cope with any concept outside his “comfort zone”

On the actual topic, I’m far more tolerant of sex specific honorifics than ptittle, preferring the SL solution of using additional honorifics to denote herm and neuter genders. I do view “IT” as an insulting term because it denies the individual their personal preference.

Since we will be moving into an age in which our AR assistants can tell us a persons preferred gender pronoun simply by looking at them, I don’t really view an attempt to create a “neutral” pronoun as much more than an exercise in political correctness, not to mention futility.

Thanks for responding, Val. in all seriousness I’m inclined to agree with you about gender-neutral pronouns. They’re fun to play around with, but it would probably do more harm than good if we really took them seriously.

@Valkyrie re “do view “IT” as an insulting term because it denies the individual their personal preference.”

But nobody is proposing to use IT for _specific_ persons. I refer to specific persons as “he” or “she” according to their preferences.

We have been discussing using “IT” for generic persons, like “a dentist should charge a reasonable fee for its services.” This does not refer to a specific dentist, and underlines the fact that the gender of a dentist (qua dentist) is irrelevant.

I would welcome gender-neutral pronouns, because I think we are far too obsessed with gender. I usually consider the gender of a person irrelevant, with the exception of few, very specific situations.

Also, someday there will be tens of genders, better to invent one gender-neutral pronoun now than to have to invent tens of different pronouns then.

On the other hand, trying to change as fundamental a part of language as pronouns is a pretty major challenge, so is probably likely to make us more obsessed rather than less.

Re “tens of genders”, by then I think we will no longer call them gender. They will just be aspects of our personality/image/identity, like any other.

But wouldn’t all of you be ‘upset’ with using skin-color identifiers for titles and pronouns, for generic and individual use?  I suspect so…

B-Mr. Johnson didn’t want to accompany W-Mr. Smith to the conference, so b-he said so quite clearly. 
W-he replied, “You are free to find your own way, then.” 
“Fine with me,” B-he said. 
“I’ll go with you,” W-Ms. Everest said.  “My car is at the shop.” 
“Okay,” B-Mr. Johnson said.  “Can you meet me here at nine?”
“Sure,” W-she said.
B-Ms. Tiffin just shook b-her head.  “B-he’s a terrible driver, you know,” b-she said to w-her.

Y-he says; “Yeah, just fracking ignore me then.. as always and ever! Not every thing in this god dam crazy liberal dichtonomy can be reduced to black and white you know!”

Y-he says; “and that should read liberal dichotomy - obviously - doh!”

Peg, with counterfactual questions like that one always has to construct some kind of more-or-less plausible scenario by which that would happen, and in this case I just don’t think there is one. I can certainly image in such a thing happening and being very upset about it; equally well I can imagine being amused or simply nonplussed. It would really depend on the circumstances.

To be honest my thinking on this issue is still evolving, but I think Val-chan makes an important point. When we start to think seriously about how technology is about to explode the concept of gender anyway, trying to force existing deeply ingrained linguistic practices into our ideas of right and wrong indeed looks pretty futile. We’ve probably got more important and productive things to focus on.

First, why don’t you think my scenario is plausible?  Why do you think it plausible that sex is used as identification, but not skin-color?

Second, I don’t think the tech’s going to make that explosion any time soon.  And when it does, our language has to ready for it - or are you saying we should just wait until then to change the language?

Third, if language DOES affect the way we think and behave, and I think it does, then this is NOT unimportant or unproductive.

Again, if we distinguished people as a matter of routine on the basis of skin color, insisting they check boxes on every information form indicating their skin color (and failing to process the form unless they did) (or being amused when they insisted on their right not to), those prefixes would have been gone a long time ago.  No doubt with some accompanying bloodshed.  Consider how well the yellow star went over. 

 

I find it plausible that some languages may have different pronouns, perhaps not for persons with different skin colors, but for persons who belong or not to the tribe/community.

I totally agree with P., we should really have a pronoun for “person,” regardless of gender, social status etc.

