Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pronoun Pro-nonsense: Truth, From Concentrate

Nearly everywhere and especially in academic circles, a writer must trip all over himself to avoid offending any one of his readers. The very basis of this soft-hearted, soft-minded pursuit is wasteful and absurd: What does this semantic gerrymandering hope to save us from, and what does it really accomplish?
The preemptive strike in writing (that is, constructing your prose in a specific way in the fear that one of your readers might be offended) has taken over writing of any and every kind. The most obvious example is writers’ insistence on a gender-neutral plural pronoun, like substituting “he or she” or “s/he” for the widely accepted and generally understood “he”. Even more insipid is the use of “they”, which is, of course, a plural. The use of “he” isn’t a vestige of the patriarchal paradigm: it’s a grammatical convention, just like commas and contractions. No thinking reader would think that an author is referring to men only when using “he” in an example, just no informed person could assume that the use of “mankind” or “man” to refer to the general population is in some way jilting the women. In the use of “he”, there is no political agenda and the reader can focus on what point the author is making. However, the modern insistence on cumbersome and overtly PC pronouns superimposes the feminist agenda over whatever the author might have been trying to say. The kind of ego-saving, guilt-inducing hijacking of traditional grammar is almost censorship, and it usurps what might have been a gender-neutral message and makes equality for women the point of every written work.
To have an opinion is to risk offending someone. As the saying goes, “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” Writers and the world in general should stop worrying about maybe bruising one reader’s tortured ego, and allow commonly accepted conventions (no matter what male-centric world contrived them) to have their rightful, gender-neutral place. Those who are offended by such unintended “insults” should realize that the world is cruel, truth is barbed, and not everything carries a political message. Feminists should stop perpetuating their dusty agendas and realize that by even insisting on the usage or “she” in place of “he”, they are implying that there is still a difference between the two.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Peace, Love, and...Victoria's Secret?

I know as well as any other fashion-forward person that it’s tempting to make a serious statement with your clothes. One seems oh-so-much more worldly and mysterious when wearing an outfit that promotes human rights and global change instead of just, you know, one’s love for pink sundresses. However, the goal of outfits like that should be to say something important about an issue without it just being printed in bold face across your chest.
I have absolutely no issue with T-shirts that raise money and awareness for important causes (the Gap’s RED campaign comes to mind). It’s the clothing companies (and the customers who buy said clothing) that perplex me the most on this issue. The most obvious abuse of the statement outfit is the ubiquitous peace sign. I am confident that most of the general population and an even higher percentage of college students would like to promote peace. But do all the girls who flounce around in their peace-sign festooned velour tracksuits really think about what peace means? Do they consider how peace is attained as much as they consider their outfit? Do they think that by buying a bikini printed with the symbol, it is bringing the world any closer to peace than by buying one with, say, skulls? Or do they stop to consider that many pieces with peace signs on then are made in sweatshops, in countries plagued by civil unrest? I like an ironic outfit as much as anyone, but for all parties involved, it’s better when the irony is intentional.
I’m not condemning all the women who identify with or wear the symbol of the Hippie generation. It is a perfectly admirable thing to want others to know that you support peace. I just hope that consumers are not lulled into a sense of false purpose, that girls don’t think that by wearing a peace sign, peace is any closer. It is one thing to advertise to your fellow Pink-bedazzled peers that you want to reduce conflict in the world, it is entirely another to think about and decide what peace is, or how to attain it. And I wonder how much closer peace would be if we spent as much money on aid for the agencies that fight for mutual harmony among people as we do on merchandise that is printed with the symbol for pacifism without saying much at all.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Here's the Why:

It feels like a crazy kind of hubris to think that anyone (other than, like, my mom) would care what I think. As a young person, I am mostly thought of by the rest of the world as a depressing statistic, a harbinger for the scary future of the country, or at least something that can't be understood. So as a girl who is trying to be aware of the world and thinking about what it means, I think there are a few adults who might like to know "what the young people are thinking about". That's what I want to write about: what strikes me uniquely about pop culture, politics, Pop-tarts -- anything. It's not that I want to say something; it's that I've got something to say. There's a quote that says "So many adults is that they forget what it's like to be a kid." So here's a piece of that: what it's like to be this kid.