The latest thing to get reactionaries raging (I’m not going to link to any of them, you can find them yourself if you must) is the fact that Champlain College in Vermont has handed out pin badges telling people which set of pronouns the wearer would like to be addressed with. These ranged from the more common “he/him” and “she/her/hers” and apparently (although I haven’t yet found a reliable source for this) to the less common “fluid” and “xe/xem” and perhaps others as well as allowing students to come up with their own. The idea was to promote the acceptance of people who don’t conform to traditional notions of gender.
As far as that goes it’s great! If it gets the politically regressive crowd upset then even better!
However, I am worried about one thing. It makes sense to look at gender neutral pronouns for intersex people for example but if we increase the number of genders in order to help people who don’t feel that they fit into one or the other and start referring to them in different ways then aren’t we just reinforcing traditional stereotypes?
If non-conformity to stereotypes means that new categories have to be recognised then surely this must mean that the stereotypes are correct? If I look like a man but freely show emotions other than anger and just want to stay at home with my children rather than having a career then doesn’t demanding a new pronoun suggest that a man is incapable of being those things? At the same time aren’t they saying that any woman who isn’t a submissive housewife who just wants to get married and have babies isn’t a woman?
Now, I may have got the whole idea completely wrong, maybe there’s more to it than just not fitting into traditional gender roles but surely the goal should be to expand the concept of what it means to be a man or a woman and enable people to live as they wish rather than to simply create more categories to stereotype people into.