As readers who follow my Tumblr may be aware, I have a handful of pet peeves which I go on about continually (for definitions of “continually” which mean “whenever they show up on my dash”). Stop Being Mean To Neckbearded Bronies. Actually Those Studies Massively Undercount Male Rape Survivors. And, most relevantly here, What The Fuck Is Wrong With Nounself Pronouns.
For those of you who have not wasted your life getting in stupid arguments on Tumblr, I should probably explain what a nounself pronoun is. Currently, gender-neutral pronouns are in a state of Chaucerian anarchy: no one can agree on whether it’s spelled “zie,” “xie”, “xye”, or “sie,” much less how it’s declined, and maybe we should all use Spivaks instead. A group of trans people, mostly teenagers, have responded to this by inventing increasingly silly pronouns. “My pronouns are bun/buns/bunself! My pronouns are vo/voi/vois/voidself! My pronouns are sea/sail/sails/shipself!”
To be clear, I don’t actually know anyone who prefers any of those pronouns. Most of my nonbinary friends don’t have preferred pronouns period. And there are many reasonable objections to these pronouns: most notably, that no one is going to remember whether some random acquaintance prefers “vo” or “sea”. (The correct solution to this is to also accept singular “they”. To be honest, I think all nonbinary people should accept singular “they”, because no one is going to remember your position on the zie/xie/xye/sie controversy either.) And yet I have wasted hours of my life writing impassioned tumblr posts about how we ought to leave bun to bunself.
The reason? The sentence “they make us look bad.”
I should probably, at this point, acknowledge my debt to the concept of respectability politics developed, like all important social justice concepts, by womanists.
Essentially, the idea of respectability politics is that black people are stereotyped by society as sexually licentious, immoral, stupid, and lazy. Similarly, things associated with black people are also associated with immorality and stupidity: natural hair is “unprofessional”; African American Vernacular English is “not real English” (in spite of AAVE’s obviously fabulous tense/aspect system). However, the thought goes, if black people prove that they are not those things– if they have lifelong monogamous marriages, get professional jobs, wear their hair in white ways, stop speaking AAVE, and for God’s sake never fucking twerk— then white people will be like “oh! Sorry! Our mistake! Now we see that you are human beings!” and then racism will be solved.
This strategy has been tried for over a hundred years and yet somehow racism has not been solved yet.
Funny how that works.
Those of us who have been around the Queer Internet for mumblemumble years may remember the (fortunately, usually recognized as biphobic nowadays) specter of the Fake Bisexual Girl.
No one objects to real bisexuals, of course not. We just object to those fake bisexuals, the ones with emo haircuts and slashes on their wrists who identify as bisexual for attention but never really fuck girls. They just make out with girls at parties. In fact, fighting fake bisexuals actually helps the real bisexuals! Fake bisexuals make real bisexuals look ridiculous, so no one takes them seriously! If only there weren’t any fake bisexuals, then homophobia would be solved.
The obvious problem here is that there are many, many girls with emo haircuts, histories of self-injury, and a tendency to make out with girls at parties who are actually, in fact, really bisexual. There is nothing about an emo haircut that means you can’t stick your hand down a set of pants and be happy with whatever you find there. (Indeed, one might argue that the correlation between those two is, in fact, positive.) The only thing policing fake bisexuals does is bully actual bisexuals, keep actual bisexuals from getting community support for dealing with homophobia, and make actual bisexuals insecure about whether they Really Count if they haven’t fucked exactly fifty percent girls and fifty percent boys.
On a certain level, I feel like if your support for other people’s human rights is based on no members of that group ever looking ridiculous, you never actually supported that group’s human rights to begin with. Every group contains ridiculous people. Ridiculousness is the human condition. If you think to yourself, “well, I supported trans people’s right not to be homeless or bullied or fired from their jobs for being trans, but a trans teenager was silly on the Internet and now I can never support them again”, you are fucking awful at moral reasoning and I for one am perfectly happy with you self-selecting out of our social movement before a vulnerable person might think you’re someone to be trusted.
Drew Summitt talks about something called the bourgeoisification of the left. Its principle is as follows: every social movement will succeed to the extent that it manages to make itself fit in with the bourgeoisie life plan: college, a good job, financial independence, a love marriage, and parenthood.
Gay marriage and adoption? Yep. Cottaging? Not so much. A “woman in a man’s body” who conforms to her identified gender and wants complete physical transition? Sure! A Latina sex worker who moves fluidly between calling herself a gay man and a woman? Not really. Affirmative action? Great! Black nationalism? Nope. Women working outside the home, trapping us all in the two-income trap? Wonderful! Wages for housework? Quit dreaming. NAMI? Wonderful. Anti-psychiatry activists? Eeeeyeh.
I am not pointing this out to say that I disagree with the bourgeoisifcation of the left. I think anti-psychiatry activism, while it highlights some real abuses, has a distressing tendency to ignore that mental illness is a real thing that actually exists, erase the people helped by psychiatry, and be infiltrated by Scientologists. Black nationalism and wages for housework are interesting thought experiments but not very good policy proposals. I am just noting a pattern.
You can even see this in current movements. Polyamory activists tend to highlight normal-looking middle-class couples with stable long-term relationships. Sex workers’ rights movements tend to play up the middle-class college-educated woman who decided that escorting was the best option to make sure she could also take care of her kids, not the teenage runaway desperate to avoid going back into foster care.
In some cases, this is good. Gay marriage might be argued for with Neil Patrick Harris and Ellen DeGeneres, but it helps my poly trans ass as well. Decriminalized prostitution will probably help the teenage streetwalker more than the college-educated escort; after all, the former is far more likely to get arrested. In some cases, it leads to really fucking weird priorities: consider the anti-rape movement’s bizarre focus on college campuses (“don’t worry, we’re only helping nice white middle-class girls not get raped!”) or Lean In’s contention that the most important feminist issue women face nowadays is becoming CEOs just like the boys.
But overall I believe this tendency is dangerous. I don’t want liberty for the bourgeoisie. I mean, certainly liberty for the bourgeoisie is better than liberty for no one at all. But if freedom means “the freedom for everyone, regardless of race, sexuality, or creed, to be a suburban parent who plays fetch with the golden retriever on weekends”… well. I don’t think that’s the most important kind of freedom, nor is that half of the freedom I want.
I think the reason this topic makes me so angry (a word which here means “prone to pedantically explaining its incorrectness at great length on Tumblr”) is that it involves my favorite things in the entire world: abstract meta-level ethical principles. Not only that, but it is my favorite kind of abstract meta-level ethical principle: the kind that are actually the foundation of classical liberalism.
