Q: When should a he be a she?
A: As often as a she should be a he
A reader, or follower as WordPress cultishly calls them, occasionally contacts me to point out that my posts refer to non-specific humans as “he”. Like in that previous post, Swampy Friday, where the anonymous and fictional practitioner is referred to as “he” throughout. Never “he or she”, or some other phrasing that acknowledges the non gender specificity of the content.
This anonymous reader should be finally relieved that they are no more .
From now on the generic gender will always be female, unless it matters , or refers to a specific individual. I don’t like “he or she”, it’s ugly. And when I read “she” in a text, I’m initially puzzled as I think they’re referring to an actual person, recognise it’s not, then realise with surprise that it’s the default gender of the text. Not the writer or a recommendation or reassertion of how society should be in general.
I like the surprise because it brings to the forefront if my mind that I expected the default to be male. This is only a step and a hop away from being surprised that a police-officer is female.
I am choosing a default gender as I don’t like “he or she”. Make your mind up, is what I want to shout when I read that. And the default is female, knowing there isn’t default gender of either type in reality, but because it’s nicer not to unwittingly conspire and reaffirm sexism in every post I type. She is a surprise and I like surprises.
The King is dead, long live the Queen!
The systems thinking lesson
I’d never noticed it before and when it was pointed out to me I was irritated. I thought they were being a “clever clogs”, a bit po-faced and generally felt miffed as at heart I knew they/he/she were in fact correct. This must be what it’s like when some systemsy po-faced clever clogs like me points out an error or flaw in what somebody does or says. Nobody likes to be wrong, that’s what cognitive dissonance was invented for. To maintain rightness by hastening the troubling business of changing your mind when it’s clearly wrong.
Although the anonymous follower was polite and stuck to simple observations of fact and making me ask questions of the posts I’d typed, it still annoyed me, but I got there in the end. As I’ve learned, it’s best not to tell people how exactly wrong they are, but give them a path of questions that will allow them to learn for themselves. Not only does it allow for actual learning, instead of teaching or “hectoring” as it could be, but also it may turn out that they aren’t “wrong” at all. Only if they, and they alone, ask the questions would any useful answers come from it.
This has got the clumsily non-intuitive title of “normative learning” in that Vanguard Method. It’s not sticky, and I dislike the phrase, but it works. Worked on me, and asking questions of reality is always the best thing to ask questions of. Everything else tends to be just opinion.