Why the Need for Gender-Specific Pronouns?

In the sentence, “She is intelligent,” why is it important to know that the person is female?

I have a few friends that prefer that I use the “they” pronouns when referring to them. I respect that completely. I have no problem with doing so. But I admit that after a lifetime of not knowing the value of that act of respect, I sometimes forget.

I hope they don’t take my missteps as a sign of disapproval. I’m sure they get it a lot, too. Not that that’s any excuse. All I can say is that I’m forgetful even on a good day, but I sincerely promise to always do my best.

I was thinking about that on the commute to work this morning, and it suddenly occurred to me to wonder why we have gender specific pronouns in the first place. For example, in the sentence, “She is very intelligent,” why is it important for us to know that the person in question is a female? Why does it matter that his shoes are stylish, or her team won the nationals, or that he has a reputation for always being late? Is the quality of intelligence, style, sportsmanship or promptness somehow different based on one’s orientation or perceived genitalia? The concept seems rather absurd when you look at it that way.

Since only extremely misinformed people think that the English language is rigid and does not evolve over time, I suggest that maybe it’s time that we get rid of gender specific pronouns. I believe that only those who are heavily invested in the patriarchy would object, and while it might feel strange to the rest of us at first, I think that within a generation it would become second nature. Meanwhile, it could be seen as some form of cool slang until it became routine.

Personally, I think it would be refreshing to be talked about as an individual rather than as an entity that can or should be prejudged based on some weird form of team membership. I’m sure that if there are any rational flaws in this concept, someone will point them out in the comments section. But as I sit here on the quiet, sunny day, I can’t help thinking that this is an idea whose time has come, and that some day the way we speak now will seem very quaint, indeed.

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What’s Your Orientation?

From what direction do you see the world?

Don’t get excited. I’m not asking you about your sexual orientation. Not only is that none of my business, but I really couldn’t care less. You be you.

No, I’m talking about… what should I call it? Your compass orientation. How you visualize yourself in the world.

The reason I’m thinking about this is because my husband and I have a difference of opinion as to how a GPS should be set up. He likes his maps pointing ever northward, regardless of which direction he is going. I, on the other hand, greatly prefer to have my maps move with me as I move. I’m way too dyslexic to have to figure out if that turn is a left or a right based on where the sun is sitting in the sky. Show me, for heaven’s sake, which way to turn from where I’m facing right this minute. Otherwise I’m completely lost.

Recently I heard a story on NPR about how certain languages are compass oriented, and others, like English, are not. We describe things as being to our left or right, or in front of us or behind us. But it seems that some languages describe things as being to the North, South, East, or West. It doesn’t matter which way that person is facing when they have their discussion. They say, “You left your keys on the table to the north of you.” If plopped down in that culture, it would take me an awfully long time to find my keys. But I’m sure that if you’re born into it, that’s the norm.

The way I imagine it is that some people’s consciousness is inside their head, looking out of their eyes. That’s how I see the world. It’s faced in whatever direction I am faced in. But other people must have their consciousness floating slightly above themselves, and always oriented to the compass, as their body turns beneath them. I can’t relate to that at all. Not at all.

I wonder which is more common. What’s your orientation?

Vintage COmpass by hourglassthorne on DeviantArt

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“No, it’s because you’re a jerk.”

A few years ago, I was downtown in a large crowd of people, anticipating a huge fireworks display. The weather was mild, and everyone seemed to be in a festive mood. One guy was a little too festive. Extremely intoxicated, he started screaming and cursing at his family. And this was a big guy. Everyone was intimidated by him.

There were no cops in sight. His horrible behavior was putting a damper on everyone’s spirits. It was as if someone had poured toxic waste into an otherwise crystal clear pond. People actually started moving away from this guy, even though there was very little space left.

The matriarch of his rather large family finally said to him, “You are embarrassing us.” And the guy looked around at the staring crowd and paused. But full of liquid courage and liquid stupidity, he shouted, “What? You got a problem with me? It’s because I’m _________, isn’t it?”

I am intentionally leaving that space blank because I’ve seen this play out before, and any word would fit. Young, old, black, white, male, female, Lithuanian, Laotian, Christian, Islamic, short, fat, ugly, straight, gay, left-handed, French speaking… it could have been anything. It would have been just as stupid.