Take it away, John Stuart Mill:
That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him, must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.
The other principle is this: we do not negotiate with terrorists.
It may be that Fake Bisexuals and users of nounself pronouns, gay men who cottage and teenage runaway sex workers, do in fact drive people away from supporting the rest of us. But this sets a terrible precedent. It can be justified as a tactical decision, but only a temporary one, and it is never a good thing to do– merely a bad thing we do in the hopes of better consequences.
My allegiance is not to getting rid of homophobia, transphobia, and whorephobia. My allegiance is to over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual being sovereign. My allegiance is to anonymous sex and to kissing girls at parties and to runaways and, yes, to ridiculous pronoun choices. (And, to be sure, to saving oneself for marriage and celibacy and staying in horrible abusive situations if it’s your best alternative and to “they.”)
If yours isn’t, you are not on my side. I may ally with you temporarily for a common goal, but I will gladly throw you under the bus– the same way that you are planning to throw me.
Sonata Green said:
If you think to yourself, “well, I supported trans people’s right not to be homeless or bullied or fired from their jobs for being trans, but a trans teenager was silly on the Internet and now I can never support them again”, then your reasoning is ridiculous — but ridiculousness is the human condition, so we should expect this sort of thing to happen all the time.
I agree, however, with the “don’t negotiate with terrorists” principle, and with the entire article generally. Cosigned.
Thank you! This is…just…yes!
And, I COMPLETELY get the idea of respectability-politics-as-tactical-decision (just read up on Rosa Parks and why she was chosen to start the bus boycotts to get the idea– I also do, as a diehard pragmatist, have a streak of “do you want to be right or do you want to win?”), but it’s a ragequit thing for me in a place like tumblr. Because, I mean, it’s an anonymous microblooging platform. This is a COMPLETELY INAPPROPRIATE place to start a bus boycott or any other sort of organized social movement, and a COMPLETELY APPROPRIATE place for a fourteen-year-old to experiment with their relationship to gender. I mean really. If bun and bunselves were somehow harming, like, trans-rights legislation, you might have a point. But teenagers do a lot of silly things while trying to figure themselves out, and literally the only reason you even KNOW is because of current technology. These people have no power, they are harming no one, and 15 years ago they’d be working their goofy selves out in a diary, not a blog.
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This is great. I’m really (selfishly) happy you have a blog again because longform ozy is glorious. 😀
I’m all for bourgeoisification! I think people in general should be encouraged to aim for the model of a stable job, a good home and a marriage with 2.5 children, or something equally virtuous and respectable. And I think we’re slipping away from that ideal, which is bad for society in the long term (and by that I mean that people will be unhappier).
That doesn’t mean mean I’m okay with all of what ozy complains about; harm reduction is an important priority, but after that, I’d say encouraging a stable middle-class life plan is a good thing (on average – some specific things like “encourage home ownership” *might* be a bad idea).
(I’m not sure whether ozy would actually disagree with this)
I guess I agree with another theme of Mill’s from the essay Ozy quotes. He thought that the world had enormous quantities of misery, and so that improving things was an extremely high priority. And that the only way to discover better ways of doing things would be for people to experiment and try different things. And so he thought diversity was valuable as a necessary precondition for the possibility of progress. Trying to get everybody on board with one narrow program might have small benefits in terms of reducing conflict, but on past evidence seems unlikely to produce the kind of dramatic improvement Mill thought we should be striving for.
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“And I think we’re slipping away from that ideal, which is bad for society in the long term (and by that I mean that people will be unhappier).”
I agree that we should encourage people to seek lifestyles involving financial security, safety, and strong interpersonal relationships, because these things are likely to make them happy. But I don’t think we should be doing this by advocating a very *specific* life plan – like getting married, having 2.5 kids, and working whichever day jobs are currently socially deemed “respectable”.
There are plenty of people for whom this would not the happiest or most sustainable lifestyle. And there are plenty of good alternatives to it! There are many jobs outside of those traditionally deemed high-status that still confer financial security. There are many ways to gain strong interpersonal bonds that don’t involve marriage (polyamory! strong friendships! group housing!) Childrearing certainly isn’t for everyone, and not having children is the healthiest choice for some (and even for those who choose to have children, there are many different options, like co-parenting with other couples!)
People have different preferences. Accordingly, it’s very important that we encourage lifestyles that are *customizable*. Advocating general goals, like financial security and strong interpersonal bonds, is good. But conflating those goals with a specific life plan that doesn’t work for everyone just leaves a lot of people thinking that a happy, stable lifestyle is unattainable for them, because their particular preferences don’t match up with the socially promoted script. Ideally, we’d let people know what all their options are for achieving security and stability, and encourage them to think about which lifestyles would best for them.
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The counterargument to that, best summarized as “simple rules for simple people”, is discussed by Amy Wax in “Diverging Family Structure and ‘Rational’ Behavior: The Decline in Marriage as a Disorder of Choice.” She writes: “The rise of individualism in the wake of sexual liberation weakened the moral and institutional conventions that dominated before the 1960s. The sexual mores embodied in these conventions were designed to guide most people to stable choices. By establishing “simple rules for simple people”… these strictures functioned not so much by encouraging global thinking as such, but by obviating the need to think, or to think very much, about family formation and sexual choice. Rather, all that was necessary was to follow the script, and the script was simple.”
“The sexual mores embodied in these conventions were designed to guide most people to stable choices… all that was necessary was to follow the script, and the script was simple.”
I’m… fairly skeptical that this actually leads to happier, more stable people. Yes, the life plan of “get married young and have kids” will guide people to share their household with at least one other adult, and will keep their home life busy with raising children. And while this doesn’t remotely guarantee happiness, it does, at the very least, provide a bare-minimum guarantee of human contact and purpose in life.
But this is only an improvement over the current world if, given more choice, the majority of people actually select a lifestyle with *less* than that bare-minimum human contact and purpose. I don’t think this is true: given more choices, people continue to date, make friends, live with their friends, live with their partners, seek fulfilling life experiences, search for jobs that provide financial security, etc. What’s changed now is that we have the social technology to *choose* the relationships and jobs that are best for us – we’re better equipped to leave unhealthy relationships, find like-minded people we can connect with, pick careers that suit our personalities, and so on.
