by Julie Bindel
Tuesday, 3
August 2021
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07:00

‘Preferred pronouns’ are a form of sexist bullying

I've been asked if I'm a boy or a girl more times than I remember
by Julie Bindel
Alana Smith of Team USA goes by ‘they’

When Alana Smith, who competed in the women’s street skateboarding event for Team USA at the Olympics last week, was referred to as ‘she’ by NBC and BBC commentators a number of people took to Twitter to complain that Smith had been ‘misgendered’. Smith identifies as non-binary and goes by the ‘they/them’ pronouns, and had painted them on the side of her skateboard. But Smith was a competitor in the women’s event. Perhaps the IOC should have given training to commentators, as has the BBC to its broadcast staff, on pronoun use?

The ever-increasing pressure to add pronouns (he/him; she/her; they/them; zir/zer) is as offensive as it is unnecessary.

I grew up being labelled a ‘tomboy’ because I hated feminine frippery such as skirts, tights and ribbons in my hair. I didn’t understand why girls were supposed to dress differently from boys. I would try my very best to inveigle my way into the boys’ rough and tumble games. As a result of my non-compliance with gender rules, I was constantly asked whether I was “a boy or a girl”.

Having grown noticeable breasts by the time I was 12 and being regularly sexually harassed as a result of it, it was clear that men well knew the answer to that question.

In adulthood, many of the same prejudices follow me around. Lesbians routinely experience harassment because we are not considered to be “real women”. Our ‘authenticity’ as women is often measured by superficial sexist indicators. A key role of feminism is to rid the world of gender stereotypes. I therefore refuse to use terminology that capitulates to the notion of individual gender identities. There are two sexes, male and female, and although I do not care in the slightest who might refer to themselves as non-binary or transgender or whatever, I will not have it imposed upon me. It would be like demanding that I believe in God.

I realise now that any time I have been asked which sex I am, often in an aggressive manner by men in gangs, the question is never genuine — rather, it is a form of hostile interrogation. How dare I shun make-up and heels? Why do I wear jeans and never dresses? I have broken the rules.

Despite decades of feminism, women have not yet achieved the right to be able to do away with sexist prefixes such as “ladies”, “Mrs” or “Miss”. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve witnessed ignorant individuals who have asked “who is the man?” when referring to lesbian couples. And yet much of the focus in the workplace about non-discriminatory language is the appeasement of those that pretend sex is a floating signifier.

To me, the creeping use of ‘preferred pronouns’ is ultimately a form of sexist bullying. My advice to anyone being asked to include pronouns in email sign-offs, meetings or wherever, is to politely refuse. The more of us that refuse to go along with this offensive doctrine, the better.

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Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
1 year ago

…and yet if you work in the public/NGO/charity sectors it is rapidly becoming an enforceable norm. I came across ‘fae/faer’ the other day. This is apparently a pagan or ‘fairygender’ usage. WTF?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

Wish we had a ‘laugh’ button!

D Ward
D Ward
1 year ago

If i am ever required to do this, I am going to identify as a different gender every few days and change my pronouns every few days. And if anyone gets it wrong, I’ll take them to HR. If everyone did this, the ridiculousness would become apparent and maybe the “system” would crash.
I have a friend who has been approached for a job in local government. The application form asked for my friend’s “preferred pronouns”. My friend declined to apply for the job, as he realised then that he could not possibly work for such an organisation. The public sector is sick.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  D Ward

Good idea. HR/diversity & inclusion departments can then figure out what to do with the monster they have created. It is apparently perfectly reasonable to be gender fluid, so they must keep up.

Jenn Usher
Jenn Usher
1 year ago

Now you know where all those university gender studies graduates found employment.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Jenn Usher

Oh yes…. the Hardly Relevant departments that have to justify their existence.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
1 year ago
Reply to  D Ward

In my part of the NHS we referred to Human Remains.

Al M
Al M
1 year ago

Good heavens! Well, the goof coming from a BBC pundit certainly made me chuckle.

John Montague
John Montague
1 year ago

haha…. wonder if I can have Sith as a pronoun…. or maybe tobe/nottobe

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

I have always been extra macho as far as enduring pain, discomfort, and danger – As a young man I set out on a hard path in life where I then had to always just out-tough everyone else in my line of vocation. I had to show I was tougher than you by refusing to show that I even cared about risk and discomfort. It was silly I suppose really – but then by forcing yourself to be hard, you did end up being pretty hard in the end – so it does work – and is I suppose that is why this is a masculine inclination, because long ago men had to be hard.

