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Discussion on: An Organizer's Guide to Pronoun Buttons

veraticus profile image
Josh Symonds

But I reserve my right to refuse.

This is the hill you're choosing to die on, but weirdly no one is fighting you for it. It is 100% your prerogative to say whatever you want, no one is arguing that. It is similarly the right of the people listening to you to decide that you don't deserve to be heard at their events.

Pronouns do not belong to anyone, they are shared among all speakers. They are descriptions of broad categories that people developed over many centuries.

This is sort of ironic coming from a Russian (assuming your flair is correct), where nouns have grammatical gender. Remembering and using the proper pronouns for a person is the same as doing so for any other noun; some nouns have different genders than you might expect, some people also have different genders than you might expect. You just remember the pronoun with the noun. People in grammatically gendered languages way more complicated than Russian and English manage this miracle every day without somehow losing their grip on those "broad categories that people developed over many centuries."

Don't you agree that demanding a person to distort meaning of his own words is even more rude?

This is fairly absurd. I don't care what mental gymnastics you have to undergo in order to not be rude; if it takes a thousand mile journey of self-discovery, or if you just wake up feeling good, the end result is the same to the people you're talking to. Your mental state is not their responsibility, only your actions and words are. If you're incapable of reconciling your mental state with not being a jerk to others, that is your fault, not theirs.

If you just can't manage this, then they are within their rights, again, to throw you out. And if they do, you're really not the victim here.

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kmbillustration profile image
Kelsey

Names and pronouns are the same b/c they're both part of how we identify people, and how people identify themselves. The very purpose of pronouns is to be a substitute for a name when referring to people you're talking about!

The purpose of language is communicate information. Using the wrong pronoun communicates the wrong information to others about the individual you're referring to. You're telling others something false about the person - and spreading that false information can actively cause harm.

So yeah, I'd say it's way more rude to purposefully and intentionally be mean to someone than it is to ask someone to use accurate and respectful language.

Here's another analogy:

Someone in a crowded car going "it's rude to make me distort my body to avoid stepping on your toes!" and then intentionally stomping on everyone's feet is way more rude than asking someone else asking people on a crowded train to be careful as they walk so they don't hurt anyone by stomping on their toes. It's not impeding on that person's ability to be in the car by asking them to be courteous to the people they share that space with - it's how everyone can ride the train free from the pain of squished toes.

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vladimir_vg profile image
Vladimir Gordeev πŸ‡·πŸ‡Ί

2Josh

I don't care what mental gymnastics you have to undergo in order to not be rude
not being a jerk to others

You assume that refusing to obey to use preferred pronoun is a bad thing to do. I don't think that's true, that's not something that people commonly agreed on. It's controversial.

If your assumption was commonly accepted, then my comments wouldn't receive any upvotes. But that's not the case. So "not using perferred pronouns is rude" statement is not well established yet. It's not accepted as universal truth yet.

People in grammatically gendered languages way more complicated than Russian and English manage this miracle every day without somehow losing their grip on those "broad categories that people developed over many centuries."

I think you haven't fully addressed the problem with meaning distortion. I believe it's a serious one.

Imagine that you obliged by authority to refer to people the way they prefer to identify. To assign meaning to the things that you perceive.

You see a person and perceive her as a woman, but forced to call her a 'male'.
You perceive blue color, but forced to call it 'red'.
You perceive something as injustice, but forced to call it 'justice'.
War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

This leads pretty quickly to the well know state of doublethink, as old socialist George Orwell has well described. He also noted that:

Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.

If you are not allowed to assign meaning to things the way you perceive them, then you lose independence as a thinker. You becoming a slave. Adopting such policies of compelled speech will undermine very idea of free society, turn people into slaves. This is more dangerous that hurting someone's feelings.

Don't you agree that keeping society from slavery is more important than avoiding to hurt someone's feelings?

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veraticus profile image
Josh Symonds • Edited

It's controversial.

Being a jerk to someone is not particularly controversial, though you can cloak it in whatever ideological clothes you like. I also don't care how many hearts you get online: it might surprise you to know there are many jerks on the Internet.

Don't you agree that keeping society from slavery is more important than avoiding to hurt someone's feelings?

Honestly the rest of your argument is just slippery slope nonsense. No one is asking you to redefine your concept of anything. No one's asking you to call all men women, or freedom peace, or anything like that, and no one is asking you to think it either. A few, select people might one day ask you to use a different pronoun for them than the one you'd expect. So let's calm down with prophesying an Orwellian future, yes?

In fact, I'm willing to bet money you've already had your thoughts "enslaved" this way. I'm sure you've misgendered someone in the past. Maybe you saw a man walking down the street, said "excuse me, sir" and then realized it was a woman. Oops! Did you stop them and launch into a long-winded argument about how them not resembling the gender you expected meant they were enslaving you? Or did you just apologize like any sane person would and move on with your life?

Now, think of that woman. Maybe she gets misgendered all the time -- she just doesn't look like people think women look like. It makes her tired and unhappy, so she puts on a button so people know how to properly address her without a tiresome conversation. Would that also test the limits of doublethink? Or are you starting to understand what's going on here?

p.s. Orwell was writing about totalitarian governments and their absolute power to reshape the lives of individuals, not powerless minority groups politely asking individuals for respect. Context is important!

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vladimir_vg profile image
Vladimir Gordeev πŸ‡·πŸ‡Ί

@veraticus

Being a jerk to someone is not particularly controversial, though you can cloak it in whatever ideological clothes you like.

Of course being jerk is not controversial.

