NY Times columnist says we should do away with gender pronouns

Rogifan

macrumors Core
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Nov 14, 2011
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But “he” is not what you should call me. If we lived in a just, rational, inclusive universe — one in which we were not all so irredeemably obsessed by the particulars of the parts dangling between our fellow humans’ legs, nor the ridiculous expectations signified by those parts about how we should act and speak and dress and feel — there would be no requirement for you to have to assume my gender just to refer to me in the common tongue.
………

So: If you write about me, interview me, tweet about me, or if you are a Fox News producer working on a rant about my extreme politics, I would prefer if you left my gender out of it. Call me “they” or “them,” as in: “Did you read Farhad’s latest column — they’ve really gone off the deep end this time!” And — unless you feel strongly about your specific pronouns, which I respect — I would hope to call you “they” too, because the world will be slightly better off if we abandoned unnecessary gender signifiers as a matter of routine communication. Be a “him” or “her” or anything else in the sheets, but consider also being a “they” and “them” in the streets.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/10/opinion/pronoun-they-gender.html

Needless to say the opinion piece has over 2K comments. This is one reason why I could never vote Democrat. They believe in crackpot ideas like this.
 

Jensend

macrumors regular
Dec 19, 2008
181
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The only reason gendered pronouns seem normal to you is because that is what you are used to. Turkish doesn’t have gendered pronouns. I’m pretty sure that’s not because they have progressive politics, rather, it’s just happenstance that their language developed that way.

Why don’t we have different pronouns based on height or eye color or skin color? Why should a person’s gender be the first attribute we know about them?

That being said, I’m not convinced Farhad is a real person. He seems to be a caricature of the left, or at least a devil’s advocate to generate discussion. In another column he promoted completely open borders, which is not a position the vast majority of Democrats take.
 

LIVEFRMNYC

macrumors 604
Oct 27, 2009
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The only reason gendered pronouns seem normal to you is because that is what you are used to. Turkish doesn’t have gendered pronouns. I’m pretty sure that’s not because they have progressive politics, rather, it’s just happenstance that their language developed that way.

Why don’t we have different pronouns based on height or eye color or skin color? Why should a person’s gender be the first attribute we know about them?

That being said, I’m not convinced Farhad is a real person. He seems to be a caricature of the left, or at least a devil’s advocate to generate discussion. In another column he promoted completely open borders, which is not a position the vast majority of Democrats take.

We actually use plenty of adjectives in the manner of pronouns, even in your examples. And I'm pretty sure Turkish people do as well.


Taking away gender pronouns will only cause a void that will get filled by other words/expressions almost instantly.

This genderless agenda crap has gone completely off the deep end.
 

Jensend

macrumors regular
Dec 19, 2008
181
187
This genderless agenda crap has gone completely off the deep end.
I’m fine with specifying people’s gender. But why should it be built into pronouns? Sometimes it is useful to not have gender specified, especially when you are talking about hypotheticals and unknowns, such as when we would now say “he or she.”

Why don’t first person pronouns such as ”I” and ”me” specify gender?

I’m not suggesting we change anything, but I find it to be a useful thought experiment.
[doublepost=1562993731][/doublepost]
Needless to say the opinion piece has over 2K comments. This is one reason why I could never vote Democrat. They believe in crackpot ideas like this.
But most of the comments agree with you, and presumably most of the commenters on the NYT website are on the left side of American politics. So why does the article have anything to do with whether you’d vote Democrat?
 

LIVEFRMNYC

macrumors 604
Oct 27, 2009
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I’m fine with specifying people’s gender. But why should it be built into pronouns? Sometimes it is useful to not have gender specified, especially when you are talking about hypotheticals and unknowns, such as when we would now say “he or she.”

Why don’t first person pronouns such as ”I” and ”me” specify gender?

I’m not suggesting we change anything, but I find it to be a useful thought experiment.
Because there is no two of "I" or "me".

Now how are you supposed to refer to a person without mentioning their name? If you take away "he" or "she", then there is no one word to fill that void. Sure you can use multiple words like "this person", but it will not only be vague, it also won't flow naturally. And if you're telling a story, saying "she" is much more sensible than saying "this feminine persona of a person".

