On pronouns

My pronouns are he/him/his. This should not come as a surprise to anyone as I suspect my identity as a cis male is fairly obvious, at least to anyone who notices the traditionally male name affixed to the site, and certainly to anyone who has ever seen me in person. There was a time when my hair was long, curly, and glorious, and I was addressed as “ma’am” once or twice in public in my college years only to have the person hastily correct themselves upon seeing what the front of my head looks like.

To be clear, I think normalizing making your pronouns explicit even if you’re cisgendered is a good thing. At least two of my online profiles (Twitter and TikTok) contain them, and I do my best to call people what they want me to call them. There have been times where I’ve had to discreetly inquire of a third party what someone’s pronouns were, and I’ve had students recently who either wanted to be they/them or were out as trans, at least in my classroom. Those types of kids are the exact reason I do stuff like this. I feel like it’s the right thing to do.

I’m not going to review Dr. Meera Shah’s You’re the Only One I’ve Told: The Stories Behind Abortion, or at least not beyond this paragraph, and the reason is that you already know everything you need to know about the book from the title, including whether you want to read it. It’s not a bad book by any means, but it’s also not really surprising in any way.

Well, okay, the way it handles pronouns is kinda strange, and I wanted to talk about that a little bit. Now, this is a book about abortion, so you won’t be surprised to learn that the subjects of nearly every chapter are people who can get pregnant, and nearly all of those are cisgendered women. One chapter focuses on a cis man, whose name is Mateo, and that chapter focuses on the effect that abortion can have on the partners of the people who get abortions. One subject identifies as genderqueer and is they/them.

Every single chapter is titled with the name of the main subject of the chapter, with their pronouns, italicized, in a smaller font, and in parentheses, below the person’s name, along with the word “Pronouns”. So, like this:

BEATRICE

(Pronouns: She/her/hers)

Also, when other individuals are introduced throughout the text, their pronouns are also provided immediately after their name is first used– but oddly inconsistently, as it’s not used for everyone. (I swear that Dr. Shah directly addresses her rationale for this at some point in the book, but I can’t find it, and it doesn’t appear to be in the introduction, which is the most obvious place.)

At any rate, that’s what triggered the post: because for some reason this became distracting as hell over the course of the book, and I wanted to kind of talk it out and see if anybody pushed back at me. Putting your pronouns on a profile (or, as I did at a con once, on a sticker that you’re wearing) has the advantage of letting strangers know how to refer to you. Again, sometimes it’s more obvious than others– no one is going to look at me and call me “she” unless explicitly told to– but I get why it’s a thing and I participate in it.

This book does things like this:

When I spoke to Dr. Hoobity (Pronouns: she/her/hers), she told me that…

Not a direct quote, but stuff like that happens all the time– an explicit listing of the person’s personal pronouns, annoyingly including the word “pronouns,” immediately followed by a use of one of those pronouns. That risk of confusion or causing inadvertent offense just isn’t present when you’re writing about someone, because you’re going to use pronouns all the time. It’s hard to write about people without using pronouns, and in a book that is about people who can get pregnant it becomes even more ridiculous because nearly everyone identifies as she/her. Even the genderqueer person’s pronouns are explicit nearly immediately; the first use of singular they made it clear very quickly, and they talked about being genderqueer in the chapter. I was fully expecting (and would have been interested to read) a chapter at some point about a trans male’s experience with pregnancy and abortion, but it never happened. The one chapter about a person identifying as male is Mateo’s, and he’s cis, and his chapter is basically about cis men.

It didn’t ruin the book or anything like that, don’t get me wrong, but it was distracting enough that, well, I wrote the post about pronouns instead of about the actual book. Am I off-base here, or do other people feel like this would be distracting for them as well?

Hey, remember this?

Let’s see how old my readers are:

This isn’t exactly a deep revelation or anything, but for some reason this commercial popped into my head this morning as I was getting ready for work.  I strongly suspect if you’re within five years or so of my age you have this jingle memorized still, but have you ever really thought about just how impossible it would be to market My Buddy in today’s kids’ toys market?  Things weren’t as rigidly gendered in the 1980s as they are now– that is a straight up doll being marketed directly to boys, doing boy things like riding Big Wheels and hiding in a clubhouse and climbing trees.  They’re not even trying to muddy the waters with the label “action figure.”  My Buddy was a doll, and never wanted to be anything else.

There are not many ways in which I think American culture has backslid since the 80s, but the rigid adherence to gender essentialism in absolutely fucking everything related to kids is definitely one of them.  I had a parent come in this morning looking for white bedroom furniture for her son, and it threw me for enough of a loop that I almost needed to have her repeat it to make sure I was hearing her right.  Because no one buys white bedroom furniture for boys.  We have a couple of sets that are gender neutral and you should see how incredibly confused people get when they can’t immediately figure out what genitalia the children in the room with the furniture are supposed to be.  It would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad.

