Reporting the lunacies of gender theory can become mind-numbing. But the news that Oxford University, which may be the world’s most renowned seat of learning, has drunk the Kool-Aid of gender-neutral pronoun-ism is hilarious.
Repeatedly “mispronouning” a transgender person already constitutes harassment under Oxford’s behaviour code for transgender students. A students’ union leaflet recently instructed Oxonians to use gender neutral pronouns such as “ze” rather than “he” or “she” so as not to offend transgender students, The Times reported.
This provoked a media storm, much to the surprise of the Oxford University Students’ Union. To them, extreme caution in the use of pronouns is “standard practice, not just in Oxford but in student communities and LGBTQ-friendly spaces all over, and we encourage its spread.”
What constitutes caution? Explaining to people what your preferred pronoun is.
We … recommend that at events like campaign meetings, workshops and training sessions, people introduce themselves with their pronouns. It reduces awkwardness, emphasises that gender cannot be assumed, and most importantly helps make trans students feel comfortable. It’s a very small step that can have massive positive effects.
This must make Students’ Union committee meetings even more tedious than they usually are. Here is a typical self-introduction:
Hullo, my name is Jan Brown and I am gender-fluid and my preferred pronouns are ‘zie’ for close friends, ‘tey’ for casual acquaintances, ‘ver’ for social inferiors, ‘twee’ for social superiors, ‘ve’ for family members, and ‘ugh’ for bureaucrats. Although Vietnamese has at least ten ways of saying ‘me’, some people do find my infinitely simpler system confusing. So before moving my amendment, I shall review my preferred pronouns, giving some examples and explaining my journey to discerning this week’s chosen gender.
OK, I made that one up, but Oxford’s code of conduct for dealing with transgender students does include this gem:
Mr Simon Bates wishes to be known in future as Mx Si Bates, with the invented gender-neutral pronoun Zie. “Zie is not transitioning, but does not feel like a man or a woman. Zie is genderqueer.”
Whatever else may be said about gender-neutral pronouns, they certainly add a layer of complication to social life, turning ordinary student chitchat into a minefield of offence and harassment.
What will this do to Oxford’s stellar reputation?
Oxford is training the best and brightest in Britain to become aspiring Sir Humphrey Applebys. Tiptoeing through pronominal minefields will surely be an excellent boot camp for pussyfooting, pettifogging, prevaricating bureaucrats.
But on the negative side, it’s likely to bind students to a Procrustean bed of political correctness, making them afraid to speak their own mind. I wish Zie well.
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.