After thousands of years of injustice and oppression, we seem to have finally came to the conclusion that every person is worth as much as other persons, and our language should really reflect this conclusion.

So what do you two think of my proposal to use “she” for everyone?

@ Giulio.. Fine words!

Now explain to me why this has anything to do with, or is indeed obstructed by using the terms Mr. Mrs. Miss, he/she, him/her?

This line argument is persistently/consistently non-progressive and irrelevant!

@Peter re “So what do you two think of my proposal to use “she” for everyone?”

Why not “he” then? I don’t actually give a damn, but I am more used to be called “he” 😊

@Giulio re “Why not “he” then”, have a look at the first few comments of the thread (in particular Peg’s response to this idea).

“On the other hand, trying to change as fundamental a part of language as pronouns is a pretty major challenge, so is probably likely to make us more obsessed rather than less.”

Agreed, Pete; it would be positive if there were more consensus—any consensus—however gender ID is one more controversy for the Lush Rimbaughs to exploit in perpetua. But it depends on age- when I was young, the world seemed young; these controversies were novel; now they appear stale and rote. In 1965 gender ID was de novo, daring, risque. Today it is something for Hate Radio to fulminate against:
“these pinkos want to emasculate us
with gender-bending! But there is something you can do: subscribe to the Rimbaugh letter for only $9.99 a week plus tax.. the first 50 callers get a crummy coffee mug with my leering face on it…”

Cygnus, read my 03/07 post, read what’s at the links, then come back to us.

(In a nutshell: in a sexist society, sex-ID enables the sexism to continue easily.)

(And my guess is that in a nonsexist society, sex-ID would lead to a sexist society.)

Let me ask this (Andre, Cygnus, and ??) - why are you so almost-angrily OPPOSED to doing away with gender-IDs??  I mean, if it really doesn’t matter one way or another, if they’re as insignificant as you keep claiming them to be, why NOT accept gender-neutral terminology?

Can’t speak for the others, Peg.. but I completely accept gender-neutral terminology. Unfortunately it is academic: the public is dominated by old-timers who pass on their biases to their kids. At your university the undergrads go by what their parents and peers told them in the past—and then you slowly change their minds.
While the outside world is pretty much stuck four decades in the past (again, I haven’t heard anything new since the early ‘70s); there is more discussion of these topics, yet the population is also larger so there’s more people discussing the same old same old 😉

“So what do you two think of my proposal to use “she” for everyone?”

Agreed, the motion is seconded. “God” especially ought to be referred to as She, because God allegedly created the cosmos thus Creation can be considered birth and…
well, you get the picture. However it wont fly- not for a long while.. ten years from now we’ll still be ‘communicating’ (if that is what it is) with those religious who call God “He”; and not merely for tradition’s sake but also because many really do believe God is male—that is the way they were brought up.
You can remove a tumor from a body, yet you cannot remove a tumor from a mind.

Intomorrow, you say “In 1965 gender ID was de novo, daring, risque” - use of Mr. and Mrs. was solidly entrenched long before 1965 - ??

Whom here is claiming gender titles as insignificant? Certainly not me! I am opposed, with equal and opposite measure, to your views and opinions towards the restriction of language and opposition to the freedoms and rights of expressions of gender and sexuality. This is what you fail to see because you are blinded by your own bigoted viewpoint, personal experiences, and outlook towards the world as fundamentally sexist - and your solution? Deny gender identification and restrict differentiation and language?

Has it ever crossed your mind that feminism may also be expressed in terms of femininity? That women may also take pride in Self and being and with all of those expressions of gender that you so despise?

This is the fundamental flaw of the neo-liberalist that imposes upon the freedoms of individualism in the name of justice for individuals?

Certainly “we” humans will have to decide on an “additional” neutral definition, pronoun, title, for an Asexual entity of the future..

