Now gluten-free!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

As if grammar wasn't hard enough, here come 'gender-neutral' pronouns

This past Wednesday, Donna Braquet, Director of the Pride Center at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, made some waves. She (assuming I'm using the correct pronoun here) encouraged staff and students to abandon all common sense when it comes to names, pronouns, gender identities, and official school rosters. She writes:
We should not assume someone's gender by their appearance, nor by what is listed on a roster or in student information systems. Transgender people and people who do not identity within the gender binary may use a different name than their legal name and pronouns of their gender identity, rather than the pronouns of the sex they were assigned at birth.

In the first weeks of classes, instead of calling roll, ask everyone to provide their name and pronouns. This ensures you are not singling out transgender or non-binary students. The name a student uses may not be the one on the official roster, and the roster name may not be the same gender as the one the student now uses.
Leaving aside the question of why, given such reasoning, a school would bother having a roster at all, what kinds of pronouns are we talking about here?:
We are familiar with the singular pronouns she, her, hers and he, him, his, but those are not the only singular pronouns. In fact, there are dozens of gender-neutral pronouns.

A few of the most common singular gender-neutral pronouns are they, them, their (used as singular), ze, hir, hirs, and xe, xem, xyr.

These may sound a little funny at first, but only because they are new. The she and he pronouns would sound strange too if we had been taught ze when growing up.
Folks, let me remind you that this is someone holding an influential position at a university.

Imagine if students' personal preferences were allowed free reign in other areas of college life. "Yeah, I know I've been getting Cs and Ds on all my assignments, but deep down I identify as an A student. Come on, professor. Why are you being so hateful and intolerant? Isn't this supposed to be a safe zone?"

Ms. Braquet (I'm using "Ms." because I haven't seen a list of gender-neutral personal titles) concludes:
How do you know what pronoun someone uses? If you cannot use the methods mentioned above, you can always politely ask. "Oh, nice to meet you, [insert name]. What pronouns should I use?" is a perfectly fine question to ask.

The more we make sharing of pronouns a universal practice, the more inclusive we will be as a campus. When our organizational culture shifts to where asking for chosen names and pronouns is the standard practice, it alleviates a heavy burden for persons already marginalized by their gender expression or identity.
She (ze?) then invites anyone wishing to learn more to sign up for a Safe Zone workshop. I'll bet they'll need the large conference room for that.

I don't know what kind of feedback UTK received when people read Donna Braquet's suggestions, but I imagine it was quite critical, especially since the school released the following statement just two days later:
We would like to offer clarification on statements referring to gender-neutral language.

There is no mandate or official policy to use gender-neutral pronouns. We do not dictate speech. Most people prefer to use the pronouns he and she. However, some don't.

The information provided in this week's Office of Diversity and Inclusion newsletter was offered as a resource to our campus community on inclusive practices.

We strive to be a diverse and inclusive campus and to ensure that everyone feels welcome, accepted, and respected.
My apologies to the "we're not happy unless we're offended" crowd, but let me make this clear: I will not use gender-neutral pronouns, no matter how mainstream the practice may become. The world is already complicated as it is. Why must we complicate it further?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Watch the latest (and shortest) 'Star Wars' teaser

The latest (and shortest) teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuted today on Instagram. Enjoy!

A video posted by Star Wars (@starwars) on

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

'The Empire Strikes Back' trailer in the style of 'The Force Awakens'

Man, I can't wait until this comes out!

(via Entertainment Weekly)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Blind mother 'sees' her unborn son thanks to 3D-printed ultrasound

Few words are able to describe the feeling an expectant mother has when she is waiting to see her unborn child during an ultrasound for the first time. But what if the mother is blind? A hospital in Brazil was able to find a way around that thanks to 3D printing technology:

On a more sobering note, I ran across this story the same day I found out a Planned Parenthood clinic opened just a mile-and-a-half from my house. That somehow made this video even more touching.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Eagle punches drone out of the sky

Concerned about the proliferation of drones and the loss of privacy? Just get yourself a pet wedge-tailed eagle.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Satirical video series sums up just about everything you need to know about government

Poor Alexis. All she wants is to live her life and follow her dream, but her overbearing boyfriend, Scott "Gov" Govinski, insists on saving her from herself. Yeah, it's a pretty thinly veiled metaphor, but it's pretty funny. And pretty spot-on. This five-part comedy series is brought to you by the Independent Institute:

Episode 1: An Education in Debt

Episode 2: Protection from Jobs

Episode 3: A Remedy for Healthcare Choices

Episode 4: House Poor

Episode 5: Keeping a Close Eye on Privacy

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