And since this is a topic of gender. Transgenders can't be called transgender anymore, nor can they be referred to as "she" or "he". I highly doubt they would be okay with that.

Removing gender pronouns from the English language is counter productive from every angle imaginable.
 

vrDrew

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Jan 31, 2010
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Next to one's species (homo sapiens) or state of existence (alive? dead?) - gender is the most defining characteristic of an individual.

Gender comes, at least in my estimation, before such constructs as race, body height or weight, age, sexual orientation.

Gendered pronouns are, at least in my estimation, a mark of respect. They are an acknowledgement of one's status and position within the world. A clue as to how one should be regarded by one's fellow humans.

I say "Doctor" when I talk to (or about) my physician. I say "Reverend" or "Vicar" when talking to my clergyman. And I say "she" when talking about my aunt or my late grandmother.

There are some people whose gender is fluid. Whether by choice or nature they exist in a grey area between the two. I will attempt to refer to such people by whatever term they prefer.

But my sisters and female colleagues prefer to be referred to as "she". And until they tell me otherwise, that is the way I will refer to them.
 
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Jensend

macrumors regular
Dec 19, 2008
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Now how are you supposed to refer to a person without mentioning their name? If you take away "he" or "she", then there is no one word to fill that void.
We don’t currently have a good replacement word. Sometimes “they” works, but isn’t optimal.
And if you're telling a story, saying "she" is much more sensible than saying "this feminine persona of a person".
If it’s relevant to the story, you can introduce the character as a woman or female or girl or whatever. But that doesn’t mean you have to have a gendered pronoun each time the character is mentioned. If for example, you have two or more females in a scene, you still have to differentiate between them in some way besides the pronoun you use.

Removing gender pronouns from the English language is counter productive from every angle imaginable.
Many languages have gendered nouns, such as names of professions. English does not, for the most part. As I’ve said before, Turkish does not have gendered nouns or pronouns. So it’s more about what you’re used to than anything else. English is less gendered than some other languages, and more gendered than others. You need to expand your imagination. Having a gender-neutral pronoun would be beneficial in some circumstances, even if you aren’t at all worried about gender issues in politics.

English could use some extra pronouns. We don’t have separate singular and plural forms of “you”.
 
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LIVEFRMNYC

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We don’t currently have a good replacement word. Sometimes “they” works, but isn’t optimal.
If it’s relevant to the story, you can introduce the character as a woman or female or girl or whatever. But that doesn’t mean you have to have a gendered pronoun each time the character is mentioned. If for example, you have two or more females in a scene, you still have to differentiate between them in some way besides the pronoun you use.

Many languages have gendered nouns, such as names of professions. English does not, for the most part. As I’ve said before, Turkish does not have gendered nouns or pronouns. So it’s more about what you’re used to than anything else. English is less gendered than some other languages, and more gendered than others. You need to expand your imagination. Having a gender-neutral pronoun would be beneficial in some circumstances, even if you aren’t at all worried about gender issues in politics.

English could use some extra pronouns. We don’t have separate singular and plural forms of “you”.

I'm interested in languages without gender pronouns, do those of native tongue actually speak without a gender basis? I would bet their native dialect is differ from the proper dialect.

With English many people can say "Listen Bro" or "Chill out man" even if they are speaking to a female. That's not proper dialect (or gender pronoun) at all. But that's how the average American speaks. So I would assume Turkish and other languages are not spoken in text book as well.

Some languages use the same word/character but write it differently, and vice versa for other languages.

Some languages might use a differ tone, or gender adjective after the genderless pronoun. (I just taking a guess on this one).
 

jerwin

macrumors 68020
Jun 13, 2015
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and Manjoo's wikipedia page has been updated throughout.

e.g
In July 2019, Manjoo published an opinion column for the Times stating that while they are cisgender, they prefer to be referred to with singular they pronouns.[18]
It sounds weird. I am reminded of an 1847 book I read in which the writer consistently refers to herself as "the authoress".
 