Now IF ONLY you had offered suggestions for an “additional” Asexual definition that may also be used as personal preference, rather than impose your opinions onto others, you may just find some support, yet this is not the premise or reason for your argument is it?

“Intomorrow, you say ‘In 1965 gender ID was de novo, daring, risque’ - use of Mr. and Mrs. was solidly entrenched long before 1965 - ??”

I can remember back to 1960;
before 1965 men were supposed to be men, and women were supposed to be women. Very quickly things changed; guys started wearing long hair, women began reading the ‘Second Sex’.
There have been progressive (late ‘60s- early ‘70s) reaction (1980s) cycles, albeit after 1965 a man could in fact wear longer hair, women didn’t necessarily have to be feminine- and so forth. I would not write that it involved more than rather superficial change, yet the onset was sudden: in ‘64 it was the ‘50s still; in 1965 it changed rapidly, within a matter of months—
by the end of 1965 it was disorienting to very many.

Whom ever imposes gender identification upon a Godhead, either as male or female, is also restricting said God as both limited and flawed and unbalanced in nature - In the same tradition of outmoded patriarchal Abrahamic faiths.

Peg,
what you are asking for is a more precise recollection of almost five decades ago- I can’t do that; however can tell you that ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’ did become less important after 1965— ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.‘were not universal after 1965.
But, as I remember it, in ‘64 sex ID was universal. Crew cuts were v. common; then long hair became quite common starting in ‘65. Men wore more florid clothing and even sometimes earrings. The caveat is WHERE; I grew up near Greenwich Village in NYC, and starting in 1965 I met friends of the family who called themselves “Miss Robert”, and “Guy Harold” (was too young to know about gay and bi). It was one-sided because at that time women could rarely be ‘butch’ (“Big Mamas”, non-feminine women were called), however this being a Man’s world, men could be less masculine if they chose to be—depending on their location.
In other words, there was a sea change concerning sex ID (then the usual reaction set in and by 1980 the pendulum swung back towards tradtional sexual identity).

“Whom ever imposes gender identification upon a Godhead, either as male or female, is also restricting said God as both limited and flawed and unbalanced in nature - In the same tradition of outmoded patriarchal Abrahamic faiths.”

Will have to ask Pete and Hank about this, their judgment I trust.
Yet if it should pleaseth thou, fifty lashes with a wet noodle to the Usurper who wouldest dare to impose gender identification upon a Godhead, either as male or female. Amen.

Intomorrow, I read your comment to mean that gender-based ID was de novo, not gender-neutral or gender-crossing ID.  We agree on the history of gender identity presentations circa 1950s-70s!

Cygnus, re my “outlook towards the world as fundamentally sexist” - yes, I stand by that.

“Has it ever crossed your mind that feminism may also be expressed in terms of femininity?” - yes, Phyllis Shaeffley (sp?) and company.  I don’t buy it.

You’re familiar with the study presenting identical essays to undergraduates, one supposedly by “John” and the other supposedly by “Jane” - and the one by Jane regularly gets rated as less competent, less authoritative, etc?  (done in the 70s initially, I believe, replicated in the 90s, to see if any ‘progress’ had been made…)

Okay.  So.  Signing my essays as Peg obviously disadvantages me.  If I leave off my first gender-based name, and just use Tittle, then I ‘have’ to use Ms. Tittle.  which defeats the purpose.  So YES if there were a third choice, that would go a long way toward solving the problem.  As I mentioned above, a lot of forms don’t even get processed unless you choose either Ms. or Mr. 

And in fact, about a decade ago, there started to be a third choice, signing as P. Tittle.  But here’s the thing.  Doing that identified me as female, b/c pretty much only women did it.  See?  That’s why I lean toward making it a systemic, institutional change, not just a ‘well you can do it if you like’ change.

“Intomorrow, I read your comment to mean that gender-based ID was de novo, not gender-neutral or gender-crossing ID.”