This isn’t to say that people don’t still regularly find themselves in unhealthy relationships, or in jobs they hate, or in social circles they don’t identify with. But this was very true in the 50s as well! And with a normalized script, people in the 50s generally weren’t equipped to change their lives to better suit their needs – if they were in unhappy marriages or careers, they were stuck, often for the rest of their life. With current social norms, we’re more mentally equipped to notice when our lifestyles are making us sad, and, since we have a larger variety of model life plans to pick from, we’re more likely to be able to find ones that suit us better. This is definitely an improvement over the 50s.
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It’s an improvement for many adults like us. For college-educated adults, moral deregulation at this point mostly means dating more, getting married later, being somewhat more likely to get divorced, and having fewer kids. (Or maybe not getting married at all and not having kids, or having a same-sex partner who you might have kids with.) But among people who aren’t college-educated, particularly those without a high school diploma or with just a high school diploma, most children in the U.S. are being born out of wedlock, and most of those relationships end when the kid is still quite small. Divorce rates are also higher. (I will find some citations for these claims if you would like.) What’s replaced that basic life model is worse, particularly for the kids involved. I think when you talk about more choices being a good thing, you’re picturing people like you and the people you know, who will tend to be quite bright and probably well-educated. Maybe the choices they make for themselves are better than the old life plan. But those people aren’t typical.
I think there is some truth to the various forms of two tribes arguments. There is a blue and a red tribe. There is a respectable and a non conforming tribe. There is also the old tribe of the reproductive class.
The reason that earlier activists put so much effort into the lesbian parenthood issue isn’t because they were the more respectable non conforming people, but because taking kids from lesbians was (and is still in many places) a common form of homophobia and a human rights abuse – the right to family life. The same punishment was commonly used against poor single mothers (hence the raising of the issue through things like Cathy Come Home).
The Wages for Housework campaign was not a pipe dream. There was an article recently where some of the second wave feminists were interviewed about if their goals had been achieved, and one of the women who was from the wages for housework campaign said mostly yes, for the UK. Poor and middle income women, including most single mothers and most lesbians do get to keep their kids and get often child benefit, tax credits, maternity pay and some free childcare in the UK. This is a huge and radical change from fifty years ago. Even wealthy women get maternity pay and some free childcare. These are usually even better in Scandinavian countries.
Many people view teens who have their own unique pronouns as being in the same tribe as those who prioritise campus rape over other kinds of rape and the group who have kids in their thirties and live in suburbia and have two high incomes. While gay parents have historically shared exclusion and coercive legal issues with the group described by Emily – young parents, single parents, poorer parents.
The two tribes would then be what the left wing called the reproductive class – poor and excluded mothers (including lesbians and with stigmatised gay male carers) along with childcare workers, primary carers of the elderly and disabled and perhaps underpaid care workers – childcare providers, nursing home staff, nursing assistants and so on. The other tribe contains the non conforming childless pronoun choosing teenagers, the respectable thirty year old career couple with no caring responsibilities and the bullied science scifi men who some women reject, no matter how much that tribe are fighting amongst themselves.
So while Ozy makes a distinction (and a valuable one) between the respectable and non conforming, that distinction might not be what motivates people eye rolling at the pronoun changers.
Taymon A. Beal said:
What are the ethical implications of not using made-up pronouns for people who say they use them?
I’ll assume that there’s nobody who absolutely can’t use “he”, “she”, or “they”, by which I mean that any of those pronouns would trigger severe dysphoria. I don’t know if that’s actually the case in real life, but it’s the case in the least convenient possible world.
I’m also not talking about the idea of “always use someone’s preferred pronouns” as a Schelling fence. You could argue that the obvious alternative, “always use someone’s preferred pronouns as long as they’re not something silly”, is not a viable Schelling fence because people don’t agree on what’s silly, and that the next Schelling fence is too far down the slippery slope to prevent a lot of people’s dysphoria from being triggered. But suppose that there were some kind of reasonably-widely-agreed-upon standard for what counts as silly, and we used that as the Schelling fence.
Now what happens if a person tells you that that person’s pronoun is something silly and made-up? What is your ethical obligation?
I think a perfect utilitarian philosopher that had no interest in playing stupid status games would use the pronoun. After all, doing so costs you nothing, has no effect on anyone else, and helps to fulfill whatever psychological need prompted the person to come up with a made-up pronoun in the first place.
But we’re not perfect ethical philosophers and we do play stupid status games, whether we like it or not. It’s hard for people’s lizard brains to distinguish “I demand you respect my identity” from “I demand you respect my status”, and sometimes those aren’t even entirely distinct concepts. Scott wrote about something analogous to this in “Offense versus Harm Minimization” (http://lesswrong.com/lw/59i/offense_versus_harm_minimization/). I have a hard time swallowing the idea of an ethical obligation to respect other people’s status.
On the other hand, I know what the perfect utilitarian philosopher would do, so shouldn’t I do that? Ought I not to self-modify so as to stop caring about status, and focus only on actual harm?
It’s a conundrum, and I don’t know the answer.
How is failing to respect someone’s status not harming them? Most people prefer to have their status respected. Violating someone’s preferences is what harm is. If you modified to stop caring about status you’d end up harming people, because you’d have stopped caring about something important to them.
I think your lizard brain isn’t confusing a demand for respect for someone’s identity with a demand for respect for their status. It’s confusing a demand for respect for someone’s identity with a demand for increased status that the demander does not deserve. There are obviously strong rule utilitarian reasons to not respect a desire for undeserved status. I also might be open to a a form of consequentialism that incorporated the concept of “dessert” and only valued satisfying a preference for status if that status is deserved.
I think the only option is to make judgements on a case-by-case basis. Try to figure out if someone wants you to respect their identity or give them status. If they want status, try to figure out if it’s deserved. And then just do your best.
Respecting all strange preferences does not “cost nothing”: it costs a huge amount of mental energy to remember these things and to stop the grammar-generating part of your brain to make an error. I support he/she/them as preferred, the rest of them are not grammar’s business to care about.
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I agree with most of this but: “Women working outside the home, trapping us all in the two-income trap? Wonderful! Wages for housework? Quit dreaming.”
If we lived in a world where these two were reversed, you could make the same point even more compellingly.
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Thought process: “What ozy said was in the direction both for what actually happens and for what fits their argument.” *thinks 15 seconds* “Oh wait actually the reversed direction *would* fit the argument better.”
You know, I was just about to write a blog post about this, but I’m not even mad because you did a far better job than I ever would. Massive kudos to the “don’t worry, we’re only helping nice white middle-class girls not get raped!” section. I had always been mad at the lack of concern about prison rapes, but prisons are predominantly black and hispanic, so I guess that makes sense. I actually leapt to my feet upon reading that, my mind was so blown open.