Rogifan

macrumors Core
Original poster
Nov 14, 2011
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I’m fine with specifying people’s gender. But why should it be built into pronouns? Sometimes it is useful to not have gender specified, especially when you are talking about hypotheticals and unknowns, such as when we would now say “he or she.”

Why don’t first person pronouns such as ”I” and ”me” specify gender?

I’m not suggesting we change anything, but I find it to be a useful thought experiment.
[doublepost=1562993731][/doublepost]
But most of the comments agree with you, and presumably most of the commenters on the NYT website are on the left side of American politics. So why does the article have anything to do with whether you’d vote Democrat?
I’ll take a wild guess most of the comments aren’t coming from Democrats.
[doublepost=1563019951][/doublepost]
No, they don’t. If more than half of one percent of Democrats support this specific idea, I would be shocked. Citing this as a reason for not voting for Democrats is ridiculous.
This is only one reason. There are many others.
 
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LordVic

macrumors 603
Sep 7, 2011
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Yeah, that's going to be a no from me dawg.

I'm all for the fluidity of gender, and allowing people to pick what pronouns they wish. If someone tells me they'd prefer if I refered to them as a different pronoun than I assumed, I correct myself

But getting rid of pronouns all together? Just a silly view. but hey, it's just an editorial opinion.
 

Huntn

macrumors demi-god
May 5, 2008
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But “he” is not what you should call me. If we lived in a just, rational, inclusive universe — one in which we were not all so irredeemably obsessed by the particulars of the parts dangling between our fellow humans’ legs, nor the ridiculous expectations signified by those parts about how we should act and speak and dress and feel — there would be no requirement for you to have to assume my gender just to refer to me in the common tongue.
………

So: If you write about me, interview me, tweet about me, or if you are a Fox News producer working on a rant about my extreme politics, I would prefer if you left my gender out of it. Call me “they” or “them,” as in: “Did you read Farhad’s latest column — they’ve really gone off the deep end this time!” And — unless you feel strongly about your specific pronouns, which I respect — I would hope to call you “they” too, because the world will be slightly better off if we abandoned unnecessary gender signifiers as a matter of routine communication. Be a “him” or “her” or anything else in the sheets, but consider also being a “they” and “them” in the streets.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/10/opinion/pronoun-they-gender.html

Needless to say the opinion piece has over 2K comments. This is one reason why I could never vote Democrat. They believe in crackpot ideas like this.
Conservative Land is not as wonderful as you imagine it to be, not for everyone.

Crackpot? That says a lot about your inability to consider anything that would disrupt your perception of the the rightful order of the world. I’m open to the idea, but only so far as making it voluntary, a voluntary choice, because historically we live in a sexist world, and using labels that have been sexist in nature, in other words a label that locks people into a particular way of behaving because of this label.

Look at these descriptors: feMALE, woMAN, sHE.

Now I admit, I think in terms of he and she constantly, biological programming is in control. :) My eyes are automatically drawn to the female form, unlike they are to males, but I am willing to consider a new framework for addressing people.

This gets all wrapped up in the idea of gender identity and despite my openness to new ideas, I think when it comes to personal relationships that you must be honest up front with those you would like to have a romantic relationship with about the sexual organs you possess. It’s only fair.
 
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LizKat

macrumors 603
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Yeah, that's going to be a no from me dawg.

I'm all for the fluidity of gender, and allowing people to pick what pronouns they wish. If someone tells me they'd prefer if I refered to them as a different pronoun than I assumed, I correct myself

But getting rid of pronouns all together? Just a silly view. but hey, it's just an editorial opinion.
People of an older generation who speak English are aware that unlike some other languages, English has no formal "neutral" designation in its grammar. When I was a kid I was taught that the male pronouns efficiently covered neutral situations and that by context alone it should be clear enough when "he" might well mean "he or she".

Later on, as more civil rights were extended constitutionally to women in the USA, American English grammar underwent attempts to make "neutral" more evidently "inclusive". So came efforts to signify equality of perceived "real" females and "real" males... so for example the term "he or she" (or what quickly came and went as "s/he") was to be used in so-called neutral situations.