On things that should wait until morning

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I’m not tagging this as a #review for reasons that are probably going to become obvious pretty soon.  For starters, it’s fuck o’clock in the morning.  I was asleep an hour or so ago but for some fucking reason I’m WIDE THE HELL AWAKE NOW THANKS and got rapidly tired of tossing and turning in bed so now I’m in the living room and angryblogging on my laptop, because that is a wise decision.

I blew someone some shit on Twitter earlier today for starting a Tweet with the words “everyone will shit on me for saying this, but…”.  I feel like if you’re starting to say something with those words, that’s your brain telling you that you’re probably wrong and that you should probably listen to it.  Listening to my own advice apparently isn’t one of my strong suits.

So, with that in mind, let’s write an intemperate post about Taste of Marrow, by Sarah Gailey.  You may recall my review of River of Teeth, her first book, which I wanted to be fond of but really wasn’t.  I ended that review by saying I was disappointed but I was still in for the sequel– the premise, remember, is basically cowboys riding hippos, which covers for a lot of sins– and having finished Taste of Marrow tonight before briefly going to sleep I think I’m officially out.  The sins of the first book are all still there, from the sidelining of the hippos to that one character’s annoying accent to, again, the dude who is apparently the bad guy randomly getting eaten by hippos in what is probably the single most deus ex hippo ending I’ve read in a book in a long time… to Hero.

Hero moved from an annoyance I was able to put up with in River of Teeth to something that actively pissed me off in this book.  Hero is again consistently referred to with plural pronouns for the entire book, by every character.  Hero is also still never once described.  I think at one point Gailey says that Hero is wearing a shirt, which they must open in order to examine a scar.  That’s as far as it goes.  Gailey goes out of her way to never have any character who isn’t part of the core cast mention or speak to Hero, because those people presumably wouldn’t use Hero’s preferred pronouns and would at least guess at Hero’s gender.  At this point I’m not even willing to describe Hero as a nonbinary or trans character; Hero isn’t a character in this book so much as a little game that Gailey is playing with her readers.  For all I can tell from everyone’s behavior in the book, the most reasonable conclusion is that Hero is a cis straight woman who the author is just playing the Pronoun Game with for no fucking reason at all.

I feel compelled, again, to point out my pronoun bona fides, insofar as such things exist; the next book I’m reading is Jy Yang’s The Red Threads of Fortune, which postulates a culture where all children are referred to with plural pronouns until such time as the children themselves announce their gender, which sometimes takes years; Yang themself prefers the plural also.  I’m a couple of weeks away from writing my 10 Best Books of the Year post, and a series with a trans main character is going to be very high on that list.  Elves in the Benevolence Archives, my series, are genderless and referred to with custom pronouns.  You can look far and wide in the hundreds of thousands of words I’ve written on this blog and not see a single word complaining about pronouns other than the two posts relating to this series.  It’s emphatically not the singular “they” I have an issue with, it’s the fact that this author is deliberately fucking with her readers with this character and that Hero’s nonbinaryness, if in fact Hero is actually nonbinary, feels like the “what’s in Hero’s pants” guessing game is exactly what Gailey wants her readers doing.   Which is bullshit.

Blech.

On judgmental bastardry and little kids

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ALTERNATE TITLE 1: Why I Need to Have a Daughter
ALTERNATE TITLE 2: Why Everyone should be Glad I Don’t Have a Daughter
ALTERNATE TITLE 3: Why Liberals are Dumbasses and Don’t Run Anything

The boy’s at a birthday party right now.  I’m not at the party, but my wife is; as someone who has run dozens of parties over the years for young kids where the adults way outnumbered the kids, I long for the days when it was okay to just drop your child off at a birthday party and then just go away for a couple of hours, but that’s not how society– or at least the parts of it I move in– works any longer.  I wouldn’t have objected to going, for the record, but I had some stuff to do around here and she volunteered.  So she’s there and I’m here.

The party’s for one of the girls in his class at Hogwarts.  I had been meaning all week to email her parents and ask for some details about what she might want for her birthday, and finally remembered to do it yesterday.  Mom responded pretty promptly.  The first sentence of the email was “Oh, she’s all girl.”

Oh.

I would kinda have liked some more specificity than that, but whatever; basically it meant go to the Pink Aisle and close your eyes and pick something.(*)  My wife and I went through this fun and stupid rigamarole in the Pink Aisle last night where neither of us really wanted to get her something froofy and glittery and princessy but that’s basically all there is; I suggested a couple of different (mostly pink and purple!) age-appropriate Lego sets when my son came running over with a Barbie doll dressed as a superhero.

Just under $20, Barbie, and the boy literally picked it out.  Fine.  Done.

