Monday, July 04, 2011

“Hen” vs “Hir” and Gender Ignorance

(Woo, first blog post! Things here will be all over the place in terms of relevance, mood and...well, relevance.)

And then I present you these replies from three different people on a forum I frequent discussing this article:

Poster 1: Equality and tolerance should be achieved through education, not ignorance.
Poster 2: They're not teaching children to accept differences, they're refusing to teach that the differences exist!
Poster 3: Preschool (and school in general) is supposed to prepare you for the future. This probably won't help.

I agree with these people, but I also see the justification behind this method. But let’s focus on how I agree with these forum-folk.

Poster 2 I think has the best point in all of this and let me first give my opinion before I explain why. In our modern society it is now becoming (I can’t say ‘has become’ because some places are still working on it) acceptable for same-sex couples to exist in a legal matrimonial bond, for women to hold corporate jobs and work outside the home (in what was once a strictly ‘male’ field), for men to remain in the home (in what was once a strictly ‘female’ field).
And his is good. We are progressing socially and culturally as a species and this intermingling and even reversing of “traditional” (read: archaic) gender-roles is progressive and beneficial. It’s good.
But this; what’s going on in this article, is perhaps a step too far and, honestly, probably bad. Instead of showing the next generation how things had been and showing them how much better they are now that anyone of any gender or persuasion should be able to hold any station, they’re simply refusing to acknowledge the past. Knowledge is built on history, you can’t have new knowledge without whatever came before it. Then it’s not so much learning as indoctrination. To put it bluntly, this is weird and cult-y and yeah, does seem a little like mind control.

I appreciate they they’re taking steps to show children the liberalness of the new age but…this is just weird. It’s like the old tricky feminism argument that “men and women aren’t different, but they are still different.” Men and women, males and females ARE different; we differ physically, we differ mentally. We are literally “wired” differently in our brains, our thought processes, although they may in the end reach the same conclusions, are often very different. We are different. BUT we are (or at least should be) EQUAL. Equal in social, economic and cultural value. The “difference” in that odd little argument I presented earlier in this paragraph should have been worded as “inequality” way back when.

So what’s going on in this school? To me it seems an overzealous attempt to erase inequality by erasing differences.
And here is where I invoke Poster 1’s reply in my discussion. And there isn’t much else I can really do to back up hir point. (Oh, see that word? I’ll cover that in a bit.) It rather neatly encapsulates itself.
And Poster 3 also neatly explains hirself (there it is again), so I really only added that to back up my own opinion. These kids will have some serious issues unless the whole school system becomes like this, and if it does, we’re ALL going to have some issues.

So, “Hen”, the new gender-neutral pronoun (at least in Swedish). It’s not really a word, as explained in the article, not yet anyways. But should it be? Well…yes, but not in the sense they’re using it in. They’re using it to entirely replace “him” and “her” (“Han” and “Hon” in Swedish respectively) and I don’t think this is quite right. Replacing gender pronouns inherently eliminates a child’s way to differentiate between genders and as I said before, that’s not a good thing.
(Especially later in life when “I’ll be picking hen up for dinner later” will puzzle your friends and make identifying people without naming them kind of hard. As a writer, losing gender pronouns would be nightmarish; you’d have to use everyone’s name constantly making for some hard reading, and people with androgynous names will be completely misinterpreted by everyone.)

So I will turn your attention to something really cool I discovered back in Literature Studies class in High school. The pronoun “Hir” (yes, we’re going to talk about it now). When reading The Canterbury Tales (don’t worry this won’t be a whole English lesson) the class encountered a word it was unfamiliar with: “hir”, and our teacher had to explain it to us. Essentially “hir” is a generic pronoun that can be male or female or ambiguous (depending on the context) but I prefer the ambiguous option and here’s why:
When people try not to be so gender specific about a person, they tend to use the pronoun “they.” The problem with “they” or “their” is that it’s a PLURAL pronoun and as such is grammatically incorrect to use to refer to a single person. (Now granted this has become colloquial and acceptable but it still irks me a bit since it’s technically wrong.) So I consider “hir” to be the singular equivalent to “they”; it’s unspecific (but not in a “HE” AND “SHE” DON’T EXIST kind of way) and by extension it’s politically correct.

It’s just a shame nobody uses it anymore; I’d like to bring it back.

Oh right! You’re probably wondering why I used it earlier to refer to the Posters I quoted. Well it’s like this; on the internet, everyone is anonymous and screen-names tend to defy gender identification. I mean look at mine: Sable Gear. Nobody’d guess that guy’s a girl, am I right? (Plus the “no gurlz on teh internetz” generalization means people would be less likely to guess anyways and just assume I’m male). So since I don’t know who these people really are (I even omitted their screen-names as you no doubt noticed) I used “hir” when referring to them singly to emphasize that they may be male or female.

So let’s wrap this up, shall we? In conclusion:
*Yes; gender inequality is bad and we are now overcoming that (for the most part)
*Men and women may be “different” but they are still “equal” (or they should be)
*Eliminating gender stereotypes and defying archaic gender roles is GOOD, eliminating recognition of gender entirely is BAD
*The “hen” pronoun should not be used to replace “him/han” and “her/hon” entirely, but instead be used in situations where gender ambiguity is preferred or where the gender of the subject is irrelevant (in Swedish)
*The “hir” pronoun should be adopted into daily use (for us English-speakers) in the previously discussed way; where gender ambiguity is preferred or where the gender of the subject is irrelevant
*I didn’t really touch on same-sex relationships because that wasn’t what this article was supposed to be about; but let me say I am in full support of you whatever your preference may be (within your own species, though; I don’t want to get into that other discussion right now)

Until next time.