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Re: Hipsters
  • 10/28/2015 11:00:51 AM
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I'm curious if there could be found an explanation for the changing hair style. We might guess that technology might have an effect, the invention of the safety blade, electric trimmers and shavers. Or maybe in past centuries the prevalence of barber shops and convenience or inconvenience and cost of facial grooming?

Re: Protean sexuality, pronouns, and analytics
  • 10/22/2015 12:21:02 PM
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..

Jim writes


Now, here's a data analytics angle. Besides all the talk of restrooms, clothes, and pronouns. As more people identify with genders that aren't how they were raised, and others define themselves as gender neutral, what happens to all the statistics that were based on their traditional classifications? If enough people shift in how they describe themselves, do we have to rethink our traditional gender-based health data, labor data, etc.? If five years from now we get solid data that X% of those born as men identify as women and Y% of those born as women define themselves as male, we we adjust 20-30-40 year old data files by those percentages?


 

Jim, I think you're right on target, and I love all the goblins this issue is releasing, statistical and otherwise.

Life was so simple when all we had to deal with was two sexualities. Now we have more than 50 (see the NYT article I linked)...

It's like our species has just mutated into a different one, with a lot more sexual diversity.

I'd like to see how Robert would handle that in a graph...

 

Re: Protean sexuality, pronouns, and analytics
  • 10/22/2015 11:56:38 AM
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@Lyndon. I'll stick with "they", if only because I don't want to be inventing new words and trying to explain what they mean. Being in the tech space I do enough of that explaining as it is.

Of course, it will take some time for even a majority of people to make adjustments when dealing with transgender issues and gender fluidity. It's not just in writing when we typically have time to think things through. How about simple conversation? A childhood classmate of mine who was raised as a girl went public with her recognition of being a man a couple years ago at age 60+. This is someone who I have stayed in touch with over the years because he's a good person and has a fascinating story to tell (life experiences that have been good and bad).

If writing, I would refer to him as "he" but in casual conversation, particularly when the discussion dates back to childhood days when I knew him as a her, I stumble, and even find myself switching back and forth with "he did this" and "she did that". I know I'm not alone because even his very accepting family members aren't always sure if they want to say Mom or Dad, he or she. Fortunately, he seems OK with the confusion and happy to be where he is in life.

Now, here's a data analytics angle. Besides all the talk of restrooms, clothes, and pronouns. As more people identify with genders that aren't how they were raised, and others define themselves as gender neutral, what happens to all the statistics that were based on their traditional classifications? If enough people shift in how they describe themselves, do we have to rethink our traditional gender-based health data, labor data, etc.? If five years from now we get solid data that X% of those born as men identify as women and Y% of those born as women define themselves as male, we we adjust 20-30-40 year old data files by those percentages? I know some government agencies and businesses have already altered the forms they use to build profiles of us, adding a third gender option, but many others haven't. Even most DMVs won't change our key identification document (driver's license) until a transgender person actually goes through gender reassignment surgery.

See, we can find a data angle to almost anything.

 

 

Re: Protean sexuality, pronouns, and analytics
  • 10/22/2015 10:21:28 AM
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..

Joe writes


Of course, ultra-hipsters don't use "they" -- they use special ultra-politically correct pronouns like "ze" and other words you've never heard of.


 

I first encountered the purported pronoun "ze" in a New York Times article last February: A University Recognizes a Third Gender: Neutral.

This article is of particular interest because the writer, interviewing a self-described "transgender" who "was born female", manages (as far as I can tell in cursory reading) to avoid referring to the person with any pronoun — quite a nifty feat, but how this would fare in the perennial writers' mandate to minimize word count needs further study...

Julie Scelfo, the writer (who, these days could be female, male, or neither, or both), also provides the interesting observation:


For years, writers and academics have argued that gender identity is not a male/female binary but a continuum along which any individual may fall, depending on a variety of factors, including anatomy, chromosomes, hormones and feelings. But the dichotomy is so deeply embedded in our culture that even the most radical activists had been focused mainly on expanding the definitions of the two pre-existing categories.

Today, a growing number of students are embracing the idea that when it comes to classifying gender, there should be more than two options — something now afforded by the dating website OkCupid and by Facebook, which last year added a tab for "custom" alongside "male" and "female," with some 50 options, including "agender," "androgyne," "pangender" and "trans person," as well as an option for controlling who can see the customized version.


 

Anyway, to re-focus on the pronoun issue ...

Scelfo relates that


 In hopes of raising consciousness of the biases built into social structures and into the language we use to discuss them, students are organizing identity conferences and inventing new vocabularies, which include pronouns like "ze" and "xe," and pressing administrations to make changes that validate, in language, the existence of a gender outside the binary.


 

Quoting Keith Williams, a registrar at the University of Vermont, the article explains:


"Students proposed 'they/them' pronouns, but the faculty vetoed the idea because they said it is grammatically incorrect," Mr. Williams recalled. "They said, 'You don't put a plural pronoun with a single individual.'" A second option, also being used in various trans communities, was "ze" (pronounced ZEE), a riff on the German pronoun "sie," with "hir" replacing "his/her."


