One of the tactics that progressives often employ against conservatives is to laugh off the idea that there is a culture war underway and to argue that those on the right render themselves ridiculous by obsessing over a bit of youthful craziness here and there on college campuses.
But, as we have seen, what happens in academia eventually seeps into society as a whole and those who care about free speech at their peril ignore what college students say.
For example, there is an entire genre these days in college student publications that could be dubbed the, “I am queer and I am here” essay.
These op-eds are quite common and one finds them routinely mixed in online campus newspapers with expressions of solidarity with dining services unionization drives, calls for divestment in fossil fuels, reviews of newly opened coffee houses and so forth.
And often the “I am queer and I am here” essay is merely a bit of narcissistic identity announcement by some troubled young adult male who has decided that he is actually a woman and who then gushes over the delights of taking hormones. Editors of campus newspapers dutifully print these self-centered pieces.
Interestingly, there seem to be few accounts by women who want to be men—maybe these women are happy enough wearing men’s clothes and don’t tend to go the whole medical weirdness route—or, if they do, don’t chronicle the process in college newspapers.
But sometimes these essays are not merely tiresome and pretentious claims of courageousness for finding one’s “true” self via “gender affirming” quackery. Sometimes, they take the form of demands that everyone around the queer person in question (and I use the term “queer” because that is the term that the sexual left has embraced for those who are not normal heterosexuals—what they refer to as the “cisgendered”—although that term seems to cover male homosexuals and lesbians) use the “preferred pronouns” that the queer person has adopted to refer to himself or herself.
Let’s be blunt. This is a drive for domination over everyday forms of expression and should be resisted at every turn. Accuracy of language should not surrendered in the name of “inclusivity” or “diversity” or misplaced courtesy. Going along with someone else’s delusion and submitting to demands for compelled speech is not good for anyone and is a surrender of common sense and self-respect.
Today’s example of this campaign for pronoun hegemony is an essay in The Pioneer Log, the student-run newspaper of Lewis & Clark College, a liberal arts institution in Portland, Oregon.
The title of the piece leaves no doubt as to the author’s view that others must bow to her demand to be referred to as “they” even though it makes no logical or grammatical sense to refer to an individual in the plural, Advocacy from cisgender people must not stop with correct pronoun usage.
First of all, note that she assumes that everyone is supposed to advocate for the queer agenda and that "correct pronoun usage" means what she wants to be called.
The essay has in common with others of this genre the assumption that everyone is as obsessed with her sexual orientation as she is:
Nearly every class or event at Lewis & Clark begins with quick introductions which often include sharing pronouns. In addition, I frequently wear my they/them earrings and speak openly about being nonbinary. Why then, do people use the wrong pronouns for me in academic and social situations at LC? The answer is simple: Cisgender people usually do not put the work in to undo their assumptions about the transgender people they interact with on a daily basis.
This passage alone is rich in many of the tropes of the “I am queer and I am here” essay form.
First, it has a bit of crowing (“which often include sharing pronouns”) about how much ground American academia has already conceded to the queer lobby in that non-queer faculty members and students have to allocate class time to attending to the minutiae of pronoun use so as to make the classroom environment “safe” and “inclusive.” I am so glad I did not have to provide my pronouns in college. I was just a female and that was not something I had to defend in the face of a transgender onslaught.
Second, in many essays by queer students there is a heavy emphasis on personal adornment. Many of the would-be men, for instance, preen about wearing skirts. In this case, the writer expects other people to note:
I frequently wear my they/them earrings
The message here seems to be that everyone in the world is to take especial note of the writer’s earrings and tailor his or her language accordingly.
Third, the writer seems to think that because she trumpets her sexuality-related self-identification that settles the matter as far as the rest of the world having to fall into line with what she wants, free speech concerns be damned:
speak openly about being nonbinary
Fourth, she expresses bafflement at normal human behavior and decrees that even though most people look at her and see a female, they are “wrong” because she does not perceive herself that way. Others are expected to refer to a single person as a number of people (i.e., “they”) no matter how confusing and nonsensical this is:
Why then, do people use the wrong pronouns for me in academic and social situations
Fifth, there is the resort to one of the catchphrases of wokeness (“do the work”) and the demand that the rest of us stop being bigots and do what she wants, as if it is morally slothful not to bow down to her queerness-related dictates:
Cisgender people usually do not put the work in to undo their assumptions about the transgender people they interact with on a daily basis.
Note that if you see a woman in front of you in a classroom (and, horror of horrors, do not take sufficient note of what her earrings say), you are expected to pretend that the woman is not a woman. That is, you must buy into the woman’s “presentation” as “nonbinary” (or something) and that you must undo your assumptions because that person gets to order the universe.
This sort of thinking is pervasive in the opinion pages of college student journalism these days—and is infiltrating into workplaces.
Like many essays in this genre, victimhood is a prominent theme:
though I have come across the word nonbinary and singular they pronoun, I still suffer from this deficit
and, as is common in many of these essays, it proceeds to an aggressive form of activism that demands that others toe the preferred pronoun line:
The burden of work should not be on me, especially when at every turn I make my identity and pronouns clear… I do insist that cis people put in the work for this ideological delinking
Now, it would be easy to dismiss these edicts as just the fulminations of an angry undergraduate in a college paper op-ed. But what she is arguing for is becoming normalized. To wit, professors and students in college classrooms are increasingly expected to go along with the identity politics of men who are convinced they are women and vice versa at the cost of adhering to basic biological facts and their own personal integrity and commitment to the truth.
She even assigns the unenlightened some homework:
practicing the pronouns of others in private
as if her peers and professors have all the time in the world and need to self-indoctrinate.
She concludes by scolding (and note the use of the chilling term “unlearning”):
Honestly, I do not care what this unlearning looks like, as long as cis people are dedicated to doing the work to understand others. Using my pronouns is the bare minimum, and many of you fail to even do that.
Like many of these essays, the tone is a mixture of frustration that the world does not revolve around the queer writer and demands that it start to do so. And, unless we (especially actual, non-queer women) push back, we will all end up living in the wacky world of the woke.
Here are some practical suggestions.
1) Under no circumstances should you agree to refer in classroom discussions to an individual as “they.” If you know his or her name, use that (e.g., “I agree with one of Jane’s points…”) and if you do not know the person’s name just say, “As my classmate said…”
2) If you are a professor and do not know the person’s name, you can say something like, “A good point was made earlier…” and go on from there.
3) If the person takes umbrage at being somehow “unpersoned” and demands to be addressed as “they” simply refuse to do so and say, “I am sorry, but in personal interactions with individuals I cannot use the plural as that is inaccurate and confusing. It is also not acceptable to force others to say what you demand that they say.”
It is just such a shame that we have to spend our time devising polite stratagems to defeat the woke. But defeat them we must.