Gender & Pronouns

Little Miss Mister

As feminists, we know gender is on a spectrum. We’re dynamic beings and trying to box ourselves off into male or female really isn’t helping anyone. I mean that’s a lot of pressure and who even wants to live up to those expectations anyways. It’s much more fun to just do everything you want without worrying if it makes you too masculine or too feminine.

But I must admit, as much as I believe this, it is very difficult for me to form my language around it. It’s so easy to associate pronouns with a person’s sex even though I know the meaning is closer linked to gender. So what can we do?

I’ve heard of someone who proudly identifies as an “it” – but that term feels like it sucks the life out of its subject. I don’t even refer to animals as it’s. More commonly, there’s the option of “they.” It’s grammatically incorrect, but it’s gender neutral. It tends to be my favorite for situations in which I’m trying to avoid gender…but I really just can’t get over that hankering for something that’s grammatically correct without imposing gender.

That’s where Wikipedia’s table of “Newly Invented Pronouns” comes in.

Newly invented pronouns
Elverson (1975)[45] Ey laughed I called em Eir eyes gleam That is eirs Ey likes eirself
Spivak (1983)[46][47] E laughed I called Em Eir eyes gleam That is Eirs E likes Emself
Humanist[48] Hu laughed I called hum Hus eyes gleam That is hus Hu likes humself
Peh[49][50] Peh laughed I called pehm Peh’s eyes gleam That is peh’s Peh likes pehself
Per[51] Per laughed I called per Per eyes gleam That is pers Per likes perself
Thon[52] Thon laughed I called thon Thons eyes gleam That is thons Thon likes thonself
Jee, Jeir, Jem[53] Jee laughed I called jem Jeir eyes gleam That is jeirs Jee likes jemself
Ve[54] Ve laughed I called ver Vis eyes gleam That is vis Ve likes verself
Xe[55] Xe laughed I called xem Xyr eyes gleam That is xyrs Xe likes xemself
Ze (or zie or sie) and zir (Germanic Origin)[56] Ze laughed I called zir/zem Zir/Zes eyes gleam That is zirs/zes Ze likes zirself
Ze (or zie or sie) and hir[57] Ze laughed I called hir Hir eyes gleam That is hirs Ze likes hirself
Ze and mer[58] Ze laughed I called mer Zer eyes gleam That is zers Ze likes zemself
Zhe, Zher, Zhim[59] Zhe laughed I called zhim Zher eyes gleam That is zhers Zhe likes zhimself

Any one of these words could be the solution to our problem. The only trouble is that hardly anyone would recognize them making it difficult to use them without adding an explanatory paragraph into your sentence; and by that point, is it even worth it?

To make any of these work, we’d have to limit the use to one…and probably get a celebrity on board. If one day, Ellen Degeneres started using Ze, the whole world would change. Regardless of how a person identifies, it would be much harder to impose any expectations and, on a larger scale, it would be much harder to have any stereotypes.

 

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The Bill Cosby Situation

Bill Cosby Meme

I was one of two people sitting in a waiting room when one of Bill Cosby’s alleged victims came on TV. Her interviewer set the stage by describing how one of the women had been consistently accusing Bill Cosby of these crimes for the past 20 years, but the woman in front of him was only just then coming forward. He asked her, “Why now?” She said she just wanted an apology, but the man sitting beside me spoke over her. “Money. She just wants money.”

Maybe that’s true. Maybe all of those women are hoping to get money. Personally, I think they went about it the wrong way if that’s what they were looking for. Bill Cosby might have been willing to pay them for their silence, to keep his reputation intact. But now? Why would he pay them? They’ve already ruined his reputation and paying them would only validate their claims.

Maybe some of them want money. Maybe some of them would refuse it. Maybe for them being paid in exchange for their rape would only be adding insult to injury. Maybe that money would make them feel that much more degraded.

I can think of a few more reasons these women might be coming forward. Maybe they want other women to know before they wind up in a room alone with him. Maybe they’re finally ready to be heard. Maybe they’re coming forward in solidarity for the women who came forward earlier.

Feminism is trending. There’s a reason the story is only now making headlines even though at least one of the women has been coming forward for years…You can’t just rape women anymore.

Maybe they do just want the money. But when did greed become worse than rape?

What to do with the word “Bossy”

I'm Not Bossy. I'm the Boss

Words matter. We know that, and that’s why we fight for equality in language. We’ve transitioned from saying things like postman and policeman to using more gender-ambiguous terms. Why? So that we can un-train our minds from limiting our own possibilities and the possibilities of others.

So what’s going on with the word “Bossy”? Seemingly, the word is attributed to women and girls far more often than it is to men and boys. When a man has high expectations and asks for what he wants, he is considered assertive, a strong leader, and at worst demanding. But when a woman displays the same audacity, it is off-putting and contrary to our stereotype of the gentle and therefore likable woman.


