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Re: He/she, Racism, and the Boundless Hipocrisy of the L
- To: Alan Dove <email@example.com>
- Subject: Re: He/she, Racism, and the Boundless Hipocrisy of the L
- From: "Jan M. Hovden" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Wed, 4 Dec 1996 23:46:26 -0500 (EST)
> Let's separate some issues that have become mixed. Gender-specific
> pronouns are one issue. Language use in general is another issue. Sexism
> and racism are important underlying issues which tie into the first two,
> but are not interchangeable with them. Thus, when I use a gender-specific
> pronoun in the neutral form, it is not, I think, an act of sexism. That's
> where our dispute lies - you think that doing so is sexist. We both agree
> that sexism and racism are bad, and that language in general can influence
> socialization in general.
You are right about one thing. I do believe that using gender specific
pronouns IS a sexist act. I think the arguments for why it is sexist
are significantly better than the arguments that it is not. If people
find gender specific pronouns to be offensive, I think that should be
reason enough to change one's writing and speaking style.
I think the impacts are much larger than that, but even if they aren't,
I'm not sure why some appeal to aesthetic factors should outway people
being offended. Good writing can overcome the problem of clarity. I
have read a tremendous amount of literature that did not use gender
specific pronouns to refer to all people that was very clear and
articulate. I have also read a lot of literature that was very unclear
that used gender specific pronouns. It is a matter of a person's ability
to write not the pronouns that are chosen. I find it hard to believe
that you truly take sexism seriously when you continue to argue that
aesthetics outweigh the possible risk. If there is any possibility that
the harms are possible, I think the change should be made. I think your
actions are sexist because you weigh a very nebulous harm to a language
structure that supports male supremecy over possible impacts of sexism.
> I make many language choices, and deliberately avoid terms which I know
> carry sexist or racist implications. I have considered switching to
> neutral pronoun forms, but haven't found a good way to do it without
> losing clarity in communication, and I also fail to see any benefit in
> doing so.
I think I answered this above.
Furthermore, I have seen that focusing a lot of attention on
> such a minor issue can backfire, so there is a potential harm in playing
> "language policeman" in a public forum. Finally, there are a host of
> problems which arise when you try to "fix" the language.
I will answer the specifics of these below where you argue the specifics.
> We still haven't agreed that this was a sexist comment, or that the
> perception of it as such was justified. I asked further down if you had
> posted the original protest because I wanted to know what you were really
> responding to. It appears that my use of a masculine pronoun didn't
> bother you enough to post a message, so that initial "violation" doesn't
> seem to be relevant to this discussion. You jumped in after someone blew
> the P.C. whistle and said this choice was sexist.
I didn't jump on the bandwagon after the "P.C. Police" blew the whistle
on your original language choice. I found your response to the polite
pointing out of a perceived sexist act to be extremely offensive. Even
if you don't agree that gender specific pronouns are offensive, I don't
see the benefit of ridiculing the concept in a public forum. Your second
post was the most offensive thing to me. I didn't feel the need to
respond to your first post because by the time I had read it, several
other people had already responded. Independently, I'm still not sure
why this is even relevant to the discussion. I found both your original
post and your second post to be offensive, however, I thought it was more
important to discuss the belittling of an idea that I find important.
Like I said before, I have to choose my battles.
I then pointed out that
> I didn't think it was, and that jumping on it like that was going to cause
> more harm than good. The main intent of my posting, though, was to point
> out what I found a fascinating and disturbing hipocrisy. It should have
> been perfectly obvious from the strong tone of the message that I found
> both racism and sexism repugnant, so I fail to see why you concluded that
> I was being sexist. I don't agree with your ideas on pronouns, that's
Well, I think it is pretty obvious why I found your post offensive, and I
know a lot of people who agree with me. I don't think it is as simple as
saying, we just disagree. It is more than that. I think your post was
sexist. I think it did belittle an important idea. I don't think it was
at all obvious from your post that you find sexism repugnant. The only
way you ever mentioned sexism was to belittle an argument that said you
were sexist. I stand by my original post. I think your response was
sexist. I had a judge tell me that he didn't think his refusal to include a
female debater in the post round discussion was sexist. Just because he
disagrees with me, doesn't mean I think his actions were acceptable, just
as I don't find your actions acceptable.
> See the replies to Korcok's dissertation on the issue. They can be
> re-written, but almost always at the expense of either clarity or style.