Anyway, My preferred pronoun will be ‘Alpha Man‘ from now on. Let it out, be what I am, let the hidden me out of the bag.

‘Sanford just managed to carry a 140 pound pressure treated 2 X 12 up 20 foot of ladder alone, Alpha Man (he/him) showing again what he (Alpha Man) can do.’

Lindsay Snoman
Lindsay Snoman
1 year ago

It’s the they/them pronoun that gets me. So you’re plural? You’re telling me that you have multiple personality disorder? I struggle to take the pronoun thing seriously, it feels like an attention seeking trend. The miss/ms/mrs thing never bothered me but this pronoun malarkey is getting ridiculous.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay Snoman

We are not amused by they/them.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay Snoman

I have had they same thought re: ‘they/them’. It’s as if it’s acknowledgement of a mental illness which it was not too long ago defined as such in medical texts.

Last edited 1 year ago by Cathy Carron
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

LinkedIn sent a message recently urging me to update my profile by adding pronouns.

It’s not actually required but it was framed to make it seem like important information that would enhance one’s profile.

It makes me wonder how much of the apparent voluntary insistence on nonsensical pronouns is being led from above.

Matt B
Matt B
1 year ago

Perhaps it starts as voluntary…..

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt B
Al M
Al M
1 year ago

Think I’ll bin my account if I receive that. Don’t use it much anyway.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
1 year ago

I am intrigued by the possibility that an old fat bloke pretending to be a woman has just taken the mickey out of the whole world at the Olympics and nobody was permitted to get the joke. Would my restore my faith in New Zealanders!
Thanks Unherd for a sensible and balanced article from a journalist who can see the issue from both sides of the divide.

Last edited 1 year ago by Dustin Needle
Jenn Usher
Jenn Usher
1 year ago
Reply to  Dustin Needle

Did Ms. Hubbard deliberately throw the barbells backwards over her head to the floor to cap the joke on the IOC?

Last edited 1 year ago by Jenn Usher
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Jenn Usher

She has easily lifted that weight beforehand…

Al M
Al M
1 year ago

I did wonder if the failed lift might be a way of exiting gracefully.

Still, the gutsy performance from Emily Campbell made for excellent viewing. Well done her!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Al M

Or the fact that she is 43, when 26 is the optimum age for a weight lifter.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

Why sexist bullying? It is just bullying which seems to be largely the purpose of the whole LDPT+/- racket, giving a bunch of misanthropes licence to exercise power over and abuse the rest of us.
However the author is not blameless in all this. “Despite decades of feminism, women have not yet achieved the right to be able to do away with sexist prefixes such as “ladies”, “Mrs” or “Miss”” illustrates perfectly the source of this current nonsense.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

Agreed. After a lifetime of politically bullying others, the author is now, for the first time, on the receiving end, and doesn’t like it a bit.

Richard Riheed
Richard Riheed
1 year ago

What’s next – eliminating first names as they clearly define you as male or female? Thank you ‘J’ for an excellent article. Yours, ‘R’

Christina Dalcher
Christina Dalcher
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Riheed

Deleted

Last edited 11 months ago by Christina Dalcher
Matt B
Matt B
1 year ago

All good scenario people do this. Truth is just way whackier.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Riheed

I always bristly when some young punk calls me ‘Sanford’ instead of ‘Mr Artzen’.

I no longer correct them but just glare a bit, but when did the young become so ill mannered?

Kasia Chapman
Kasia Chapman
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

That must be down to English culture permeating into American sensibilities. I was well put out by young children ( my kids’friends) calling me by my first name and then by 16 year olds pupils I thought in an English state run sixth form. I had to get used to it and accept that respect is hard won rather than given .

TERRY JESSOP
TERRY JESSOP
1 year ago
Reply to  Kasia Chapman

Actually, I am less annoyed by the solipsists who are fixated upon being misgendered – I just assume that they are obsessives who suffer from a minor mental deficiency – than I am by the slack-arses who think that their contribution to the discussion is important, but couldn’t be bothered to proof-read the same for grammatical or logical errors before hitting the “send” button. I wasted half a minute trying to discern what this correspondent was actually driving at, before I realised it was just a typographical error, and that I could have it make sense by simply substituting the word “taught” for the word “thought”.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

I refuse.