Still later (and to save ink and exasperation over editors' decisions about column inches) came the idea of simply flipping the old idea of neutral 180º and using "she" as the neutral designation instead of "he" in published works.

The idea there was that in writing one piece, someone would arbitrarily but hopefully not in a discriminatory way use male designations as stand-ins for a neutral gender, and in another piece let the female designation serve as the stand-in.
That went well :rolleyes: and quickly descended into wrangling from "real" females over why the stand-in was designated as male in some case when it might have been female.... with pushback from "real" males over apparent attempts by women to take over a man's world. Pushback no longer being a singularly male attribute, some women adopted a "you wanna see pushy?" stance, so things continued to go well. :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:
Somewhere around there it became common for awhile to see half-apologetic notes from essayists at front or back of the piece indicating that where "he" had been deployed, "she" was also entirely an option, just not chosen for this particular piece.

("Jesus Christ" was the average reaction there, no matter his her or their religion.)
So next came an attempt to decouple "they" and "their" from plurality to serve as not only neutral but either singular or plural, with context assumed to make that distinction simple but in the process shifting some emphasis away from number to the idea of gender-inclusive.

That may have driven grammar teachers crazy but conveniently by then the grammar of American English was acquired more by osmosis than by formal instruction... and on the street in the USA it was long common anyway to hear people say "their" when in context they may have meant "his" or "her" or "their".

Add on the overlay that the USA has in the past welcomed immigrants from anywhere, and has not insisted on English as an official language. So multilingual immigrants and their descendants here are free to retain in their brain the influences of the grammar of whatever language they first learned.

And it will be a cold day in hell when mariners allow someone to say "He's sailed already" in response to a question about the departure of some ship from a port: Ships, folks, are female. And so are countries, even if they're run by tin-badged male dictators or old men in dresses. Even countries where citizens may refer colloquially to "the fatherland" rather than "the motherland" do call it "she" when using a pronoun as subject of a sentence about the nation.

Add in wrangles over whether it's cultural misappropriation for an American to say "He hasn't got the cojones" or whether that's just a way around offending either bot censors on PG-rated social media or anyone still pretending to have the sensibilities of the 19th century.

And why do we talk about some guys being *****-whipped but we never ask if they have the equivalent of cojones to make a daring move in business or on the floor of a legislative hall?
Anyway in the USA at least, everyone's consciousness has been raised off ground zero but not in a constructive way and... we are now additionally invited to stumble over proper recognition of persons whose gender sense happens to be fluid. So that's going well too... :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

There are lots of reasons pronouns may not be featured at all in a language, not least because in older times along the intersection of trade routes, there was no lingua franca past the apparent and material purposes of one's presence in some area. So, language was focused on those tangible reasons, e.g., the spices or the cloth or whatever goods were meant to be exchanged for something else of value. By experience ordinary people learned each other's terms for the goods and pronouns were highly optional... in fact only scholars and poets had time for that stuff.

Well we've come a long way from back then but the trajectory looks parabolic to some of us, so we might be almost out of scholars and poets again if we are to take social media as an indicator. So maybe the ancients who became sorta-polyglots had it right. Just leave the pronouns out.

Want three t-shirt? Two bottle hotsauce. Happy? OK four t-shirt. Happy now? Good!
 

Jensend

macrumors regular
Dec 19, 2008
181
187
I'm interested in languages without gender pronouns, do those of native tongue actually speak without a gender basis? I would bet their native dialect is differ from the proper dialect.

With English many people can say "Listen Bro" or "Chill out man" even if they are speaking to a female. That's not proper dialect (or gender pronoun) at all. But that's how the average American speaks. So I would assume Turkish and other languages are not spoken in text book as well.
Because there is no two of "I" or "me".
How about words referring to familial relationships? We have gendered and non-gendered words for siblings, children, parents, grandparents and grandchildren.
But English only has gendered words for aunt and uncle, and only a non-gendered word for cousins.

You adapt to what you are given to work with. Gendered pronouns only seem normal because that’s what you were raised with.

