Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ze Zir Peh Per Ve Xe Zher - How silly is it, really?

The umpty-zillionth person has just disagreed with me that the concept of "gender" is pretty useless and outdated. Usually these objections begin with the "Everybody knows" statement that people are either born male or female - that's it! Maybe they make allowances for a stray hermaphrodite here and there, but, by golly, beyond that, there's only two lines, and you're born in one of 'em, and you better not step out of it.

And if'n you do, sure as heck you better not expect any right thinking person to let you cut in the other line.

So, start there.  Everybody (with a tiny footnote number and an italicized caveat "well almost everybody" at the bottom of the page) is born this or that.

Well, no.  Not really, no. Mostly, sure, that's the common lay understanding of gender, but it's certainly not the reality.  You're generally born more or less one sex or the other, but gender mostly gets put on you, and in your head, by society. And even with "sex", it's not a binary you're-either-this-or-that so much as it's actually more of a spectrum.  Every fetus starts off technically female, and then gets masculinized to some degree, depending on genetics, uterine environment and conditions, and hormonal exposure.

Mostly, gender is a social construct that's used to separate those in power from those not in power, the owners form the owned, the beings from the breeding stock.  It's not always one "gender" or the other that's up or down, across cultures and across history, but it's always one or the other.  There's -no- reason to sort everyone into those two categories -except- to clearly define who gets these rights and privileges, and who has to make do with those.

But let's ignore all that, shall we?  Let's assume sex equals gender, and there are only two (tiny footnote caveats excepted) and so it's critical we have two - and only two - pronouns to describe them.

Now, ask the next question... Why? Why do we have to describe them at that fundamental a level?  I mean, we have lots of binaries that we don't have mandatory special linguistic constructs for.

Almost everyone is either right or left handed - why don't we have different pronouns for those two classes? Lis and Ris, perhaps?
Almost everyone is either Colorblind or not color blind - why don't we have different pronouns for those two classes?
How about tall and short people? Everybody knows Short People aren't the same as the rest of us.  Surely we should have different pronouns for tiny munchkin creepers under 5 feet tall...
Everyone either has attached earlobes or unattached earlobes. My wife insists that the unattached mutant horde, including myself, aren't normal. Isn't it crazy we don't have different pronouns for even that?

So why is it that in this day and age - when even the UK has recently admitted that little Mistress Mary is just as good an heir as little Master James - do we still need an entirely different linguistic structure just to describe to everyone listening what kind of shape of the subjects secondary sexual characteristics are in?

Just stop and think about it a moment, and tell me it doesn't seem mad.  Of the millions of things a stranger could possibly know about you from the first word, the only one SO important that it's got to be served with completely segregated forms of address and reference is what's in your pants? Seriously?

 So - aside from the admitted fact that it's always going to be a bit of a pain to shift gears, wholesale, on language usage, is it really all that silly to say that this is kind of an outdated concept anyway?  I mean, I can respect a good, honest "It'd be unreasonably hard" as a reason to avoid doing something - even if "But it's hard!" is a lame reason, for the most part, it's still a hell of a lot more respectable than making a big nonsensical argument about how it's the will of god and nature that we don't do it, because by golly that just now (we're ignorantly pretending) it is!

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