Yes. And knowing Greenwich Village gender-benders by family connections gave me the impression of exaggerated neutrality. But, again, it did change fast in that location: in ‘64 the big joke was to ask a student if he was a homo- the reply was invariably no. The punchline was to yell,
“you mean you’re not a homo sapien?!”
Then, a few years later in that liberal location, no one would publicly mention gays in a derogatory way, because through ‘Midnight Cowboy’ and many other works of folk art, gays and gender-benders had become amusing and more tolerated; sometimes celebrated.
BTW, it does appear after all these decades women are treated somewhat worse—including gender-bending—than men. Now, women can do better than men.. in the context of a Man’s world, according to how much a given woman wants to compromise their ideals.

“Now, women can do better than men.. in the context of a Man’s world, according to how much a given woman wants to compromise their ideals.”

And I did mean their ideals, not her ideals, because it is in fact a Man’s world. If an intelligent woman is willing to do anything to get ahead, she can get ahead. A few examples would be trophy wives, fashion models, film stars, etc.
However to get back to ‘Mr. and Mrs’., yes, it would be positive IMO to attempt to make gender-neutrality systemic.

I see essentially five options here. One is to agree on an additional, gender-neutral pronoun and start using it ourselves. Another is to use “she” for everyone, as per my earlier suggestion (it was a bit more elaborate than that, but we can start simple). A third is to advocate legislation or some other “systemic”-type measures. A fourth is to forget the whole idea as futile or undesirable. The fifth, which is the one I favour, is to keep the above four options in our minds and relax.

@Peg On “femininity as an expression of feminism”, I sympathise with your arguments but I also agree with CygnusX1’s implication (if I understood him correctly) that a feminism that excludes this is also anti-women and illiberal (to an extent with which even I, a utilitarian with somewhat collectivist leanings, disapprove). Aiming to abolish femininity because it plays a role in perpetuating discrimination is another exercise in throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

@P. re “if there were a third choice, that would go a long way toward solving the problem.”

Addressing you as P., like I do, seems to solve it.

There are also gender-neutral first names. Andrea and Simone are male names in some languages and female names in other languages, and in many places you can invent a new name. “Cloud” (a beautiful name that I just made up) is not associated with a gender (the similar names Claude and Claudia are).

“Will have to ask Pete and Hank about this, their judgment I trust.
Yet if it should pleaseth thou, fifty lashes with a wet noodle to the Usurper who wouldest dare to impose gender identification upon a Godhead, either as male or female. Amen.”

@ intomorrow.. you certainly do need to seek help and advice from someone. A Christian might say, you have lost your way?


“Okay. So. Signing my essays as Peg obviously disadvantages me. If I leave off my first gender-based name, and just use Tittle, then I ‘have’ to use Ms. Tittle. which defeats the purpose. So YES if there were a third choice, that would go a long way toward solving the problem. As I mentioned above, a lot of forms don’t even get processed unless you choose either Ms. or Mr.”

This is “obviously” causing you great suffering within your chosen career path. So is it the “world” that is at fault here, or rather your profession?


“And in fact, about a decade ago, there started to be a third choice, signing as P. Tittle. But here’s the thing. Doing that identified me as female, b/c pretty much only women did it. See? That’s why I lean toward making it a systemic, institutional change, not just a ‘well you can do it if you like’ change.”


No.. I don’t “see” why systemic institutional change that incites restrictions against the use of titles and pronouns and language is necessary to support your case, (or your career).

André summed it all up nicely, and you just negated his opinion, so respectfully, I also negate your reasoning as flawed and non-progressive as I have already stated. In fact Monty Python sums up this entire line of argument quite nicely.


“There are also gender-neutral first names. Andrea and Simone are male names in some languages and female names in other languages, and in many places you can invent a new name. “Cloud” (a beautiful name that I just made up) is not associated with a gender (the similar names Claude and Claudia are). “

And this reasoning is just as flawed. So what do you suggest now Giulio? That all of the world’s established forenames that identify gender be outlawed? That we are permitted only to select names from an internationally agreed list of gender neutral nouns?