We all have qualities that set us apart from the people around us. Sometimes when people react negatively toward you, it’s not because of those characteristics. It’s because you’re acting like a fool. Unfortunately, bad behavior transcends race, creed, religion, gender and orientation.

So next time people look at you with disdain, before you go there, ask yourself if you’re in fact being a jerk. Yes, prejudice exists in the world, and it’s wrong. But often the most simple answer is the correct one. There’s every possibility that you’re just an a**, plain and simple.

[Image credit: liquidmatrix.org]
[Image credit: liquidmatrix.org]

Fun Facts About Seattle

When I started my job with the City of Seattle, I attended a day-long orientation. This event probably could have been reduced to about a half a day except they peppered it with “ice-breakers”. You know what I’m talking about. Those awkward little group participation  projects that you’re forced to do with the total strangers around you that most of us hate and view as a massive waste of time, but trainers feel are highly effective.

During one of these we had to split off into groups of four and work together on a quiz about Seattle. As much of a time-waster as it was, it did pique my interest about this city. Seattle is definitely in a class by itself. So here are things I learned about Seattle from that quiz, as well as from the websites Seattle Living and Nileguide.com.

  • The Seattle Department of Transportation owns and maintains 40,000 trees.
  • Seattle is the most literate city in the country, and its library system has the highest percentage of library card-holders per capita. It also has the highest percentage of residents with a college degree or higher, and the highest number of book stores per capita.
  • Seattle is the only city in the United States that owns its own watershed. (And the water tastes GREAT here!)
  • The only place in the world that has more glassblowing studios than Seattle is Murano, an island near Venice, Italy.
  • Bertha Knight Landes was the City’s first woman mayor back in 1926. That would be strong evidence of how enlightened this city is. Unfortunately, it hasn’t had a woman mayor since then.
  • When you think of Seattle, you think of rain. But it actually has less annual rainfall than Houston, Chicago or New York City. The difference here is it’s light and pretty much continual for much of the year, whereas the three other cities mentioned tend to get it out of the way in downpours and then let you go on about your sunny business.
  • Seattle was the first American city to play a Beatles song on the radio.
  • The city’s first official ordinance was for the prevention of drunkenness.
  • City Light achieved carbon neutral status, in other words, zero net greenhouse gas emissions, in 2005. Pretty impressive, considering that the world’s first gas station was opened here.
  • Seattle has 6,189 acres of parks and open areas. That’s 11.52% of the city.

Overall, this is a pretty fascinating place. I can’t wait to get out there and learn more about it!

seattle Space

Seattle from space.

[Image credit: Pinterest.com]

Come Out of Your Closet

I just saw the most amazing TED talk called Coming Out of Your Closet by Ash Beckham. It’s only 11 minutes long, but it’s really profound, so I hope you’ll take the time to watch it.

In it, she talks about the closets in which we all occasionally find ourselves. Closets are not just for people who are afraid to admit they’re gay. We all have them. If you are carrying around a secret that’s eating you up inside, or if you are avoiding having a really hard conversation with someone, then you are in a closet, too.

You don’t have to be struggling with your orientation to feel as if you are alone in the dark. You might not want to admit that you want a divorce. Or you may have to tell someone you have a terminal illness, or you have to confess that you’ve just lost your job and may therefore lose your house. We all have our hard truths that need to be spoken.

Recently I had to come clean to my family and friends that I had lost my entire life savings, what little of it there was, in a really stupid investment. I had been carrying around that stress and anxiety for a couple of years. I didn’t want to tell anyone because I felt like such a complete and utter fool. I didn’t want the people I love to think less of me, or get angry at me for going against their advice. But one day I woke up and I couldn’t carry the burden alone anymore. And you know what? Each confessional phone call was easier than the last, because every single person I spoke to was supportive. And just like that, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It was such a relief that I almost became nauseous from the abrupt halt of the adrenaline that had been impacting my health for years. It was honestly the best thing I have done in a long time.

Closets seem safe and quiet and cozy, but as Ash Beckham says, they’re no place for you to live. I encourage you to come out and play.