I recently wrote an article, interviewing someone who I referred in the piece as she and her. In a previous conversation this person and I talked about same-sex marriage and issues of gender equality. I invited “her” to my blog, referring “her” to a number of articles I’d posted on same-sex marriage, love and equality. About a week after the article posted I received a Request to moderate’ from WordPress. Attached was this message:
“Hey there. This is (name withheld). Great article, but I just wanted to note that I identify as male and prefer masculine pronouns (he/him). If you could fix that for me, that would be fantastic! I should have mentioned this before, but I slacked. My apologies!”
Sure enough, as soon as I saw the mail I made the changes. Then something interesting happened as I changed the shes to hes, and the hers to hims. It revealed unconscious prejudices that harbor, if not within us then in a society that informs our psyches in subversive ways.
I noted how the context of the piece changed when I ccorrected from the feminine to the masculine. i could explain them here, but then that becomes argumentative. In facing prejudices, no matter how benign, I have found that people will steadfastly deny those prejudices. Truly it is one of the most difficult aspects of confronting bigotries as a race, in that those bigotries always below to others, and never to ourselves. Many will try to bridge the gap to another group, Black, Jew, Muslim, Conservative, Liberal, gay, straight, or what have you by saying things like, “well we are all really the same”, or “we all put our pants on one leg at a time”, or “as long as you’re a good person.” But we say those things without definitively confronting real prejudice in ourselves, or those prejudices that parade as norms and simple assumptions in society as a whole. It deflects personal ownership of something, I assert, which resides within the heart of every person, including my own.
So here are parts of the article. The first is the original, and the second changed. All I ask is that you read each and imagine the circumstance of the person, then map your own level of sympathy and understanding of this person’s circumstance and ask yourself, and no one else, if there is a difference. And if there is a difference, where does it come from?
“By rights she should be in school, and would prefer it that way. In the current job market the best she can manage is a part-time job, which doesn’t pay enough to move out of the home she shares with her mother. She simply could not bear the heavy debt burden she would incur in the current economic climate, **** says”
Now the reprint:
“By rights he should be in school, and would prefer it that way. In the current job market the best he can manage is a part-time job, which doesn’t pay enough to move out of the home he shares with his mother. He simply could not bear the heavy debt burden he would incur in the current economic climate, **** says”
Feel it? It is there, these innocuous things informing how we see the world. Almost as if discovering for the first time that the whole concept of the colors we see is a lie, and that what we’ve been seeing is not at all consistent with reality. Just a thought.