Ludicrous!


“Aiming to abolish femininity because it plays a role in perpetuating discrimination is another exercise in throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

Indeed! And is it not a failing in all “feminists” that seek to oppose their fellow gender and in their own name, and for their own good!


“The fifth, which is the one I favour, is to keep the above four options in our minds and relax.”

*breathes deeply and slowly*

 

@CygnusX! re “So what do you suggest now Giulio? That all of the world’s established forenames that identify gender be outlawed? That we are permitted only to select names from an internationally agreed list of gender neutral nouns?”

OMG, give me a break.

I NEVER suggest to outlaw anything that does not harm others. I ALWAYS suggest to give people as many options as possible to choose from, without harming others.

Those who want to use a gendered noun should be able to do so. Those who want to use a genderless noun should be able to do so. I think this is just simple plain fucking live-and-let-live common sense.

“Those who want to use a gendered noun should be able to do so. Those who want to use a genderless noun should be able to do so. I think this is just simple plain fucking live-and-let-live common sense.”

Yeah.. I agree, but this does not seem to enough for some!!!!

read the above again!

“..That’s why I lean toward making it a systemic, institutional change, not just a ‘well you can do it if you like’ change.”

 

“*breathes deeply and slowly*”

*laughs out loud*

@CygnusX1 re “..That’s why I lean toward making it a systemic, institutional change, not just a ‘well you can do it if you like’ change.”

That was not me. Barring exceptional cases related to harm to others, I am always in favor of offering choices to people, and always against forcing choices on people.

I still stand in need of convincing.  What’s wrong with saying (to editors, companies that are hiring, landlords that are renting, and so forth) that it’s illegal to ask a person what sex they are?  (just as it once was legal to ask their color but now it’s not)

Certainly, one can still freely offer that information, but it should be illegal to require it, and to deny service until it is provided.  And this is how it currently is in many instances.  I refer again to the many online forms that will not let you go to the next step unless you check the M or F box!

Yes, certainly, many enlightened places are doing what I suggest on their own volition - the forementioned academic journals - but geez louise it’s taking a century.

I’m not, or at least I didn’t used to be, in favor of legislating such things, I started out an anarchist, but then I kept meeting too many assholes who refuse to think for themeselves and/or who subscribe to legal moralism - so what is one to do? 

Educate the masses?  Please.  Been there, done that.  Doesn’t work.

And Giulio, I have noted P and thank you.  But what will really help the cause is, as explained, if the Wicks and Priscoes go by pwick and gpriscoe.  Or at least as many of those as the Pegs who go by P.

And of course, I see that Intomorrow and Cygnus have chosen gender-neutral names, that helps the cause. 

Love Cloud.  But I bet if/when he’s a little boy, he’ll get hassled for being gay.  It’s just not a masculine name.  Try Brick instead.

“I’m not, or at least I didn’t used to be, in favor of legislating such things, I started out an anarchist, but then I kept meeting too many assholes who refuse to think for themeselves and/or who subscribe to legal moralism - so what is one to do?”

Good question. Single-handedly trying to educate the masses won’t work, that’s clear: we need to be cleverer than that. Making it illegal to require information about gender except where this is clearly relevant is interesting, and in particular removing this aspect from our legal identity (birth certificates, ID cards etc) would, I think, be a step forward.

On how we call ourselves, the reason I prefer Peter to pwicks is that I and most other people associate it with the kind of informal but respectful communication that we have on this blog, and which I greatly value. Also, don’t you think that by calling you Peg, and at the same time taking your ideas seriously, we are helping (in our own, small, incremental fashion) to break the not-taken-seriously-because-your-female pattern?

Oh my. I would choose the name Cloud instead of Brick anytime. Also because, based on what you say (which is true) a Cloud will get free training in self-defense, which is often useful later in life.

@P. re “I started out an anarchist, but then I kept meeting too many assholes who refuse to think for themeselves and/or who subscribe to legal moralism - so what is one to do?”