Scott Alexander said:
“However, the thought goes, if black people prove that they are not those things– if they have lifelong monogamous marriages, get professional jobs, wear their hair in white ways, stop speaking AAVE, and for God’s sake never fucking twerk– then white people will be like oh! Sorry! Our mistake! Now we see that you are human beings! and then racism will be solved. This strategy has been tried for over a hundred years and yet somehow racism has not been solved yet. Funny how that works.”
I gotta object to this characterization for a few reasons.
First, black people don’t seem to have completely stopped twerking, so for all we know that WOULD work. I mean, whenever a minority starts getting monogamous marriages, professional jobs, and culturally-approved haircuts, racism against them goes down by orders of magnitude pretty fast – see eg Asians and Jews. Black people like Herman Cain who are professionally successful and act really white seem to be acceptable to and liked even by Republicans.
Second, a *lot* of strategies have been tried for a long time without solving racism. Any strategy you can think of – portraying minorities positively in the media, affirmative action, whatever – has been tried at least for a few decades, and yet racism’s still here. Clearly all existing forms of social justice and anti-racist activism should be immediately abandoned.
See belief congruence theory. There is quite a body of evidence showing that when minorities act in ways white people approve of, racism decreases dramatically. So much so that it may be that “racism” is less irrational hatred for another race and more just disliking certain aesthetic and life-course choices that happen to be associated with certain races.
If that were true it wouldn’t necessarily mean that minorities have an obligation to take the choices that would decrease racism against them. But I think minorities would definitely want to (and have a right to) know.
I think you’re conflating a couple of Mill concepts around the “bunself” thing. Mill states in your quote that if someone’s doing something that doesn’t hurt anyone else, then ” These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise”.
As far as I know, nobody’s trying to visit anyone with any evil if they stop using “bunself”. They’re just telling them it’s silly. That sounds a lot like “remonstrating”, which is Mill-approved. A desire for a world in which we can’t even remonstrate people is a whole lot stronger than anything Mill recommended and needs to be defended on its own terms.
(I don’t care that much about “bunself” itself (bunself?), although I do think it’s annoying and could legitimately be construed as intentionally or unintentionally making fun of the rest of social justice)
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I think you’re largely right. Attitudes to different cultures that are mostly the same race (Blue/Red tribes in the US, class stuff in the UK) seems pretty similar to attitudes towards different races.
Maybe its a signalling thing? I don’t know. It might be true but its still unfortunate when people have to act in a restricted manner like that to be respected.
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“So much so that it may be that “racism” is less irrational hatred for another race and more just disliking certain aesthetic and life-course choices that happen to be associated with certain races.”
Suggestion: maybe racism is both: it has a component of actual hatred of other races and it has another component which is as you describe. And existing anti-racism measures have reduced the first component but are no good at reducing the second one.
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Um, really? Did the rate of monogamy, professional employment, or conventional haircuts among Jews and Asians suddenly rise in the 1950s and 1960s?
I think this is the first time I’ve every caught Scott saying something blatantly silly.
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Well, the “pigtails” (queues) worn by men from around China were the subject of serious discrimination and have now been pretty thoroughly stamped out. That’s just one element though. Of course, I still agree that the argument “assimilated minorities are treated better” kind of assumes the original maltreatment was tied to the minorities being genuinely subversive in the first place, then stopping.
Alexander Stanislaw said:
That’s pretty uncharitable. “Minorities that act more like whites have much lower rates of racism against them by whites” is a weaker statement that seems obviously true. And it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to think that this might be casual. Do you disagree?
That weaker statement is true, but it takes an extreme degree of charity to get there from the example of Jews, who were well-assimilated into WASP norms early in the 20th century, but didn’t really see a drop-off in antisemitism in the US until the Holocaust had sunk into popular consciousness in the 1950s.
There’s a lag between a group’s adoption of middle-class norms and cultural recognition that they’ve done so. It’s the latter that matters for acceptance.
We might get an interesting test case for this, although in the other direction. Due to different reproductive patterns, the ultra-Orthodox are make up a still-low but increasing percentage of American Jews. They are not what you would call assimilated. Will anti-Semitism rise? I would guess “yes.”
Scott Alexander said:
Even I’m anti-Semitic against the ultra-Orthodox, and I’m Jewish.
In response to Matthew, I can think of two possible models.
1. When people first encounter a new race in large numbers, they are racist toward them. Gradually, as they see they’re a lot like anybody else, they become less racist. If they don’t see them as being like anybody else, they stay racist.
2. Irrational-hatred-racism has been declining over time, disapprove-life-choices racism has been staying constant. That means over time races that are more likely to choose standard bourgeois lifestyles have been doing better, but races that are less likely to do so have not.
Anyway, what’s your explanation for why some minority groups seem to have assimilated pretty well and others haven’t? Or why successful bourgeois black people like Herman Cain or Thomas Sowell are beloved even of the people on the Right who worry about black people the most? (although Obama isn’t beloved of the Right, the same process seems to be at work in why Jesse Jackson is not a viable presidential candidate but Obama is)
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@Emily This raises the interesting question of the missing racism against the Amish….
@Scott It looks to me like the typical conservative loves Herman Cain and Thomas Sowell as rhetorical cudgels to beat the other tribe with, but I really doubt that, for example, the people who are still willing to tell pollsters they disapprove of interracial marriage would draw a distinction between their daughter marrying a typical black and a conservative-conformist black.
It’s not really possible to be racist against the Amish. They’re so isolated from society that there’s nothing you could do to them short of outright attacking them physically–you can’t force them to the back of the bus, refuse to serve them food at the lunch counter, not let them into your college, or forbid your daughters from marrying one.
Weren’t a lot of German Jews pretty well assimilated before the Holocaust?
As for the Amish, they’ve gotten some accommodations from the government– they’re permitted to limit the amount of education their kids get and not pay into social security. If there was prejudice against them, those accommodations could be taken away.
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Amish have so restricted themselves that almost anything a prejudiced person might want to do to them is something they already tdo to themselves. True, exemption from Social Security is an exception, but that’s not going to be enouhg to sustain prejudice all by itself.
Furthermore, remember that the question is not “why don’t people hate Amish for being Amish”, it’s “why don’t people hate Amish for the things they do”. Not every different thing done by someone is cause for hate. The unusual things that Amish do generally pattern-match to “things which our ancestors used to do but which we don’t have to any more”; it’s hard to hate based on that.
