Wednesday, June 24, 2015

He and She

Political Correctness is one of society's "stealth diseases." Almost everyone admits that it exists, but no one wants to admit that they think it's a good thing. Or if they do think it's a good thing, they stick their fingers in their ears and start humming if you begin complaining about it.

Personally, I hate PC as much as I hate cockroaches. To insist that a pile of shit must be called strawberry ice cream because to say otherwise might hurt somebody's feelings is positively Orwellian. And yet, in another Orwellian touch, we now have self-appointed "PC police" who are constantly on the lookout for something that might possibly offend someone. I don't remember the Constitution guaranteeing that the world be turned into your own private Sesame Street.

I was early out of the gate seeing this stuff. I first encountered the term "politically correct" in a San Francisco Examiner article circa 1984. (Appropriate year, I would say, eh, George?) It said, "A politically-correct beauty pageant is one in which at least half the contestants are drag queens." At the time I thought it was funny.

But it pretty quickly got out of hand. In 1992 I issued a proclamation to everyone within earshot: "Political Correctness is the new Socialist Realism." In other words, if it doesn't fit the agenda, saying it won't be permitted.

But the issue isn't just forbidding words, it's replacing them, you know, like Stalin having his political enemies airbrushed out of photographs, or having a photo altered so it looks like he's standing next to Lenin, when in reality he was 1,000 miles away having someone murdered.

Which brings me to the subject of today's rant: pronouns.

In the bad old days of reflexive sexism, an era whose waning days were my childhood, hypothetical people were always "he." "When an author finishes his book, he has it fact-checked." "When the owner of a new business sees that sales aren't picking up, he does this-and-such," and so on.

Well, okay, this wasn't entirely fair. It cut women out of the picture. Women write books, women open businesses, etc. Surely the pronoun situation deserved to be made more equitable.

But in these situations, a "revenge mentality" too often prevails. There are some who actually think that two wrongs make a right. The left, for example. They're the movers and shakers behind PC, and everyone who isn't on the left knows it. The left just denies that PC exists and goes right on enforcing it. The opening shot in this conflict was "reverse racism." Racism is bad and needs to be combatted of course, but many got the idea that switching things around so that whites were the subject of discrimination, rather than nonwhites, was a good thing.

I never bought into that. The idea is supposed to be getting rid of discrimination against anyone, not just engaging in some sort of societal tit-for-tat.

Hence, I've noticed that in a lot of publications, particularly those published by university presses, "he" is being replaced by "she." Where the hypothetical person in the anecdote or illustration used to be reflexively a "he," now the lords of PC have dictated that it MUST be a "she" instead. "When an author finishes her book, she has it fact-checked." "When someone opens a new business and sees that sales aren't picking up, she does this-and such," and so on.

Tit for tat.

The world isn't supposed to be about tit-for-tat. It's supposed to be about mutual understanding and compromise. "When an author finishes a book, he or she has it fact-checked." "When someone opens a new business and sales aren't picking up, he or she does this-and-such." This is what I do in my writings.

What in the hell is wrong with saying "he or she?" Or "She or he," for that matter? The same people who push the PC agenda are always raving about how important it is to be "inclusive." Well, being inclusive doesn't mean cutting one group out so the other can feel good about itself. We're all people, after all, occupying the same planet, breathing the same air and often pursuing the same pursuits. Making men invisible so women can feel good about themselves isn't fair to either men or women.

And so to breakfast.