Great! I prefer good old anarchists to many contemporary dull “liberals” and sociopath “libertarians.”

What is one to do with all the assholes, that is a difficult question.

Peter, absolutely (re your last para) - I’ve said before that my experience here is a delightful exception.  But I’ll say it again.  My experience here, discussing with people on the ieet forums, is a delightful exception to most discussions i’m involved in.

Giulio - I’m still waiting for the car that’s called Petunia.  (yeah, Intomorrow, i do remember the Beetle.)

@P. - I have nothing against G., this is how I usually sign emails. But there are many G.s (George, Grace…). Perhaps we should choose unique nyms.

“What is one to do with all the assholes, that is a difficult question.”

First stop calling them assholes, that will already help.

Then try to see things from their perspective.

Why do people refuse to think for themselves? Probably because they don’t want to become over-analytical pointy-heads. I have some sympathy with that, so rather than trying to influence them directly, try to influence the ones they listen to. Reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point could be a good start.

And why do people subscribe to legal moralism? Essentially for the same reason: it saves them the trouble of thinking for themselves. But this one is trickier, because there are costs associates with the legislative approach. We already have a thick forest of rules and regulations, many of which are inconsistently respected, so adding yet more legislation should be done only as an act of desperation, and I really don’t see a good reason to despair. So read Tipping Point, and set about trying to influence the opinion leaders. (You might find legislation comes anyway: there are some people who can’t go to bed happy unless they’ve done some legislating that day, all you really need is to give them an excuse.)

“But there are many G.s (George, Grace…)”
Besides, “Giulio” has a nice ring to it.

I’ve read Tipping Point.  But, truthfully, I don’t remember coming away from it with the message about influencing opinion leaders.

And every single time I’ve contacted my MP or MPP about something, I have received only a ‘thank you for your input’ form letter.  Except the one time I was told the individual didn’t agree with me so would certainly not be taking the matter to the House or whatever. End of story.

I did become involved in our local Green Party, only to end up, again, marginalized by the men in charge.

“I still stand in need of convincing”

really Peg?

“What’s wrong with saying (to editors, companies that are hiring, landlords that are renting, and so forth) that it’s illegal to ask a person what sex they are?”

Why is it illegal? Why would it be discriminatory? Why would withholding your sexual and gender identity help matters here? What happens when speaking on the phone or meeting face to face, does this not give away your gender?

So again.. gender identity is not the issue is it? Discrimination is?

“And this is how it currently is in many instances. I refer again to the many online forms that will not let you go to the next step unless you check the M or F box!”

This is purely marketing tactics for data collection, again not a major issue to justify outlawing gender identity is it?

“Yes, certainly, many enlightened places are doing what I suggest on their own volition - the forementioned academic journals - but geez louise it’s taking a century.”

Please! and exaggeration to add weight to your argument.. really? So don’t work, vote, hire, subscribe to any service provider that opposes your ethics - it’s your choice?

Help drive the free market and business ethics towards your values using your values, without imposing on others?

“Educate the masses? Please. Been there, done that. Doesn’t work.”

Why give up so easily? You don’t seem the type?

There is a difference between convincing the masses and oppressing them. If you walked into any bar or even shopping mall and posted this argument and voiced it out loud, you would most likely be laughed at by the majority. yet there are other ways to turn the tide against sexual discrimination - which is your main goal is it not?

Let’s keep the titles and pronouns and valued diversity of language and yet still work against gender discrimination.

 

There are only three types of peoples, (humans), in this world… Pussies, dicks and assholes.. but that’s another story!

Huh?.. Cygnus is a man swan’s name ain’t it?


But seriously, I would not change my forename, because my parents chose it for me, and also ‘cause I like it.. however my nick would be a good second choice for me.. as it expresses my perceived identity.. innit?

@Peter re “We already have a thick forest of rules and regulations, many of which are inconsistently respected, so adding yet more legislation should be done only as an act of desperation.”