A data point from my grandfather who grew up in Swanee, Tennesse– he said that it wasn’t a matter of “large numbers” leading to prejudice, it was a matter of prejudice kicking in if there was more than one Jew.
This is an old memory of mine, so take it for what it’s worth.
Delany has written about studies that white people tend to overestimate the proportion of black people in a group if there are any, and men tend to overestimate the proportion of women. These would probably be studies from the sixties or before. As I recall, it was something like 15% being seen as 50%.
“Conventional hair-cuts” are a trickier topic than you might think, since some hair can’t be conventional in some situations. It’s been a long fight for tightly curled black hair to be seen as professional, perhaps especially for women. I’ve been told that white conservative women don’t have curly hair. This was some years ago, so I don’t know whether it’s still true. Hair can be straightened, but conventional haircuts can take more work and expense for some people than others.
I’m happy Scott brought up the bit on remonstrating. I often get the impression from SJ people that disagreeing with them is considered a form of bullying.
Sharif Olorin said:
Scott: you trolling?
> First, black people don’t seem to have completely stopped twerking, so for all we
> know that WOULD work. I mean, whenever a minority starts getting monogamous
> marriages, professional jobs, and culturally-approved haircuts, racism against them
> goes down by orders of magnitude pretty fast – see eg Asians and Jews. Black
> people like Herman Cain who are professionally successful and act really white
> seem to be acceptable to and liked even by Republicans.
I don’t think having monogamous marriages, culturally-approved haircuts or professional jobs helped the Asians or the Jews a whole lot, either during the 20th century (suspect I do not need to provide references here, unless you’re asserting that the Holocaust was the result of the failure of Jews to integrate, or that we’d find a statistically significant correlation between haircut and internment in 1940s Japanese-Americans), or during the 21st (see: Europe, now).
> See belief congruence theory. There is quite a body of evidence showing that when
> minorities act in ways white people approve of, racism decreases dramatically. So
> much so that it may be that “racism” is less irrational hatred for another race and
> more just disliking certain aesthetic and life-course choices that happen to be
> associated with certain races.
That’s quite astonishing. Do you have a reference?
sharif: Like I suggested, maybe there’s two components. The actually racist component and the behavior component. And the actual racist component has died down while the other component has not. The Holocaust and Japanese-American internment were examples of actual racism. Jews were pretty assimilated into Germany, and it didn’t help them.
And nowadays we’ve mostly done away with actual racism. What’s left will look a lot like racism to an observer, but it behaves differently; Jews couldn’t avoid persecution in Germany by assimilating, but they can now.
Huh, based on the title I thought this was going to be something entirely different. I hope you don’t mind too much if I comment on that instead (and also kind of repeat much of what Taymon already said).
Namely: The thing that bothers me about the whole pronouns thing, custom or not — aside of course from the whole issue of “I thought the plan was to degender everything and this seems to have arrested that”, but that’s really a separate issue — is, well, it always seems to get phrased as a matter of freedom, but in this case the freedom in question is the freedom to require everyone else to actively acknowlege and go along with what you’re doing, which… doesn’t really seem very liberal? (Although I think you could make the case that as long as you just insist that people *not* use gendered pronouns, it’s much less of a problem.)
I’m reminded of Scott’s old “Don’t draw Mohammed/salmon” post, which I see Taymon also linked. When dealing with actual people who have a preference, the (at least short-term) utilitarian benefits of referring to people by their preferred pronouns are pretty obvious (this is the salmon case); also, like, it’s just polite. But when I encounter generalized demands that people are whatever gender they say they are, this is a fact that must be respected and can in no circumstances ever be opened for discussion — not to imply of course that this should usually be up for discussion, most of the time it would be way off-topic — well, unsurprisingly that pushes the “don’t draw Mohammed” buttons. I don’t want to negotiate with those terrorists!
I mean, OK, it seems the “don’t negotiate with terrorists” attitude there doesn’t actually work, because, well, it’s been tried. But I don’t think that’s something that would have been obvious in advance, just because the “terrorist” in this case isn’t conscious — aren’t there are other cases that meet that description where it does work? I think it’s worth keeping in mind that just because this is true doesn’t mean that it is obvious.
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gucci mane said:
The way I see it, here is why people feel very uncomfortable with the nounself pronouns, and to a lesser extent stuff like ze, xer, and conventionally gender-presenting people using atypical pronouns.
Imagine if I came up to you and told you that in every interaction you have with me, you have to say “I love basketball” instead of hello, and instead of goodbye, you have to do the little arm swishing movement mimicking a jump shot. Furthermore, you could never mention the sport football around me. (Just to arbitrarily create an absurd example). If you don’t do this, then I will get very mad at you, not want to talk to you, and tell my friends not to associate with you. How would you feel about this? Sure, it’s really not THAT much effort on your part, but I feel like you would still react negatively to this demand.
It kind of sounds like a decent fraternity hazing technique, or maybe something for a master with a weird sense of humor to ask of a servant. You’re exerting your dominance over someone and forcing them to give you the upper hand in the social interaction by making them to inconvenience themselves and also look silly in the process. So this is why some people who might e.g. have no problem with referring to a pre-op transwoman who wears female clothes as “she”, but view certain other requests for specific pronoun usage as unwarranted or unreasonable, because people are suspicious of this sort of subtle power play.
The reason the social justice movement should distance themselves from the nounself people or at least say “we do not condone this” is because the social justice community tends to promote the rule of “everyone should decide their own pronouns, it isn’t really that much to ask of you, so just fucking call them what they want even if you don’t agree with it”. But this is only a tenable position as long as people aren’t abusing their right to invoke it for the sake of a power play as described above. So the nounself people do pose a real problem, imho.
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I did, in fact, bring up this exact issue. All nonbinary people should accept “they” in addition to any preferred pronouns they have. Therefore, if you don’t want to use nounself pronouns for someone, you can call them “they.” Nounself pronouns are reserved for people who don’t mind it or think it’s cute. Problem solved.
(Actually, my position is that everyone should accept at least one of “he”, “she”, or “they”– there are nonbinary people who prefer “she” or “he” and binary people who use weird pronouns– which is just as good in terms of not putting undue burdens on people.)