The mental subcurrent of all this, of course, is that while I don’t especially like the idea of plastering kids with this is for boys and this is for girls, it ain’t like my own son isn’t into superheroes.  Of course, so is his daddy, and I suspect if I had a daughter she’d be just as able to tell you about the Hulk and Iron Man as he is, but I don’t have a daughter, now, do I, so who knows how much reinforcing of The Patriarchy I’d be doing as a parent compared to how much I’m already doing, and who the fuck am I to try and subtly condition somebody else’s kid by trying to find a toy for her that isn’t ridiculously gendered when I have never not once suggested my own son go into the Pink Aisle when he was hunting for toys for himself.

(Did you know there are girl Nerf toys?  I did not know this.)

So, yeah, whatever, we got the kid a Barbie doll, and somehow I managed to turn buying a gift for a five-year-old who I think I can pick out of a lineup, maybe, into some sort of political act, because that’s exactly the sort of stupid wanker I am sometimes.  And then my wife texted me from the party while I was busy hanging a mirror at home (let’s not let the gendered nature of that little detail escape us, either) to inform me that this party had blue ribbon water and pink ribbon water and she’d just heard one of the boys loudly insist that he needed the “boy water.”  This was, thankfully, not my son.

So.  Yeah.

That happened.

We shoulda gotten the kid a soccer ball.

(*) And I should make this explicit, too– Mom was trying to be helpful, and her point was “Don’t stress yourself out too much about a present.”  She explicitly said that her daughter would be perfectly happy just to have all of her friends there.  This post is about I’m an idiot sometimes, not Jeez, look at how these people I barely know are raising their kid, just to make perfectly certain we understand each other.

And suddenly I’m a parent

santa-easter-bunny-i-exist-support-group-570x319Tonight I have to go to an open house for a local Montessori school.  Want to?  Am about to?  I don’t know how to phrase it.  Certainly no one is making me go; I think my main objection right now is that I don’t want to be old enough to have to be thinking about this right now.  Pay no attention, by the way, to the fact that most parents my age are worrying about high school and not kindergarten.  It’s not even that I want him to stay a baby forever or anything like that; as I’ve said on several occasions before, the older he gets the more I like him, so I suspect I’ll like kindergarten-kid more than I like three-year-old kid right now.

I will admit that I’m liking three.  It’s a good age.  It’s too bad that he had to go through the three years to get to three, where I liked him less, but three is okay.

So, yeah.  Point is, I gotta go to an open house for a school I don’t know anything about, so that I can learn things about it, because maybe I’ll want to send my kid there soon, because he’s old enough that I need to worry about that.  Blech.


So speaking of parenting: he noticed Halloween, right?  We’ve talked about that.  Which means he’s gonna notice Christmas this year for the first time, too.  Which means that the wife and I have to make a decision about Santa Claus.  I am, in general, against lying to my kid, and somewhat generically temperamentally against suggesting that he should adjust his behavior in order to receive rewards from supernatural beings.

also don’t want to be the parent of the asshole kid who ruins Christmas for the other kids, and “let them believe what they want to believe and don’t worry about it” seems like kinda complicated advice for a three-year-old.  My wife has suggested that we simply don’t bring it up and see what he brings to the table, and that seems like good advice.


An anecdote: We are at Meijer.  We need to buy the boy a coat.  As we pass the coat rack, an idle thought floats into my head:  What if he decides he wants the pink one?

I, progressive Dad that I am, decide that I don’t really give a damn if he wants the pink coat.  He picks out a dark blue one and tries it on and has a fit about the length of the sleeves.  (Note: this is an ongoing thing.  M’boy has issues with sleeves.)  We try on an orange one.  Same thing, only now the fit has a bit of a head of steam behind it and is getting a bit more obnoxious.  We get him calmed down and my wife tries one more time to see if he’s interested in trying on a coat.

“The light blue one,” he says.  I look.  There’s a light blue one.  With polka dots.  It’s one of the girl coats.

You deserve this, I thought to myself.  And the wife and I just sorta looked at each other.  Looked at the coat.  Neither of us really wanted to be the one to say no, because he’s fucking three, and who cares what coat he wears.  At the same time, I noticed quickly that color wasn’t the only thing differentiating the coats.  It turns out that girls’ winter coats from the exact same company– coats for three-year-olds, mind you– are actually cut different.  They have froofy fur around the hoods, and– and this is the ridiculous part– they’re fitted.  They have elastic on them, for the hips that three-year-old girls do not have.    Which I suspect actually makes them less effective as winter coats.

Color?  Wear whatever you want.  My parental liberalism apparently ends at the point where my son wants to wear a coat that is fitted to show off his hips.  I suspect he’s not about to start developing an interest in wearing girls’ clothing all the time, because I think we’d probably have seen that by now; he just likes the color light blue.

I shoulda just put it on him.  He’d have had another fit about the sleeves and we’d have been done.  Instead, my wife sucked it up and told him it was a girl coat and he couldn’t wear it.  I’ve got a tiny bit of a dirty feeling in my mouth about it, but only a tiny bit.