Calling person a jerk because he refuses to obey to compelled speech demands -- that's what I stated as controversial. I don't think it's true, and I believe many people would support my position.

Okay, you seem to disagree with me on this one.

A few, select people might one day ask you to use a different pronoun for them than the one you'd expect.

I'm totally fine with that, as long as I have freedom to say no.

Did you stop them and launch into a long-winded argument about how them not resembling the gender you expected meant they were enslaving you? Or did you just apologize like any sane person would and move on with your life?

As I told earlier, I'm totally fine with using pronoun that person prefers me to use, as long as I do it voluntarily.

Compelled speech is the issue, not the pronouns.

It makes her tired and unhappy, so she puts on a button so people know how to properly address her without a tiresome conversation. Would that also test the limits of doublethink? Or are you starting to understand what's going on here?

As I told earlier, I'm totally fine with that.

Compelled speech is the issue, not the pronouns.

not powerless minority groups politely asking individuals for respect. Context is important!

Well, if this @thepracticaldev community adopts such policies of compelled speech, then me and people that upvoted me might be excluded. I wouldn't call it powerless.

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veraticus profile image
Josh Symonds

Compelled speech is the issue, not the pronouns.

There is no difference. No one is asking you to subjugate your thoughts or speech, they're asking you to use the right pronouns for them, when you might not know said correct pronouns. If that requires "mental slavery" on your part, the problem is you, not the ask.

This is why I said earlier that your mental state about this is irrelevant; all that matters is getting the pronouns right. If that requires some crazy redefinition of the categories of male and female, or the very concept of pronouns themselves, that's on you. I would hope that a few people not visually conforming to the gender you expect wouldn't require crazy mental gymnastics.

You even agree that it is possible and you're fine with it. I'm telling you the ideal you're fighting for is not related to this fight. I hope you recognize that now.

And, just to reiterate: obviously you're not required to get the pronouns right. But then you'll be removed from the communities where getting them right is important. This is not an abridgment of your rights, it is an exercise of the rights of the community.

Well, if this @thepracticaldev community adopts such policies of compelled speech, then me and people that upvoted me might be excluded.

What policies are you referring to here? As far as I'm aware, no one in these comments or the original article has suggested anything even remotely like new policies or policy changes.

But, even if they had, I feel I must point out to you that @thepracticaldev community is not a totalitarian government. They cannot force you to change the way you think on threat of pain or death. If they adopt policies you don't like, you may leave (or be forced to leave), and suffer only a little unhappiness. Don't cheapen Orwell's very real warnings about excessive government authority by applying them to a minority group and a voluntary online community.

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vladimir_vg profile image
Vladimir Gordeev πŸ‡·πŸ‡Ί • Edited

I'm telling you the ideal you're fighting for is not related to this fight. I hope you recognize that now.

What policies are you referring to here?

Actually I was referring to following quote in the article:

My pronouns aren’t a preference, they’re my pronouns. They’re mandatory. Don’t refer to pronouns as β€œpreferred” at any point during your event, otherwise people are likely to get the idea that it’s optional to respect the pronouns of other people

These things can't be mandatory, only voluntarily.

Don't cheapen Orwell's very real warnings about excessive government authority by applying them to a minority group and a voluntary online community.

This policy of compelled speech is already adopted in Canada. For now it seem to cover only pronouns, but that's how it starts.

Orwellian nightmare is not that unrelated as you may think.

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vladimir_vg profile image
Vladimir Gordeev πŸ‡·πŸ‡Ί

I think we had thoughtful and constructive discussion. Thank you, @veraticus .

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veraticus profile image
Josh Symonds

These things can't be mandatory, only voluntarily.

The correct reading of that sentence is: "don't use the word 'preferred' when discussing my pronouns, because they're mandatory to address me properly." I think you might have misread it -- or, at least, I'm entirely uncertain how you've spun the idea that proper pronoun use == slavery from what @sublimemarch said there.

This policy of compelled speech is already adopted in Canada. For now it seem to cover only pronouns, but that's how it starts.

I'd be happy to have a discussion about Canada's legislation of intentional pronoun misuse as discrimination! Of course, that discussion is mega off-topic for this comment thread and is also entirely unrelated to the article here, because again, this is discussing not government laws or even this community's policies, but how to make attendees at engineering events feel comfortable. So let's keep our reactions confined to that and try to avoid hyperbole and slippery slope.

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thejessleigh profile image
jess unrein • Edited

Vladimir stopped engaging with me after I invoked the Paradox of Tolerance and let him know that CoCs protect him too, so I'll be (relatively) brief because I don't want to engage people who don't engage me.

Please be mindful of bandying about terms like "slavery." There is actual slavery in the world, and historical slavery is one of the most egregious parts of human history. Equating a request to be respectful about pronouns to slavery is incredibly disrespectful to...well....pretty much everyone.

Also, I'd like to reiterate a point Josh made early on - you keep asserting your right to refuse to use pronouns and keep talking about free speech. No one is fighting you for this hill you're trying to die on. We all agree you have the right to refuse. And event organizers have the right to decide against giving space to people who refuse basic courtesy.

Imma pop out of this discussion now. I've said my piece, and given that you keep hammering home a point that no one is fighting you on, I've ceased to believe you're engaging in this discussion in good faith. I hope I'm wrong. Have a nice day.

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vladimir_vg profile image
Vladimir Gordeev πŸ‡·πŸ‡Ί

I've ceased to believe you're engaging in this discussion in good faith. I hope I'm wrong.

I was sincere and tried to tell the truth as I see it.

Have a nice day.