Kathryn Allegro
Kathryn Allegro
1 year ago

The trans movement has been very effective in their campaign to wipe out the distinction between sex and gender, and the media have gone along with it. No one is ‘misgendered at birth’. Birth certificates indicate sex, not gender (whatever that is).
Pronouns are about what sex you are, not what ‘gender’. If you can stand up to pee (whether you choose to do so or not), you’re a he, if you can’t, you’re a she. Simple.
The folks who demand alternative pronouns are just narcissists who want to call attention to themselves
 

Sheryl Rhodes
Sheryl Rhodes
1 year ago

So many questions…..for instance, how about I insist on a special pronoun for when people directly address me? “You” just doesn’t express my most authentic self. Please address me as “me.” Don’t say, “Would you like me to pour you a cup of coffee?” Say instead, “Would me like me to pour me a cup of coffee?” To refuse to use my personal preferred pronoun is to, like, literally erase my existence.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 year ago

I object to being referred to by a pronoun at all since it detracts from my individuality. “Martin Smith was seated at Martin Smith’s desk doing Martin Smith’s work. After Martin Smith finished the work Martin Smith went home,”

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Smith
Jonathan A Gallant
Jonathan A Gallant
1 year ago

A couple of years ago, my university department requested us to choose our personal pronouns for a departmental list. I wrote back that cataract surgery had suddenly endowed me with the ability to read Russian, and requested Мы и наши as my pronouns. Needless to say, a committee denounced me for this microaggression, and complaints about my existence were made to HR. I toyed with the idea of making an official complaint to the Equity Office, on behalf of the Russianx community, about this systemic Latin Alphabet Supremacism, but decided further joking might be hazardous.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
1 year ago

Good grief ! An article by Julie that I actually agree with.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

I think if I’m ever asked for my pronouns I will say they are “n*gg*r” / “n*gro”.
That should set the cat amongst the pigeons. What to do, what to do?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

One could go for ‘Seine Durchlautigkeit/ Seiner Durchlautigkeit’, identifying as a German prince. On what grounds could it be refused? It would be hard to get the grammar right, though.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

The American actress Gina Carano (The Mandolorian) joked on Twitter that her pronouns were ‘bip / bop’ and that got her tossed out of Hollywood. She’s landed on her feet with a production deal with media biz whiz Ben Shapiro.

Kirsten Walstedt
Kirsten Walstedt
1 year ago

Why is a Non-binary being allowed to compete in women’s street skateboarding?

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
1 year ago

If a competitor identifies as ‘they’ shouldn’t ‘they’ be competing as a team?

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago

Very thought provoking.
Thanks.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 year ago

How about “he/hers”?

Al M
Al M
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

Is that identifying as a donkey?

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Al M

Very good. It would be a kind of ee(ither) orr…

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Is the pronoun ‘fool’ acceptable for those who deny simply, basic, scientific facts? I don’t want to be cancelled so I need to be sure!

Peter LR
Peter LR
1 year ago

Agree, Julie, the autocracy of pronoun self-righteousness.
I’m trying to work out why Mrs and Miss could be unnecessary; do they have no value?

Mike M
Mike M
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Is this a good faith question? Categorising women by their marital status (Mrs/Miss) but not men (only Mr) is, at least to me, obviously sexist.

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike M

Well, these days we have the omnipresent Ms.
I never understood why marital status should matter, especially when so few get (or stay) married.

Al M
Al M
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

A reasonable point. I do still see them used, including Mrs. If people wish to use them and indeed prefer to over simply stating your name, I wouldn’t wish for that choice to be taken away.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I love it when my housekeeper refers to me as ‘Miss Cathy’ – makes me giggle inside : ). I don’t correct her.

Last edited 1 year ago by Cathy Carron
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike M

The ‘Mrs’ is a hangover from the old days and the Ms was introduced to correct that. I use Ms – I used it before and after marriage.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Once upon a time, whether a woman was married was the most important information you had about her place in society. Quite reasonably, address forms reflected this. As the world changed, the forms had to change – I cold not care less whether Christine Lagarde is married or not and could not be bothered to find out first if I had to address her.

In other languages, like German or Danish, the equivalent of ‘Mrs’ changed so it could be used as a respectful address to a woman whether married or not. In some ways that is a better option, but in English ‘Mrs’ was tied so strongly to married status that this could not be made to work. You can sort of see why – German ‘frau’ is also the word for woman and ‘die Frauenkirche’ is ‘The Church of our Lady’, not ‘The Church of our Missus’.

David McDowell
David McDowell
1 year ago

‘Ms’ was sexist bullying but Julie doesn’t mention that.

Kristof K
Kristof K
1 year ago

Hmm, I’d state my preferred pronoun to be we/us (as in the royal we)! Then again, I quite like the now rather outdated “one”.

Sallie R
Sallie R
1 year ago

Thank you. Brilliant.