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As people do indeed come with quite a diverse variety of disfunctions, I’m sure there are people who use this as some kind of power play, but I think that if you assume that’s what’s going on the first time someone makes a minor request, then you are the one being rude. If the demands are more extreme (more like your imagined example), or if the person keeps making more and more of them, then perhaps it becomes reasonable to assign a higher probability to the power play theory and consider reacting appropriately, but you really make it sound like it is your go to assumption for all such requests, and that seems utterly unwarranted.
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Teens are incredibly vulnerable when it comes to identity. If I had never encountered, for example, Christianity before and my point of entry to the topic was a bunch of teens who were very into Jesus and had Christianity as a massive part of their identity and were on Tumblr… Well, I’d be massively confused about and irritated by what Christianity meant and what Christians believed or did.
A lot of the stuff around trans issues is new to people, and complex and contentious even when explained by a competent, well intentioned, highly motivated adult.
Add to that the stupidity of how Tumblr functions as a platform, making sensible discussion difficult to maintain, and that SJ poor behaviour has coincided with the pronouns issue (even if none of the pronoun people are actually the ones behaving poorly), and that Tumblr also houses big female dominated fandoms with their own gender stuff going on, and many don’t have English as a first language, and it is bound to end in irritation.
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I guess my issue is that it seems like the whole point of pronouns is that they’re supposed to be, in some ways, easier and simpler to use than the nouns for which they substitute. If people have individualized pronouns, then that seems to me to defeat the purpose of pronouns, as a grammatical construct, in the first place.
With “she/her/her/hers/herself,” you know a single pronoun that applies to about 50% of people. With “Alice/Alice/Alice’s/Alice’s/Alice” you know a single individual’s name. If individuals have pronouns which are unique to them, it seems like it functions as a sort of secondary version of a name, but it’s used in a different grammatical context.
What is the function of a pronoun, grammatically? Because to me, it seems like pronouns don’t function — at least, not very well — with individuals choosing a wide variety of third-person pronouns. Maybe I’m misunderstanding, though.
In some ways, it seems like the first person is the best place for unique pronouns — alternatives to “I/me/my/mine/myself.” That way you don’t have to expect anyone but yourself to know them.
I do understand people’s issues with gendered third person singular pronouns, and I understand the desire for a non-gendered 3rd person singular pronoun, and I understand that settling on a consensus for exactly what that non-gendered 3rd person singular pronoun should be is hard, but I guess I have a little difficulty understanding pronouns which are hardly less variable than names on an individual-to-individual basis.
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There’s a really strong correlation between teens who seek out neopronouns and teens who change their chosen names, often more than once a year. If you only feel validated when people choose your chosen name/pronoun, it’s really easy to isolate yourself into a narrow complicit social circle and become addicted to this feedback loop while being all the more dissatisfied with “cissexist” mainstream society. You can control your friend group, by making them call you a new term, in a way you cannot control your parents. It doesn’t help that there are many much more serious grievances these young people can have with their environment. Often their parents are as stubborn about using the pronoun “she” as they are about forbidding short haircuts.
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I really wish people would stop describing college education as boring, or conventional, or uncool, or oppressive, or some other adjective that means, “something to be avoided”. College education is very, very useful. Not only does it correlate to higher wages (yes yes, money is so un-cool, but still), but it can also make you smarter. If everyone could get a college education for free (at least, everyone who is qualified), we would be living in a much better world. Please, stop discouraging people from doing the one thing that can greatly increase everyone’s quality of life.
Do you have evidence that a college education makes everyone smarter? In addition, it seems plausible to me that there are many people who are not cognitively capable of handling college (i.e. the mean IQ of college graduates is one standard deviation higher than the mean IQ of the general population); do you believe they should attend college as well?
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I think Bugmaster was trying to make a more general claim for the goodness of college attendance. You are right that going to college probably won’t raise your IQ but it does enrich most people no matter what their IQ is. A person with a low IQ is given the opportunity to interact with persons with higher IQs and will most likely be the better for it.
What evidence do you have that it enriches most people?
And if everyone attends college, then low-IQ people are not necessarily interacting with high-IQ people. They are interacting with a cross-section of the general population or (more likely) their fellow low-IQ people in de jure or de facto tracking.
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If everybody went to college people would notice that a PhD is very, very useful, seems to makes you smarter (hey, correlation is causation, right?), and so would agitate for state-financed PhDs for everybody.
Sending the (future) lower classes would be a waste of everybody’s time, and a net drain on the economy and on happiness.
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“However, the thought goes, if black people prove that they are not those things– if they have lifelong monogamous marriages, get professional jobs, wear their hair in white ways, stop speaking AAVE, and for God’s sake never fucking twerk– then white people will be like “oh! Sorry! Our mistake! Now we see that you are human beings!” and then racism will be solved.”
some of those are not like others of those. Are we really going to treat lifelong monogamous marriages and professional jobs as ‘white attributes’, and black people who do those things are ‘acting white’?
what do we mean by racism? do we mean ‘treating people differently based on race’? If so, then treating people differently based on behaviour is not racism. If one treats someone who ‘acts white’ differently to someone who ‘acts black’ (and i very much disagree with classifying behaviour in that way) that is a very different to thinking that one race is inherently inferior to another.
If someone values lifelong monogomous marriages, they will encourage it wherever it is lacking. There’s no reason why treating someone who’s black and in a lifelong monogomous marriage better than someone who’s black and not in a lifelong monogomous marriage would be racist, unless you can somehow show that ‘not having lifelong monogomous marriages’ is somehow an inherently black thing.
It may be problematic for other reasons, you could say it’s slut shaming, but that doesn’t make it racist. you could say treating professional jobs people better is being elitist, but it’s not racist.
Cottaging might be a gay thing, but i have a feeling people who are pro monogomous gay people but anti cottaging would also be against dogging or other heterosexual equivelants of cottaging. Being against one type of behaviour and not another is not homophobic unless that behaviour is inherently part of being gay. You can say it’s slut shaming, or something similar, but that’s a seperate thing to it being homophobic.
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“There’s no reason why treating someone who’s black and in a lifelong monogomous marriage better than someone who’s black and not in a lifelong monogomous marriage would be racist, unless you can somehow show that ‘not having lifelong monogomous marriages’ is somehow an inherently black thing.”
Disparate impact, man, disparate impact.
(Disclaimer: I generally don’t believe that disparate impact is racist. But that seems to be the thought process.)
I … strongly disagree with almost everything you said here.
Pronouns are not “in a state of Chaucerian anarchy”; we have a well-defined set of pronouns, and a bunch of people who (mistakenly) think that making up another three-letter word will allow them to change that. Since all these attempts will inevitably fail, associating them with trans people is a bad idea; and, indeed, anyone who actually endorses such a thing is giving out strong evidence that they are an idiot.
