2024-07-01

On preferred pronouns

It is becoming customary in western societies to ask people in various settings to state their preferred pronouns. It started among younger people of the particularly woke persuasion, and it is spreading everywhere. When I find myself in such a setting, I do of course go along, because doing otherwise would be awkward, but I hope that it is only a fad which will eventually go away. While waiting to see how it pans out, let me describe a few issues I have with it.

Let me begin by giving an example. Suppose there is a small event going on; say, a digital photography workshop. The organizer might begin by asking participants to take turns stating their names and their preferred pronouns. So, one participant says that their name is Jane and their preferred pronouns are she and her, the next participant says that their name is Peter and their preferred pronouns are he and him, and so on. As the introductory round progresses, if a participant happens to state their name but omit stating their preferred pronouns, the organizer is likely to remind them to do so, at which point they pretty much have to, otherwise it would be awkward.

This is being done in order to accommodate intersex persons, whose appearance and/or name might not match the pronouns that they would rather be addressed with. From what I surmise, it not only enables intersex persons to be addressed with their preferred pronouns, but it also avoids singling them out as the only ones with special pronouns, by requiring everyone to state their preferred pronouns.

Here are the issues I have with this practice. This is not a subject on which I know much, so my opinion might change as I learn more, but this is my opinion as it stands today.

1. "Above and beyond"

Accommodating someone without getting out of your way is one thing, and going out of your way in order to accommodate them is another thing. The process of stating not only names but also preferred pronouns requires me to state my preferred pronouns, which is something that I normally would not do; it also consumes more time overall, which is time that I normally would not spend. Thus, I think it is asking of me a level of courtesy which is above and beyond the baseline that I believe I owe to all my fellow human beings regardless of whether they are sexually conformant or divergent.

2. "Gotcha!"

Addressing someone with pronouns that differ from the pronouns I would guess based on their appearance represents a complication in my life that I could really do without. I already have a hard time remembering people's names; having to also remember the pronouns that go with each face is really asking for a lot from me. This, in turn, makes me feel inadequate, and weary of the risk of embarrassment. This is how we make sexually divergent folks feel more included while making other groups feel more excluded. Those who are likely to feel excluded are all those who are not very deeply into wokeism, all those who suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, (even if they are woke,) and anyone who is simply older, for reasons similar to those of ADD.

3. "Say the word, motherfucker!"

Being asked to state my preferred pronouns, (and therefore being pretty much obliged to do so, in order to avoid friction and maintain civility,) is like requiring me to pledge my allegiance to the non-heteronormative cause. So, maybe I am allegiant to that cause, and maybe I am not; (spoiler: I am;) but challenging me to pledge my allegiance to a certain cause in front of an audience is something that does not go down very well with me; it is like asking me "are you with us, or against us?" This is a divisive and escalatory tactic, which has been used on various occasions throughout history, and it was never nice. (See Wikipedia: You are either with us, or against us).

So, the bottom line seems to be that the wokes view the world as consisting of only two groups: them, versus the bigots. In doing so, they are completely disregarding the vast majority of people out there, who are neither woke nor bigots; this includes a huge number of people who are anywhere from neutral to positively predisposed but not as deeply concerned because they have other concerns that take priority. Thus, by creating polarization, the wokes are alienating the majority and making themselves the subject of resentment and ridicule. This is not a recipe for success.


Cover image by Matheus Bertelli from pexels.com.

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