Own Bossy       Ban Bossy


As much as I know this a problem, I don’t believe in fully banning the word bossy. There is a very real meaning to the word that I believe belongs in our language. It’s important to be able to distinguish between strong leadership and simply bossing others around. And if we simply eradicated the word, wouldn’t another one just pop up in its place?

On the other hand, I also don’t believe in owning “bossy.” Yes, embrace the leadership skills that sexism has mislabeled “bossy,” but be cognizant of its real meaning. Feminism calls for collaboration and communication. It demands a leadership style built on mutual growth and understanding. It is not a movement that can justify pleasure in pushing others around.

That said, I call for a movement somewhere between “Own” and “Ban.” I know I’d need a catchier title, but for now, let’s just call it “Think Twice Before Calling Her Bossy.”

precision of langauge2

Easing the Inconvenience of #BoycottUber

If you live in a bigger city, chances are you use Uber on occasion. And if you’re on the internet, chances are you’ve heard about how misogynistic the company is. They’ve designed campaigns around female objectification, used slut-shaming to justify assaults on their passengers, and responded to the reporter who revealed it all with an intent to “prove a particular and very specific claim about her personal life.”

If you’re like me, this feels like a very inconvenient truth. Why couldn’t Uber just be respectful? I like the service, but I want my dollar to support a world that believes in equality. Thankfully, some very lovely people have already put together lists of alternative services to ease the inconvenience of this issue.

The two most popular of these alternatives seem to by Lyft and Sidecar. Making this switch even more attractive, Sidecar claims you can save money by switching to either service.

lyft sidecar uber

I haven’t used these particular services, so I can’t give you any testimonials, but I have a good feeling about this switch. Not only will I be able to save money and support a better world, but it will also be a heck of a lot easier to spot my driver if there’s pink mustache on the car. So instead of thinking of this change as a boycott, I’d like to think of it as rewarding the companies that deserve it and supporting the world I believe in.

If you’d like to learn more about what’s going on at Uber, check out the article that started it all: Sarah Lacy’s “The horrific trickle down of Asshole culture: Why I’ve just deleted Uber from my phone.”

Feminism is Trending – And the Music Industry’s Next

Hey there, Happy Feminists! You’ve done something really great. By giving feminism a voice and supporting others who have done the same, you’ve made feminism essential to being a power celebrity, and as a result feminism is trending more than ever.

So round of applause for you, my dear!

Yes, sexism is still very prevalent (as evident in one of the radio’s most recent and horrendous hits), but it’s certainly worth celebrating that some really important messages are being played on an almost constant basis. Taylor Swift is shrugging off all the flack she gets for her love life in “Shake It Off” and once again more comically in her “Blank Space” music video. And “All About That Bass” is taking baby steps toward more inclusive beauty standards.

But we can do better! Who cares if men like a little more booty to hold at night? You are perfect because you are – and not because the male gaze approves.

Luckily, while we wait for the music industry to get on our level, there are some really talented and intelligent people on YouTube re-imagining what our songs could be.

Playboy Bunnies Exposed A Little Differently

Playboy Bunnies have a special place in my heart. It is so easy to stereotype the women who “show it all” or even pretend they are not people. That is why I really appreciate The Girls Next Door tv show and Robyn Twomey’s photoshoot below, which showcases the most iconic Playboy bunnies 50 years later. Every time I am able to witness the girls in a non-sexual light, I am always stunned by how different they can be. Some are edgy, some are innocent, some seem pretty average…Posing for Playboy is something they have done, but it is by no means who they are.

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Real Women Don’t Call Other Women “Basic Bitches”

When I first encountered the “Basic Bitch” trend, I thought it was funny – a simple jest that reminded me of parts of myself and parts of other people I really care about. But the more I saw of the trend, the more offensive it seemed to become. Rather than simply teasing its audience, it grew into an outright dismissal of girl culture.

According to Elite Daily, you’re “basic” if you like big salads, musicals, low ponytails, posing with your boyfriend for pictures, or really anything else that would categorize you as “girly.” And unlike College Humor’s over-dramatized video above, Elite Daily‘s article is too serious to be anything but mean with quotes like “Basic b*tches are the Ikea of humans. They are mass-produced, painfully ordinary “Where’s Waldo” women whose special talent is blending in.”

Time out, Elite Daily. First off, yes, Waldo might have been hard to pick out of the crowd, but taking the time to find him has been worth it for generations of people. Being similar to other people doesn’t make you insignificant; it makes you human.

Second, there are no rules on the right way to be unique, AKA a “bad bitch.” If you genuinely like Uggs and Carrie Bradshaw, it doesn’t make you “basic;” it makes you you.

Accept everything about yourself, whether it’s girly, manly, or somewhere in between. It’s part of you, and if you can learn to accept it, maybe you can learn to accept the people standing beside you.