Being something other than “sexually licentious, immoral, stupid, and lazy” is, in fact, a good thing. Showing that people are not a stereotypes is a good thing. One good way to do this is to interact with people, in ways that don’t fit with the stereotype – which is usually pretty easy, since, y’know, it isn’t actually true.
Black people becoming more middle-class, and being less stereotyped as lower-class criminals, does indeed seem to be pretty heavily correlated.
I … admit I don’t know much about policing Fake Bisexuals, but I am generally opposed to lying. The trouble appears to be the stereotype that all bisexuals are lying. Loudly proclaiming your support for people to lie about whatever they want is not going to help with this, especially when you publicly associate it with other features of that popular stereotype.
People who oppose trans rights on the basis of silly tumblr people – who are real and whom I have met in real life and talked to – are not saying “well, I supported trans people’s right not to be homeless or bullied or fired from their jobs for being trans, but a trans teenager was silly on the Internet and now I can never support them again”. This is a pretty major failure of charity. They are saying “well, I thought trans and genderqueer people weren’t making up to get attention, but then I saw somebody making up a fake gender in order to get attention, and then I saw a bunch of others doing the same thing, so I guess that is what’s happening”.
This is, of course, a result of some pretty obvious biases toward anecdotes and so on. But it is not evidence that “you are fucking awful at moral reasoning and I for one am perfectly happy with you self-selecting out of our social movement before a vulnerable person might think you’re someone to be trusted.” Your strawman is not, in fact, evidence that your enemies must be evil mutants to believe such a thing.
I’m not entirely sure “bourgeoisie” is the correct construct to use, as in “bourgeoisifcation of the left”. Rather, what we have here is people who hold a bunch of beliefs changing one of them in response to evidence, and other people complaining that they didn’t change all their beliefs they disagree with. And, as you point out, this is usually a good thing and not something we should discourage – because if people *did* change all their beliefs, you would not be the one leading the glorious revolution. Belief-space is large, and most proposed positions are wrong.
The reason this “bourgeoisie” model is dangerous is that in involves comparing “what you want” to “what people are currently allowed“; instead of paying any attention to changes in “what people are allowed”. Gay couples weren’t a part of the “suburban parent who plays fetch with the golden retriever on weekends” image, and neither were trans people, or working mothers, or any of the other things you mention. Those were added to it.
Letting people do what they want as sovereign individuals unless they initiate force against others is Libertarianism. It is stupid and you will be eaten by Moloch. Next question.
“My allegiance is not to getting rid of homophobia, transphobia, and whorephobia.”
Well, call me crazy, but I actually am in favour of reducing the harm caused to people.
When anonymous sex and runaways are bad, then I am not in favour of them; when they are good, I am.
And yeah, if you’ll throw actual people under the bus, encourage all those phobias in the name of “individuality”, then you are emphatically not on my side.
… but I am on yours.
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I’ll agree that if you don’t like Bad Life Choices, you should apply that dislike equally across demographics.What you shouldn’t do is apply to oppressed groups the additional stigma of “your Bad Life Choices are justifying the oppression of [group].” And once someone starts saying “your Neutral Life Choices are justifying the oppression of [group].”, run. Because a taboo against declaring yourself anti-[group] is almost useless when you can declare yourself anti-[everything statistically correlated with [group] membership]. “I don’t hate you because you’re Black, I hate that you use so much slang.” “I don’t hate you because you’re gay, but AIDS? You really should be more careful.””I don’t hate you because you’re trans, but I’ve known drag queens who passed better than you.”
Suddenly, even the [group] members who won the respectability lottery, who’ve absorbed absolutely 0% of the memes associated with their group besides those necessary to qualify, have to explain they’re not that kind of [group] member. And suddenly, the most “respectable” group members are divided between fighting bigotry from without and identity policing within. By trying to attack a group sideways, you get a divide-and-conquer strategy for free. And that should scare you.
I’m not saying that one should be able to shut down discussion of legitimate bad behavior that happens to be correlated with membership in an oppressed group by shouting “respectability politics”. What I am saying is that respectability politics is a legitimate concern.
I actually had a whole comment typed out about how you shouldn’t hate anybody regardless of their Bad Life Choices. We should try to discourage Bad Life Chocies, not oppress people.
If you encounter a crowd chanting “burn the witch!”, the correct response is not to declare yourself a minion of Satan and say you stand in solidarity with your fellow child-killer.
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‘Being something other than “sexually licentious, immoral, stupid, and lazy” is, in fact, a good thing. Showing that people are not stereotypes is a good thing. One good way to do this is to interact with people, in ways that don’t fit with the stereotype – which is usually pretty easy, since, y’know, it isn’t actually true.’
To my understanding, this is sort of tangential to the argument about respectability politics? Like, the issue here is not “people should be allowed to be immoral without censure,” so much as it is that people tend to treat stereotypes as clusters of traits that are inseparable. So if you believe the above list of things about black people, and you also believe that natural hair is unprofessional, or that AAVE makes people sound stupid, then as soon as you meet a black person with natural hair or who speaks AAVE, you are going to tend to pattern-match that person to “lazy and stupid” without actually waiting to see if those judgments are true.
Same goes with with fake bisexuals. The issue isn’t that people should be encouraged to lie about their sexuality. The issue is that the traits usually used to describe so-called fake bisexuals actually have no relation to lying and are completely innocuous. When you start trying to target these ancillary traits (Stop having emo haircuts! You’re making us all look fake!), you end up inadvertently reinforcing the association between Completely Innocuous Thing and being a liar. I hope we can agree that this is undesirable.
Firstly, “X looks unprofessional” or “X makes you sound stupid” are statements about people’s reaction to a thing, not about the thing itself. And yeah, in an X-ist society, they’re probably true. It would be better to make it clear that getting rid of X-ism would also solve the problem, though.
“Stop having emo haircuts! You’re making us all look fake!” is nonsense, yeah.
(Is that what people were saying? Thanks for explaining it. I wish we had some links to this whole fake-bisexuals thing!)
But “Stop having emo haircuts! You’re making us all look emo!” isn’t nonsense. It’s true. And “Stop having emo haircuts! You’ll be mistaken for a fake!” is also probably true, although it isn’t exactly fighting stereotypes.
And “Stop being fake! You’re making us all look fake!” is, in fact, an objectively good idea for everyone.