 

Nevertheless, it appears that the game is going to "they" as the triumphant sexless pronoun of choice:


"They" has become an increasingly popular substitute for "he" or "she" in the transgender community, and the University of Vermont, a public institution of some 12,700 students, has agreed to use it.


 

Personally, I continue to regard the use of "they" as a singular pronoun reference as illogical, awkward, somewhat informal, and potentially confusing. A good pal of mine calls me a "jackboot grammarian". But trying to uphold precise grammar logic is increasingly looking like a losing pursuit. These days, in editing other people's stuff (and even sometimes my own, depending on the context), I'll often let it pass...

 

Re: Protean sexuality, pronouns, and analytics
  • 10/20/2015 9:19:58 PM
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Of course, ultra-hipsters don't use "they" -- they use special ultra-politically correct pronouns like "ze" and other words you've never heard of.

But yeah, "they" is cool.

Re: Protean sexuality, pronouns, and analytics
  • 10/20/2015 8:51:48 AM
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@Lyndon. No need to hedge. Use of "they" in reference to a generic person (where you don't assume their gender) wasn't ungrammatical. The various Websters who wrote those books of words that nobody has on their desk anymore accepted "they" as appropriate generations ago. Those who sent young writers into the grammatical dungeon were simply sexist. THEY figured that if a person was worth mentioning THEY had to be male.

Re: Hipsters
  • 10/19/2015 11:56:43 PM
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I fear we are on the verge of a new pronoun, like s/he or some weird twitter-ized contraction of existing usage. Maybe we can start using "who" as a non-gender pronoun.

Protean sexuality, pronouns, and analytics
  • 10/19/2015 10:49:45 PM
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..

Jim writes


Actually use of "they" for non-gender specific references has bene legit for years, even for singlular usage. It just irked some copy editors and they would insist on defaulting to "he" if the writer wasn't referring to a specific person. Considering that roughly 51% of the population at any given time is female, blindly using "he" was pretty presumptive. Other people wanting to be semi-correct in the political sense still alternate back and forth between "he" and "she". Personally, I lean toward "they".


 

In grade school I was firmly taught that to use "they" for a generic human person was atrociously ungrammatical. The convention then was to always use the masculine (e.g., "he") for the generic human (we also see this in words like "human" and "mankind") — so an utterance such as "Everyone has their preference" would get you thrown into a grammatical dungeon (i.e., a failing mark); the supposedly correct expression should be "Everyone has his preference." That's because good English grammar requires agreement in number between subjects, verbs, and other parts of speech like pronouns.

But, as Jim points out, requiring the masculine form that way seems to jettison half (more than half, actually) of the population (females) from inclusion in the grammar system.

The problem arises because English doesn't have a "generic", sexless pronoun, so the masculine was substituted for that function. Curiously, for quite a while, female grammarians and academics went along with it, until the Great Sexual Revolution of the ... 1960s?

The problem I've been raising actually muddles everything one step further: the emergence of "fluid" sexuality, aka "sexual fluidity" — involving people who supposedly shift between different "sexualities". This can mean, on one hand, one's sexual orientation or attraction — Huffington Post a few days ago had an article on this that explained a whole gallery of unusual "orientations", from asexuality through demisexuality and pansexuality to skoliosexuality, and more. Gee, is it just me, or is the world actually getting more convoluted?

But the other aspect of "fluidity" is the emergence of individuals who are shifting between sexual identities. For example, one of my strongest allies politically when I was a board member of our community's mass transit authority was someone who had been medically altered to change sex (from male to female). Today such people are included in the category "transgender". 

That I can deal with — she went from a he to a she. No problem. But how do you deal with people who merely affirm a new sex, or affirm they have no sex, or have both sexes at once, or whose "fluidity" is so strong they claim they shift from male to female to something different, depending on their mood? It's happening. 

This is causing some confusion, not only in how restrooms are designated (here in Austin restrooms in most restaurants must now by local ordinance be asexual), but in the use and relevance of pronouns ... as I pointed out earlier. Certainly, "fudge words" like "they" can be used nowadays, but this usage has its limits and can get pretty awkward and confusing.

So how do analytics and big data fit in? Good question. Maybe some of you out there can suggest some ways. In any case, as we discuss what's trending and what the future holds, this is one more aspect of our society that is starting to take us on quite a wild ride...

 

Re: Hipsters
  • 10/19/2015 2:44:07 PM
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@Broadway. Actually use of "they" for non-gender specific references has bene legit for years, even for singlular usage. It just irked some copy editors and they would insist on defaulting to "he" if the writer wasn't referring to a specific person. Considering that roughly 51% of the population at any given time is female, blindly using "he" was pretty presumptive. Other people wanting to be semi-correct in the political sense still alternate back and forth between "he" and "she". Personally, I lean toward "they".

Re: Hipsters
  • 10/18/2015 10:22:48 PM
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@Lyndon, it is driving grammarians nuts, simply because the "safe" approach in many cases is to use a "they" for a single person, and that kind of mistake would get you an F in 7th grade English. 

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