But while Isaac is a Joyent employee, Ben is not—and if he had been, he wouldn’t be as of this morning: to reject a pull request that eliminates a gendered pronoun on the principle that pronouns should in fact be gendered would constitute a fireable offense for me and for Joyent. On the one hand, it seems ridiculous (absurd, perhaps) to fire someone over a pronoun — but to characterize it that way would be a gross oversimplification: it’s not the use of the gendered pronoun that’s at issue (that’s just sloppy), but rather the insistence that pronouns should in fact be gendered. To me, that insistence can only come from one place: that gender—specifically, masculinity—is inextricably linked to software, and that’s not an attitude that Joyent tolerates.
I use so-called gendered pronouns all the time; it’s less awkward than “he or she”, “him or her” or “they.” Apparently, the use of the masculine form to denote either gender dates back to the 18th century. According to thediacrities.com:
Interestingly enough, the Times’ On Language credits a feminist grammar teacher by the name of Anne Fisher with popularizing the use of ‘he’ as the neutral pronoun.
“If any single person is responsible for this male-centric usage, it’s Anne Fisher, an 18th-century British schoolmistress and the first woman to write an English grammar book, according to the sociohistorical linguist Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade. Fisher’s popular guide, “A New Grammar” (1745), ran to more than 30 editions, making it one of the most successful grammars of its time. More important, it’s believed to be the first to say that the pronoun he should apply to both sexes.”
–On Language, Patricia O’Connor and Stewart Kellerman, July 21, 2009
Actually, that same article starts off by documenting much earlier uses of the plural pronoun “they” for this role. It claims Chaucer as the first documented user of the word “they” as a pronoun that can refer to both men and women.
Maybe I should start emulating Chaucer. If my aim, in using “he”/”him,” was to annoy feminists, perhaps I’m off the mark here; this convention was invented by a feminist, though not the sort of feminist who would be considered one nowadays.
Furthermore, why should we men share our pronouns with women? If anything, the use of masculine pronouns to refer to both men and women is unfair to men. Don’t we deserve pronouns of our own?
But today’s feminists are at the forefront in championing gender-neutral pronouns. Sweden, striving for a genderless society, led the way last year by officially introducing the word “hen” into the Swedish language. According to Nathalie Rothschild of Slate:
Earlier this month, the movement for gender neutrality reached a milestone: Just days after International Women’s Day a new pronoun, hen (pronounced like the bird in English), was added to the online version of the country’s National Encyclopedia. The entry defines hen as a “proposed gender-neutral personal pronoun instead of he [han in Swedish] and she [hon].”The National Encyclopedia announcement came amid a heated debate about gender neutrality that has been raging in Swedish newspaper columns and TV studios and on parenting blogs and feminist websites…Today’s hen champions, however, have a distinctly political agenda. For instance, Lundqvist’s book is published by a house named Olika, which means “different or diverse.” Olika only publishes books that “challenge stereotypes and obsolete norms and traditions in the world of literature.” Its titles include 100 möjligheter Istället för 2! (“100 possibilities instead of 2!”), a book for adults who “want to give children more opportunities in gender-stereotyped everyday life”; and Det var en gång … en ritbok! (“Once upon a time there was … a drawing book!”), the first “gender-scrutinizing” drawing book for children that “challenges traditional and diminishing conceptions of girls and boys, men and women.”
But not everyone is keen on this political meddling with the Swedish language. In a recent interview for Vice magazine, Jan Guillou, one of Sweden’s most well-known authors, referred to proponents of hen as “feminist activists who want to destroy our language.”…
At some point, the aspirations of Swedish feminists will reach an impasse. That impasse will be when the Muslim population of Sweden reaches critical mass. At that point, the feminists will be lucky if they get to pick the color of their hijabs.
Back in America, the fastest growing demographic couldn’t care less about gendered pronouns; Mexican Spanish is not about to accommodate itself to the whims of feminism. As a matter of fact, the American political establishment, and education system, encourages people to adapt to Hispanic values (including the emphasis on “machismo”). For example, the University of Southern Florida has a page, called (ironically) “His/Her Name is Today“. Here’s what it has to say:
UNDERSTANDING THE Hispanic/Latino CULTURE
It is important that educators of Hispanic/Latino children and adolescents understand and appreciate important concepts of the Hispanic/Latino culture.
afecto: warmth and demonstrativeness
machismo: biological superiority of the male (emphasis mine)
Hispanic/Latino AMERICAN CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS
There are 10.5 million Hispanic/Latino children under age 18. Hispanic/Latino children are the fastest-growing youth population, and by 2020 more than one in five children will be of Hispanic/Latino origin…
“Machismo” plays a significant role in the Puerto Rican and other Hispanic/Latino groups
used as a flattering term among Hispanic/Latino Americans
significantly influences behavior and attitudes of adolescent males during time of identity formation.
distinction between sexes; males enjoy rights/privileges denied to females (emphasis mine).
boys and girls learn that machismo refers to male’s manhood, courage to fight, honor and dignity, keeping one’s word, and protecting one’s name.
includes dignity in personal conduct, respect for others, love for the family, and affection for children…
PARENTS, FAMILIES, AND THE COMMUNITY
Educators’ recognition of the role of parents, the family, and the community in the multicultural education effort is an absolute prerequisite to the multicultural education program’s success. Actions with a significant role in determining the success of the multicultural education program:
Including both immediate and extended families and community members
demonstrates that you are serious about accepting and promoting other cultures
adds credence to the multicultural education program’s efforts…
Hispanic/Latino American children learn early the importance of (1) a deep sense of family responsibility, (2) rigid definitions of sex roles, (3) respectful and reverent treatment of the elderly, and (4) the male’s position of respect and authority in the family (emphasis mine). Although some of the male’s authority appears to be relaxing as the woman’s role is redefined, women in the Hispanic/Latino American culture continue to occupy a subordinate position. Fathers have prestige and authority, and sons have more and earlier independence than do daughters.
This sort of accepting attitude toward Hispanic culture is typical. The leftist American establishment will not be demanding gender-neutral pronouns in Spanish any time soon, because it’s perfectly acceptable, and natural, for men to have superior status over women – as long as those men are not white men. Any change within Hispanic (Mexican) culture must be the result of natural evolution from within. To interfere would be a violation of the “Prime Directive.”
For all their whining about racism and ethnocentrism, liberals once again reveal their hypocrisy. Having been in close contact with them all my life, I’m fairly certain that liberals observe the Prime Directive toward non-white peoples out of a sense of moral superiority and patronization. They feel secure and comfortable within Western (white) civilization. Therefore they feel entitled to attack it constantly.
Whatever its true motivation, the establishment Left is morally confused. If white women are being oppressed by gendered pronouns, then why is it okay for Mexican women to endure even worse “oppression?” If Swedish liberals feel so strongly about their precious “hen,” then let them impose it upon Arabic and Somali as well. Since they insist upon having a “multicultural society,” it behooves them to protect their foreign language speaking women as well. If they fail to do so, then they must be racists.