Monday, August 19, 2019

Pronouns Shronouns

I’ve recently had the opportunity to think about pronouns and non-binary gender politics. Frex, I’ve been assessing manuscripts by writers who use non-binary pronouns such as they, or them, to describe themselves.
I’m thinking, while reading, ‘what is so bad about growing up in this female body? I’m proud being in this female body.’

We have grown up in societies that place emphasis and value upon our gender or marital/sexual status. Something I hated as a kid, when I collected my parents’ mail at the bus stop, was the letters addressed to Mrs (“husband’s birth name”). They, the government departments not only deleted my mother’s name, they also deleted her right to her birth and maiden name. even as a seven-year-old, this reading of the envelope's covers made me furious.

Things have changed somewhat and I doubt that Mum would put up with the name of her husband being given to her in correspondences these days. One thing hasn’t changed though, our titles. A year or so ago I got my doctorate. It meant a lot to me. Not because I’d earned the title of ‘Dr’ but because I could now fill in forms requesting my title as ‘Dr’.

Not ‘Miss’ (I am sexually available.)
Not ‘Mrs’ (I am not sexually available.)
Not ‘Ms’ (I may be sexually available but possibly too fucked up with too much baggage to be of interest to a man.)
Finally, after more than forty years on this planet, I could fill out my title as :
Doctor ( raised middle finger.)

So I’m thinking that the they/them is actually pretty cool to bypass all of this kerfuffle.


  1. I can sort of see it easily in verbal language, i.e. not written down, but once it gets written down it seems like a whole new concept of language of using plural "they" for singular, if you get my drift. Is that is or have I misunderstood?

    I don't like either Miss or Ms and prefer neither for the same reasons you give.

  2. Yes. I know there is frustration in understanding that 'they' may not be plural but I get where 'they' are coming from. It's been pissing me off since I was a kid - this idea that we are defined as females by our titles. Especially when mhen men and boys are titled simply as 'Mr' or even worse, 'Master'.

  3. I always call myself Mrs on forms, and when they ask SEX: I usEd to put 'Sometimes'. Now it is GENDER: Other.

    1. This is great Tom. I love how you elect Mrs as your title. I've actually never thought of ticking Mr for myself.

    2. Sorry. I was lying for comic effect.

  4. Absolutely with you on this Sarah. This issue has dogged me all my life too. When I got through my PhD a few people used to tease me that I could now call myself 'Doctor'. Initially I was very uncomfortable with that. I'm pretty down to earth and really dislike anyone thinking they are better than anyone else. Later embraced it, interestingly enough not directly because of the gender issue - more as a general 'flipping the bird' to the 'establishment', which, when I think about it, just so happens to be the patriarchy.

  5. Yes, I felt uncomfortable too, like I might be seen as a bit of a wanker. I still only use it in forms and official correspondence because the former pronouns have so completely pissed me off. That's not me being shy of what I have achieved. Maybe I just want those letters to my mum to be avenged. Like I wrote ... raised middle finger.

  6. So next time we catch up, shall I make a point of calling you 'Dr Drummond'?! ;-) Ahh, the old 'what title' problem. Like you, even as a small child, it annoyed me that my mum's name disappeared, and the bloke gets to put his stamp on the kids. Not that my dad was a dodgy bloke, he was and still is, a great dad for the most part. It's just that hey, he didn't do it all by himself, did he? My solution was to simply call myself Ms 'Maiden Name' (God, I hate THAT phrase!) from the time I was old enough to understand I had a choice, and have continued to do so, even after almost 25 years of marriage. I have had the odd comment over the years about it (like, "are you ashamed to take your husband's name or something?" and "is your husband is ok with that?"...FFS!!!), and I did get a bit of 'sad eyes' for about 5 minutes when I told hubby I wouldn't be changing to 'Mrs''. He thought it was a nice 'tradition', but he got over it when I explained that to me, 'Miss' meant 'For Sale' and 'Mrs' essentially meant 'Sold'. I'm not a house with a title deed. I didn't do the double-barrelled thingy for my girls, but my surname is part of their names.

    I wonder too, about the search for (seemingly ever more specific) pronouns to describe people in all their wonderful diversity. It worries me a bit because it just seems to be creating more labels, more ways to put people in little boxes, to categorise things that maybe don't need to be categorised, and ultimately still with the potential to exclude. I know that 'them' and 'they' are plurals, and it bothers me because of that, but it seems the best we've got. I wonder if what we really need is a new, single, completely non-specific pronoun that simply means, 'that sentient being.' Which would also fix the problem of every living thing being addressed as 'male' unless you can be sure it isn't!

    And I'm pretty proud to be living and creating in this female body too.