Again, I’m not suggesting we change, but I see no issue with questioning what seems to be common sense, but is actually just an arbitrary fluke of history that we’ve adapted to (gendered pronouns)
 

LIVEFRMNYC

macrumors 604
Oct 27, 2009
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How about words referring to familial relationships? We have gendered and non-gendered words for siblings, children, parents, grandparents and grandchildren.
But English only has gendered words for aunt and uncle, and only a non-gendered word for cousins.

You adapt to what you are given to work with. Gendered pronouns only seem normal because that’s what you were raised with.

Again, I’m not suggesting we change, but I see no issue with questioning what seems to be common sense, but is actually just an arbitrary fluke of history that we’ve adapted to (gendered pronouns)

Basically non gender specific vs gender specific. I can see your point if you're just judging the words by themselves, but when using them in sentences, it a whole differ story.

My point through out the this whole thread, is eventually you'll have to use gender specific words (whether pronoun or adjective) to describe a genderless word that refers to a person.

Ex: My cousin(genderless pronoun) just graduated high school. "She/He" is going to MIT University.

So what goes in place of "She/He"? Cause you simply can't keep saying "my cousin" over and over again. Nor does it seem adequate to keep repeating their name.

Ex: My Aunt is turning 40 today.
Would love to see how you structure a sentence of "my mother's sister turning 40". Remember, "sister" is a gender pronoun too.
 

Eraserhead

macrumors G4
Nov 3, 2005
10,300
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But “he” is not what you should call me. If we lived in a just, rational, inclusive universe — one in which we were not all so irredeemably obsessed by the particulars of the parts dangling between our fellow humans’ legs, nor the ridiculous expectations signified by those parts about how we should act and speak and dress and feel — there would be no requirement for you to have to assume my gender just to refer to me in the common tongue.
………

So: If you write about me, interview me, tweet about me, or if you are a Fox News producer working on a rant about my extreme politics, I would prefer if you left my gender out of it. Call me “they” or “them,” as in: “Did you read Farhad’s latest column — they’ve really gone off the deep end this time!” And — unless you feel strongly about your specific pronouns, which I respect — I would hope to call you “they” too, because the world will be slightly better off if we abandoned unnecessary gender signifiers as a matter of routine communication. Be a “him” or “her” or anything else in the sheets, but consider also being a “they” and “them” in the streets.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/10/opinion/pronoun-they-gender.html

Needless to say the opinion piece has over 2K comments. This is one reason why I could never vote Democrat. They believe in crackpot ideas like this.
How have you ever voted republican when some of them have always been literally fascists?

This guy is a far left extremist. Unless you think he should be no platformed I don’t see an issue with him having a column.
[doublepost=1563034653][/doublepost]
You would think the Left would have more important things to worry about than whether someone says he or they.
The left isn’t a monolith.
 
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LizKat

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You would think the Left would have more important things to worry about than whether someone says he or they.
But it's not "the Left"... it's an individual who feels disenfranchised by society. Language is a toolbox. Who controls that toolbox and to what end?

Personally I don't mind if someone asks me to refer to them by some specific pronoun, I'll try to remember. I'm less impressed by individuals purporting to speak for whole groups of people even if "we all" do that from time to time.

It's a little different when a political party crafts a plank in its platform that says "we stand for..." this or that policy. But I don't care to be harangued by someone who's decided he or she (or "they") represent perceptions or policy goals of any group, whether related to gender or any other attribute. I listen, because I think it's important to hear minority viewpoints. Still I reserve the right to roll eyes and dismiss the assertions made by an individual "on behalf of" a group. And so I reserve the right to be wrong in my dismissiveness as well.

So what does that boil down to? Listening for when more individuals who are unhappy over how we characterize them seem to settle on something that makes more sense to many of them. I would expect the author of that Times piece to be among those who will keep track of that pulse and report on it to readers, and I'm fine with that.

After all, it wasn't some singular white person who reported to us that most African Americans didn't care to be called Negroes any more, even if it may have been a bunch of white (and probably male) reporters who eventually and singularly, serially relayed that info to the public during the 1960s and 1970s.