Glenn Reynolds links to a Daily Mail article highlighting usage notes issued by a gay rights official at the University of Tennessee, where Glenn teaches. The university official has advised staff and students to stop using “he” and “she” – and switch to “xe,” “zir,” and “xyr” instead.
The idea is to avoid any implication that mankind is divided into men and women. This is discouraged as “binary” thinking. In the brave new world, gender neutral pronouns are preferred to make the university “welcoming and inclusive” and to prevent feelings of marginalization. I feel marginalized, however, when men can’t recognize women and rules of grammar are destroyed.
Glenn is feeling embarrassed for the university, but this seems to me a garden variety story illustrating the rules of the road on college campuses today. I can’t believe it’s not already the law of the land at the University of Minnesota. When I audited a course at Macalester College in St. Paul earlier this year, the first question students were asked was their preferred personal pronouns, with some gender neutral option (I forget what) offered in addition to masculine or feminine.
The Daily Mail includes an image of this handy usage guide promulgated by the university official:
You know the clock has struck thirteen when the university’s brave new world provides for the use of “they,” “them,” and “their” as singular. The plural pronoun is, ah, plural and it’s already gender neutral, but the university official recommends the use of hir or zir own fabricated plural pronoun. The power has gone to hir or zir head. (I need further instruction on these guidelines.)
The university official is one Donna Braquet. The Daily Mail mischievously includes a photograph of Braquet (below). She is quoted explaining her recommendations: “When our organizational culture shifts to where asking for chosen names and pronouns is the standard practice, it alleviates a heavy burden for persons already marginalized by their gender expression or identity.”
My first rule in the use of pronouns is to keep the number consistent. If the pronoun takes the place of a singular noun, you must use a singular pronoun. “If a student parks a car on campus, he (or she) has to buy a parking sticker,” for example, NOT “they have to buy a parking sticker.”
And while we’re at it, please remember this: the words “everybody,” “anybody,” “anyone,” “each,” “nobody,” “someone,” and so on, are singular and take singular pronouns. For example: “Everybody ought to do his best.”
Nobody knows how marginalized I feel and nobody cares. Ze would probably like to banish me to the gulag.