Thursday, April 28, 2022

Derek Mackie: "Progressive" Pronouns

Pronouns are a wonderful thing. They come in many forms - personal subjective and objective, possessive, reflexive, reciprocal, relative, etc. I could go on but I appreciate grammar is not the most fascinating subject for most readers and I’ve probably lost a few already. 
Little words they may be, but they do streamline writing, slimming down sentences and avoiding tiresome repetition of names and objects. 

 And now, we have another brand new kind - the ‘progressive’ pronoun. I confess to making up this name, inspired by our current “progressive” socialist government who fully embrace issues like this. 
You won’t find these pronouns in any textbooks…yet! But they are becoming more popular and are starting to appear regularly in formal letters and emails. 
Their purpose is to advise the reader of the author’s gender, which these days is far from straightforward and should under no circumstances be confused with sex. No longer do you have a 50:50 chance of being correct.

 For most of my life, the job of clarifying gender, and female marital status, was assigned to titles - Mr, Mrs, Miss, and later on Ms. This system appeared to work very well but was clearly limited to just two genders. 
As society has become more “sophisticated” - a word much loved by our PM who uses it to describe the co-governance “tweaks” she intends to make to “enhance” our democratic system - many more genders have evolved and a new, more extensive nomenclature has been devised. 

 I have no problem with this but I do not profess to understand much of the reasoning behind it. Even a cursory online search left me bombarded with so many gender-identities and pronoun options it could easily fill a university course…and probably does. 
The following quote attempts to explain things [1]:- 

 “While people may use the terms sex and gender interchangeably, they mean different things. Sex refers to the physical differences between people who are female, male, or intersex. A person typically has their sex assigned at birth based on physiological characteristics, including their genitalia and chromosome composition.
 This is distinct from gender, which is a social construct and reflects the social and cultural role of sex within a given community. People often develop their gender identity and gender expression in response to their environment. 
While gender has been defined as binary in Western culture, gender is on a broad spectrum; a person may identify at any point within this spectrum or outside of it entirely. Gender is not neatly divided along the binary lines of “man” and “woman”.
People may identify with genders that are different from sex assigned at birth, some people do not identify with any gender, while others identify with multiple genders. These identities may include transgender, nonbinary, or gender-neutral. 
Only the person themself can determine what their gender identity is, and this can change over time.” 

 I was following the explanation after reading the first paragraph, but by the end of the third I was effectively lost in no-mans/womans/others land. 

 My blog was prompted by a recent email from a staff member at an organisation we have been dealing with for years. I noticed, in signing off, the author put She/Her after her name. I have spoken to her on the phone a number of times so I was a little surprised that she felt she had to clarify this. 
It’s too early to say if this is a personal choice thing or if all employees of that business have been instructed to identify themselves in this way. Let’s hope it’s the former, but judging by the speed at which woke practices are being adopted in New Zealand I fear it may be dictated from on high. 

 I am aware that “progressive” pronouns are becoming all the rage in the public sector, our tertiary institutions, and our large corporate companies. Coupled with Te Reo, liberally sprinkled throughout correspondence and often confusing readers, formal communications seem more concerned with trend-setting rather than focusing on clarification, which should be the number one priority . 

 In my personal example the business is not a big company. This shows how “progressive” pronouns are catching on and may very well be in everyday use soon….just like face-masks! 
So, don’t be daunted. For most of us, particularly 50+ in age, assigning yourself a pair of gender pronouns should be as easy as changing the channel when TVOne or TV3 News comes on. 

And if you do get it wrong, don’t worry. There will almost certainly be an actual gender matching your mistake. 

 [1] The Conversation - What are gender pronouns and why is it important to use the right ones? 15 Oct 2021 

Derek Mackie is a geologist with a keen interest in current affairs.


Anonymous said...

focus on pronouns speaks of a completely different level of narcissism... when i'm with someone or a group, i refer to myself as 'i' (a pronoun) and they can refer to me by name or as 'you' (a pronoun). other pronouns like he/she would only be relevant when i'm not there and they are talking about me. how would i know what pronoun they use and why would i care?

i always wonder if i can add (i/you) as my pronouns based on this logic. but i feel entering that territory is too risky!

Anonymous said...

If I’ve understood matters, one may assign their own gender and if born a male describe themselves as female. If it’s about one’s own self perception, I’m just wondering, can I self identify as black if I’m white? Just wondering … it sure is a topsy wold world.

gjsharpe57 said...

I gave my personal pronouns as "His Lordship " and "His Grace" but apparently this is unacceptable as it is seen as taking the piss. This is discrimination.

Lesley Stephenson said...

Gender identity is along the same lines as those who identify as Maori, even tho they really are not.
I intend to join the trend when co-governance happens.... If you can't beat 'em... Join 'em.

Don said...

Having lost my testicles to cancer a few years ago I suppose the woke would call me "gender neutral." AM i being presumptuous sticking to he/him? For myself I like the traditional "eunuch" but what pronouns go with that I do not know. Although amused to be called a eunuch I am pleased to report they were not removed in the traditional way by banging them off between two stones.

Anonymous said...

I have decided that my given prounoun will be daughter of the living God and demand everyone address me as such, thanx