This is really sweet music to my ears Peter, are we anarchists converting you?

@CygnusX1 re “three types of peoples… Pussies, dicks and assholes”

You don’t want to forget cunts and dickheads, do you. They are people too.

Tsk Tsk Giulio.. keep it clean

Cygnus - It isn’t illegal. I’m saying it should be illegal.  Yes, discrimination is the problem.  I’m not sure why you don’t get that.  It’s called sexism.  And in a patriarchy such as ours, the sex that is disadvantaged is the female one.

Yes, marketing tactics for data collection.  But why do they want that particular data?  For future discrimination.  So I get the information about shoes and not furnaces.  Well, look, I have to buy a furnace too and I resent how difficult it is for me to get the information I require about them.  (Pre-internet complaint - but only to some extent, b/c yes, eventually, sigh, i have to make a phone call and/or meet with someone and yes, sigh, it’s all given away then unless i put on my mustache.)

Exaggeration?  Women (finally) became persons in Canada in the 1920s.  That’s 92 years ago.

“Why give up so easily? You don’t seem the type?”
Why do you assume it was without a struggle?  Twenty-five years, being reprimanded, ‘fired’, blacklisted…easily?  Please.

What other ways? Tell me what will work.  Writing my pieces and posting them, then discussing them, I’m trying to get people, one by one, to think about these things.  What else can I do?

Re Tipping Point, the basic point is that for a major change to occur in society certain things have to happen, and there are certain types of people who play certain types of roles, there are the connectors, for example, the ones who bring people together. There are the mavens, who like to accumulate expertise in a particular area. Obviously writing cold letters to you MP isn’t going to cut the proverbial…again you have to be cleverer than that. Who are the people in your social and professional circles that people listen to? Who are the people that are most likely to be receptive to your ideas? If these two sets don’t intersect, try adding “some” before “people” in the first sentence and replace “receptive” to “at least not totally unreceptive” in the second. Then work on those people.

Writing articles is good, it has certainly raised awareness here, but you’re largely preaching to the converted (or at least semi-converted), and I’m not sure how many opinion leaders are really listening.

Re “are we anarchists converting you?”.....it had to happen eventually 😊

“You don’t want to forget cunts and dickheads, do you. They are people too.”

Watch what you say about my family- our family attorney spent so much time in prison, he read every book in the law library!
Will start ontopic and drift off again:
IMO ‘she’ would be the place to start; for instance calling God “She” makes sense if God whelped the cosmos. So from now on I’ll tell Christians God is She, and if they ask why the answer is because She told said so and if they don’t believe so they are calling me a liar. Rubes have to be manipulated, it is the only way they really understand.. such is how they are treated by their families and peers—rube religion and rube politics are dumped on them so they pass it on to the next victi.. er, that is, person.
Back offtopic:
reason I brought up the ‘60s- ‘70s above was to give background, and to point out the progressive-reaction cycle can move fast in both directions. In ‘68, Gloria Steinem and others were trying to move things along; ten years later Phyllis Shafly is pushing in an opposing direction.
In ‘68, Lennon sang,
“you say you want a revolution,
we all want to change the world”;
A few years later it is,
“shake shake shake
shake shake shake
shake you booty”
And Disco Duck (which can possibly be tied into Animal Rights).
Radicals didn’t help matters with an overemphasis on marijuana and assassination conspiracy theorizing.

 

 

Lincoln, I’m really wondering how you read these passages to support your thesis. Can you explain?

Whoops, that last comment was supposed to go on Alex’s heaven thread. Sorry!

Here’s another example of why the change to gender-neutral prefixes (or to elimination of prefixes altogether) should be systemic.  When I was teaching, I asked the students to stop calling me “Miss Tittle” - I found it distracting and insulting for them to keep calling attention to my anatomy and marital status.  We talked about it and I suggested “Teacher Tittle” instead.  I was reprimanded by the principal and not asked to teach again at that school.

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