EDITORIAL: The war on pronouns

The sophomores are at work on certain college campuses

To most people, pronouns are an inoffensive combination of letters used to convey meaning. “He” went to the store. “She” read a book. The latest cause celebre among professional umbrage takers is the oppressive pronoun.

On college campuses from the San Francisco Bay area to the Bay State of Massachusetts, reports the Associated Press, a tiny but vocal gaggle of student activists is waging grammatical war on he, she, him and her.

At Mills College in Oakland, Calif., the weekly meetings of a group for homosexual, bisexual and transgender students called “Mouthing Off” begin with a variation on the introductions at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. Instead of “Hi, I’m Bruce, and I’m an alcoholic,” it goes something like “Hi, I’m Skylar, and my preferred pronoun is ‘they,’” as though “they” were singular. That would be Skylar Crownover, 19, the group’s noun-verb-agreement-challenged president, who despite attending the women-only Mills College identifies as “genderqueer,” neither male nor female but rather residing in some androgynous in-between. Other “Mouthing Off” members use highly contrived preferred-gender pronouns such as “ze,” “sie,” “e,” “ou” or “ve.”

Mytheos Holt, an alumnus of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., in an essay at academia.org, the website of the conservative Accuracy in Academia, recounts how at student orientation, he was informed that the “possessive form” of “ze” for transgenders is “hir.” He didn’t say how “hir” must be pronounced to avoid confusion with “her.” “The word to use in formal address (as in ‘Sir’ or ‘Madame’) is ‘Ziram.’”

This linguistic lunacy is the illogical follow-on to “womyn,” which lesbian feminists coined years ago to take the “-men” out of “women.” Hampshire College embraces the latest gender-confused goofiness on its official website. The second line of the personal profiles of the Amherst, Mass., school’s student tour guides lists the person’s preferred pronoun. “At Hampshire College, we value self-expression and self-identification for all members of our community,” the school explains helpfully. “Hampshire College expects that all members of our community will let people self-identify their gender and gender pronouns they use to describe themselves.”

The exotic pronouns don’t seem to be catching on even at Hampshire, however, as nine of the 10 tour guides chose the standard “he/him” or “she/her.” One Hester Tittman was alone in choosing “they/them.” No surprise there, as “them’s” profile says “their” favorite classes at Hampshire were Border Culture and Immigration Nation: “I learned so much about my own queerness, whiteness and everythingness in this [sic] classes.”

The Associated Press notes that the preferred-gender pronouns are (not surprisingly) “still in search of mainstream acceptance” despite the best efforts of the “agender, bigender, third gender or gender-fluid” activists. “They” might have more success with “thee,” “thou” and “thy,” but those terms trace their roots back to a sexist, heteronormative patriarchy, so that’s probably out of the question. Ultimately, “they” are free to call themselves anything they want, but the rest of us are under no obligation to go along with this work of gender-neutral nuts.

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