Lumping all these things together as “attacks on Fake Bisexuals” … is a bad idea. To put it mildly.
“Stop making up silly genders for yourself! You’re making us look like we’re making up our real gender!” is not analogous to “Stop having emo haircuts! You’re making us all look fake!” – except when they’re both placed in a specially-constructed reference class, in order to employ the Worst Argument In The World.
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First of all, I’m not sure I’m parsing your first paragraph correctly. I’m not at all sure that those statements are as much about people’s reactions as you’re arguing. I suspect that for the person having the thought, it sounds more like, “People who do X are stupid,” full stop. It also sounds like you think that this kind of thinking should be called X-ism (depending on whatever X is), rather than a broader term like racism or homophobia? (This is the part I think I’m possibly misinterpreting.)
Secondly, yes, the emo haircuts thing is unfortunately barely an exaggeration. I remember people getting called fake for equally frivolous, unrelated-to-being-bisexual things when I was in high school. It also takes the form of, “Well, she has an emo haircut [or insert the hated quality of your choice here], so obviously she is fake! (And if you argue with this judgment, it’s a good sign that you’re fake too!)”
I think that where we really disagree is about your second and third examples (“Stop having an emo haircut! People will think you’re fake!” and “Stop being fake! You’re making us all look fake!”). For the first one, yes, it’s relatively harmless on the face of it. All you have to do is cut your hair, and people will take you that much more seriously! But this is kind of where the “don’t negotiate with terrorists” bit comes in. If people all agree that emo haircuts are the province of fakes, and people who want to be taken seriously should stop having them, then that leaves an opening for shitty people to decide that other random, unconnected-to-fakeness qualities are also evidence of fakeness and should be abandoned.
So what happens when the quality you’re being called fake/lazy/stupid for is something that you can’t easily give up, like the natural texture of your hair or the language that you were raised speaking? What happens when it’s something that’s important to your identity, like your culture or your sexual expression? What happens when the quality you’re being attacked for is actually a positive quality? I can think of versions of this argument that are all of the above.
As for the last bit…I don’t know, I just can’t get that mad at teenagers being silly about gender on the internet. I can, however, totally get mad at the person who is like, “I saw some teenager making up a silly gender on the internet, therefore I know that you, non binary person who I am currently talking to, are also making up your gender, and nothing can convince me otherwise!” Like, yes, I know that people do this, but I can’t help but feel like if this particular reason didn’t exist, they would find another reason to disbelieve in transness. Plus, any given group is going to have some members who are silly or inconsistent or morally objectionable. Defining these people as Not True Members of The Group in order to make the group as a whole seem more reasonable seems like a bad solution to this problem!
The absurd pronouns like “bunself” were clearly selected because of their absurdity. I bet the psychological mechanism behind this is the same as the one that leads religions to promote absurd beliefs, and fraternities to adopt absurd hazing rituals. I think there’s even a word for it, which I’m too hung over to remember right now, but it boils down to status signaling, a conspicuous advertisement of commitment to a group. I recognize that my refusal to go along with that may cause them some distress, but the distress is (in some sense) manufactured, and not by me. There are also moral-hazard arguments around letting people dictate behavior with such tactics.
By contrast, the efforts to popularize a universal gender-neutral pronoun seem entirely laudable, and I’ll go along with whatever eventually finds its way into common parlance. English used to have ungendered third-person-singular pronouns (“ou”, for example), and some languages have nothing but.
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Princess Stargirl said:
I use Ze/Zir/Zirs in writing and speech. Unless I assume someone is cis and I knwo their gender. I am happy to use whatever pronouns someone wants.
@ stillnotking – I hope this links kind of right.
By contrast, the efforts to popularize a universal gender-neutral pronoun seem entirely laudable, and I’ll go along with whatever eventually finds its way into common parlance.
For general could-be-anybody use, back in the 70s or so, proponents were debating ‘he/she’ ‘she/he’ ‘ s/he’ ‘he or she’ , and a 90s CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE was instructing how to rewrite sentences without using any single third pronoun at all.
Then elite things such as journal articles, text books, etc quietly* started using ‘she’ in all those ‘he-generic’ contexts. Like Scott and ssc posters often do. Which was visually invisible, instantly understandable, gave women a turn after centuries of ‘he’, and would feel silly to argue about.
I saw that as the language/common parlance settling the question by itself — after enough feminists complained loud enough to make it an issue.; Maybe that will happen with the current issue.
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I’ve noticed a misconception going around the internet recently about what it means to be transgender – specifically, that it’s a superficial identity you (general “you,” not you, Ozy) can pick up and play with, or use as a monicker of uniqueness. There’s a sense in which I appreciate the mistake because at least it’s a cheerful one: after so many years of the only narrative out there being that our lives are nothing but misery, it’s nice to see so many young people having a glitter party. The position also has something of a pedigree, with scholars like Kate Bornstein adopting an irreverent position on genderfucking.
What is being lost in the transition from Bornstein to Tumblr is that playing with gender and being transgender are separate things. They may overlap, but so do being transgender and enjoying banjo music: it’s something that applies to some of us, but not a necessary or sufficient condition attached to being trans. It would be nonsensical to define a trans person as someone who does not perfectly conform to gendered expectations because gender roles are often contradictory, and vary subtly even between friend groups. By that definition we are all transgender…which is fine, except that there’s still a population separate from “everyone” that needs a name, and you’ve just taken it from them.
I’m reminded of the climax in Disney’s “Aladdin”, where the titular character tricks the villain into assuming the form of a genie. The dialogue goes like this:
Jafar: The universe is mine to command! To control!
Aladdin: Not so fast, Jafar! Aren’t you forgetting something?
Aladdin: You want to be a genie? You got it!
Jafar: [cufflinks form on Jafar’s wrists]
Aladdin: And everything that goes with it!
Aladdin: [Aladdin shows the black genie lamp that sucks Jafar in]
If you want to be trans, hey, be my guest. The only problem is, you don’t get the “powers” without the needle sticks and heartbreak when you can’t recognize yourself in the mirror, or the thousand other possible agonies that come from dysphoria. Go on and have your fun, but think seriously on whether “star gender” has anything to do with what I am, and whether you need the legitimacy that comes from claiming a kinship.
*looks around the internet a bit* Holy shit, “star gender” is actually a thing!? And “bunself” is more than hyperbole about people who feel the need to invent even more putative third-person singular neuter pronouns!? What is wrong with teens these days!?
zarbgendered people are vastly under represented in media and the flurbo to felis paygap is deplorable