> I like good writing, and think it is something of an art form. Why am I
> required to write ugly prose because it furthers someone else's personal
> agenda? If you want to make your sentences awkward and unclear, that is
> your choice - but it doesn't have to be mine. If I choose not to do it,
> that still doesn't make me a bigot.
I disagree with you on this one. I wrote a thesis without using a single
gender specific pronoun that was meant to include all people. My thesis
adviser said it was one of the best written theses that she had seen in a
long time. It is possible to write well without using gender specific
pronouns. Independently, I think it does make you a bigot when you
consider writing to be more important than real world sexism. I think
the studies show that language choices do have an effect are pretty
good. I think they prove more than the random examples that you gave
about language. They look at the effect of the language. Your examples
don't take into account other elements that exist in society that also
contribute to equality or sexism. Noone is arguing that gender specific
pronouns are the only thing causing sexism, but I think the studies show
that they are a factor. Sorry, but I think your priorities do make you a
> Another strawman. My work isn't the extent of my real world, and I wasn't
> justifying sexism by any stretch. Remember, this is a discussion about
> pronouns - we've already agreed that sexism is bad.
THis was not a strawperson argument. You told me that anyone who
considers debate the real world needs to get out more. I simply answered
that it is my place of employment. I think pronouns contribute to a
sexist environment in my work place. I find it offensive that your
strategy to deal with arguments regarding the use of gender specific
pronouns is to continually belittle them. You blow arguments off without
answering them because you want to justify your sexist behavior.
> Many subsequent points make reference to the impressions of children, but
> cognitive research indicates that most of the child's major influences
> come before the age of five or six. Very little of that information has
> anything to do with reading.
Ummm...last time I checked people use gender specific pronouns in their
oral communication as well as their written communication. The impact is
still the same. This is not an answer to my argument.
If families still teach little girls that
> they shouldn't play with trucks, and little boys that they shouldn't play
> with dolls, changing the pronouns they see later in life is going to
> accomplish nothing.
They see those pronouns early in life too. However, I think the studies
Mike points to prove that the pronouns seen (or heard) later in life do
also have an effect. Why do people have to be barraged by sexism in all
elements of their lives. I don't think the fact that other sexist actions
will occur in our society independent of our actions justifies us not
changing our behaviors. What a defeatist argument.
> Your extension of it also justifies a lot of excesses, like the whole P.C.
> concept. You missed the point, which is about pronouns, and chose to
> focus on the larger issue of sexism instead, manufacturing a conflict that
> wasn't there in this discussion. If you are going to misinterpret the
> arguments that badly, I'm afraid I can't do much to prevent it - pronouns
> or no. That was my point.
NO, I don't think I missed the point. You seem to be missing the point.
Pronouns use can be sexist. I am not manufacturing a conflict. I am
pointing out a behavior that I find offensive. If you don't like it,
that is your problem. I think your actions are sexist. I didn't
> Fine. Just as I have a right to point out why I won't change my pronouns.
> My reasons for keeping the masculine form had nothing to do with sexism,
> and in fact had a lot to do with my support for the ideas of equality.
> Why do you take such offense at my disagreement with your idea, then?
I take offense at your arguments because I find them sexist.
> And I think the "sexist language" critique belittles important issues. We
> disagree. It happens.
Obviously. I answered this above
> I disagree completely. If someone of Rush's intellectual capacity is
> forced to attack the concept of mandatory day care supported by the
> Government or corporations, his little mind will generate nothing but
> smoke - it's rather obviously a good idea. If instead you give a target
> like the P.C. "thought police," even a talk-show host can lampoon that
> one. The ridicule doesn't protect other parts of your position, it
> damages them. P.C. becomes associated with feminism by many people, and
> telling someone you're a feminist causes them to look at you warily.
It think many movement scholars would disagree with your conclusion.
When a movement has ideas that people think are radical, the less radical
ideas become more mainstream. By the way, I don't have to label my self
a feminist to fight for women's rights. Independently, I don't think the
fact that some people will make fun of my beliefs is a reason not to
express them. I think that is a pretty big cop out.
> > Studies have been done, albiet, they have the same problems that all
> > studies dealing with complex social issues have, but why does it hurt you
> > to change your writing style?
> It will lead to ugly writing, as I said above.
I think this is why you are sexist. You prioritize pretty writing over
> Language may be an issue, but I don't think pronouns are a very important
> part of it.
I think the studies prove you wrong.
Archive created by Jonathan Stanton (email@example.com)
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