IT’S HARD TO KEEP UP
IN THIS IDEOLOGICAL AGE
There’s a fundamental law of blogging: that the day after you post something, you’ll come across a news item or an interesting situation that’s relevant to your topic and would have been great to mention.
And so it was with Saturday’s commentary on political correctness.
I would love to have included a note about how the University of Tennessee is promoting use of gender-neutral pronouns, as opposed to the standard male/female designations: he, she, him, her, his, hers.
UT, which touts itself as the “Big Orange with Big Ideas,” has undertaken these linguistic adjustments with the goal of making its campus “welcoming and inclusive for all.”
So, you ask, what’s unwelcoming or non-inclusive about he, she and the rest?
Why, because not everybody who appears male is necessarily male, these days. Nor does female appearance always indicate someone born with ovaries. Donna Braquet, director of the University’s Pride Center, told local TV station, WATE…
“Transgender people and people who do not identify within the gender binary may use a different name than their legal name and pronouns of their gender identity, rather than the pronouns of the sex they were assigned at birth.”
…which can be very awkward for everybody. You wouldn’t want to use the pronoun, “him,” to indicate somebody going by the name, “Louise” or ‘Constance” or “Esmerelda.” Likewise, it wouldn’t seem quite right referring to “Bruce” or “Buster” or “Buck” as a “her.”
The UT Office for Diversity and Inclusion website acknowledges the potential for a certain cognitive dissonance…
“We should not assume someone’s gender by their appearance,” it cautions, “nor by what is listed on a roster or in student information systems.”
It then advises that there are dozens of gender-neutral pronouns that can serve as suitable substitutes…
“A few of the most common singular gender-neutral pronouns are they, them, their (used as singular), ze, hir, hirs, and xe, xem, xyr.”
You may be unaware of some such terms (I was), but the website offers a word of reassurance that…
“These may sound a little funny at first, but only because they are new. The she and he pronouns would sound strange too if we had been taught ze when growing up.”
Granted it’s a rough world for those who don’t “identify within the gender binary.” But I suspect this “Big Idea” won’t succeed very well.
Look at all the heroic effort expended to free women from the indignity of being identified by their marital or non-marital status. Feminists labored long and hard to force-feed society the appellation, “Ms.”
I rarely encounter it today. And everybody (men and women alike) seems quite comfortable with the traditional “Miss” and “Mrs.” (Actually, I’ve always found “Ms.” rather helpful, especially in correspondence. It avoids embarrassment in addressing a woman when you don’t know if she’s married or single.)
Language is dynamic. It changes through usage. When a particular expression is handy (or catchy), making it easier to communicate a certain set of feelings or ideas, people adopt it.
Arbitrary imposition of linguistic constructs will rarely work. How many of your friends use the invented “universal” language, Esperanto? How many even know that it exists?
One senses that the University of Tennessee really doesn’t expect to make much headway with its grammatical tinkering. Karen Ann Simsen, UT’s Media and Internal Relations Director, told WATE TV that there is no mandate or official policy to use the suggested pronouns. They were merely “offered as a resource” for inclusive practices.
None so half-hearted measures at another school, however.
Several professors at Washington State University have warned students that their grades will suffer if they use the terms, “male” and “female.” As reported by the conservative website, Campus Reform…
“According to the syllabus for Selena Lester Breikss’ ‘Women & Popular Culture’ class, students risk a failing grade if they use any common descriptors that Breikss considers ‘oppressive and hateful language.’
“The punishment for repeatedly using the banned words, Breikss warns, includes ‘but [is] not limited to removal from the class without attendance or participation points, failure of the assignment, and — in extreme cases— failure for the semester.’”
But don’t assume that Professor Breikss and her WSU faculty colleagues are narrowly focused on issues of gender identity. The expression, “illegal alien” will prompt similar disciplinary action, as will a white student’s failure to “defer” to non-white students.
Does that latter stipulation strike you as sort of…well…discriminatory…or even…racist?
Come now. Don’t you know that only white people can be racists?
As explained in the syllabus for Professor John Streamas’s “Introduction to Multicultural Literature” class, white students are expected to…
“‘reflect’ on their grasp of history and social relations ‘by respecting shy and quiet classmates and by deferring to the experiences of people of color.’”
“understand and consider the rage of people who are victims of systematic injustice.”
A side note: I don’t think it’s coincidental that Professor Streamas…
“previously generated controversy by calling a student a ‘white shitbag’ and declared that WSU should stand for ‘White Supremacist University’….”
This guy has an attitude — yah think? As David Horowitz, the radical-turned-conservative editor of Front Page Magazine, once observed…
“Inside many liberals is a totalitarian screaming to get out.”
But then, modern academia must do what it can to keep ahead of the cultural curve.
No small challenge, that. After all, this is a time when Facebook offers its users 56 different gender designations (besides male and female). As reported in Slate, habitués of the popular social media network can identify themselves as…
- Cis Female
- Cis Male
- Cis Man
- Cis Woman
- Cisgender Female
- Cisgender Male
- Cisgender Man
- Cisgender Woman
- Female to Male
- Gender Fluid
- Gender Nonconforming
- Gender Questioning
- Gender Variant
- Male to Female
- Trans Female
- Trans* Female
- Trans Male
- Trans* Male
- Trans Man
- Trans* Man
- Trans Person
- Trans* Person
- Trans Woman
- Trans* Woman
- Transgender Female
- Transgender Male
- Transgender Man
- Transgender Person
- Transgender Woman
- Transsexual Female
- Transsexual Male
- Transsexual Man
- Transsexual Person
- Transsexual Woman
Do you find your self-identity in any of these? Or are you caught in that old gender binary?
If you’ve heard of a designation that’s not on the Facebook list, by all means let me know. I want to keep current myself.
Ours is an ideological age. And ideology must be served.
As if to illustrate my opening point about how hard it is to keep up with developments, Washington State University has issued a policy directive forbidding its faculty from banning students from using certain terms professors find politically incorrect. I’d like to think that this defense of free expression results from someone at WSU having read my blog. But I guess I have to just chalk it up to common sense. Kudos for WSU.
Inside Higher Ed has the story at…
Here’s a link to the WATE TV/Tribune Media report on the University of Tennessee’s gender-neutral pronoun recommendations…
…and to the website of UT’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion…
Students at Washington State University better mind their Ps and Qs when it comes to language used in class, as Campus Reform reports…
Fortunately, not all educators have been taken — hook, line and sinker — by the ideological fads on today’s campuses. Mike Adams, criminology professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, begins each semester by making his feelings about political correctness crystal clear. He tells his students…
“Let’s get something straight right now. You have no right to be unoffended. You have a right to be offended with regularity. It is the price you pay for living in a free society. If you don’t understand that you are confused and dangerously so.”
Adams has shared his advice to incoming students on Townhall, hoping that colleagues at other institutions will adapt his points to their own opening lectures. One can only hope…