Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, etc)

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby morriswalters » Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:07 pm UTC

Forest Goose wrote:Excuse the, perhaps, extreme naivete, but would this be analogous to how you shouldn't describe someone as "overweight"*, even if it is purely, and innocently, descriptive (I've made this accident, innocuously, and realize that it is not socially acceptable) - if yes, then I will, merely, say that I wish we lived in a society where we could speak innocently, and I will curtail my usage/modify it. If not, could you elaborate further.
It's the context. My doctor would use descriptive language to describe me. In some other context I might find that hurtful. Because it might be directed at me with implied malice. I may know or be ignorant of the speech and its implied malice and still might be hurt in the context. That is, that someone who holds influence over me in some fashion, may be swayed by that malice. But in the case of a doctor the words have context that is not malicious. It is after all correct. And descriptive. Impersonal pronouns themselves aren't immune to context. The movie trope of the wealthy Matron referring to someone as "THAT Person" in tones dripping with disdain, would be one example.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby KrytenKoro » Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:30 pm UTC

leady wrote:Out of curiosity what is the reasoning that society at large should defer to self categorisations and by what criterion should such a categorisation be deemed valid enough for social enforcement?

Are we seriously playing the "it's all made up" card again?

To anyone else who cares, the point I was attempting to make was that the heuristics that two people use to isolate a face in the cloud shouldn't be classed as anything more than what they are, shortcuts, with no meaning or intent, other than to isolate that face in the crowd to the person you are communicating with. How much info you have to pass to do that isolation is a product of how well the two people can communicate

And the point I was trying to make is that your view on this issue is representative of how you work, not how humanity at large works. Specifically, there are other people with paradigms that completely contradict how yours works, so yours (and to be fair, theirs) shouldn't be assumed to be the end-all, be-all.

In shorter words: if you're a respectful person about what you're doing and are gracious when corrected, or wrong, I don't think you're being out of line using a common construct when it is of value to use (I'm prone to overspecifying, so I might say, "the man in the gray suit, with red hair, who is shorter than usual", I don't feel bad about any of that, it is a reasonable description of what appears before me, that would be the reasonable data to pass on - as it is how I am distinguishing them to begin with).

Sure, you wouldn't be bothered by it. That, again, is not representative.

Stepping past what should be blinkeringly obvious situations for an analogy that might help illustrate them -- imagine the man overhears you, and has been constantly mocked and harassed by those around him for being "a midget". Maybe he had a dream of playing basketball and was told he was too tiny, whatever. Whether or not you meant ill, being told that he is "shorter than usual" (with the implicit comment that he is abnormal, an "other") can do a lot of harm, especially when we're defining "usual" in the completely slapdash, not-actually-realistic "6 foot white male" that American culture loves to do.

*I attach no value to body weight, so please, no one, read me as trying to link up gender differences to something that might be considered negative by some

Over what weight? Really think about this.

It's all well and good to say that you attach no value to body weight, when the language you're using still fundamentally tells the target that they are "Other".

English seems to be in a pretty good position with the singular "they" (assuming it is as well accepted as some here claim). But in most other languages, there is no such thing and addressing someone with the neutral pronoun is pretty universally seen as insulting (compared to implying that you can't tell their gender being only a little bit insulting). So you have a less than 5% chance of pissing someone off when using the "obvious" gendered pronoun and a be fine otherwise, compared to a 95% chance of pissing them off and a 5% chance of just coming over a bit awkward/confused with the neutral one. And then there are languages that don't even have a neutral, so you're just forced to guess.

This is...really only true for Romance languages. Almost all other languages not only have acceptable gender-neutral pronouns, but often prefer them or only have gendered pronouns due to contact with English and Romance languages. From a quick perusal of the wikipedia article, Romance languages also have gender-inclusive pronouns, although it doesn't specify whether they are considered offensive or impersonal as you claim. Only other ones I'm seeing listed are Norwegian and Swedish, which have had a single new word proposed for each language.

Well, and then there's some people inventing new pronouns - but they can't seem to decide on one, and everyone outside these circles will just be confused if you use them. So I'll just treat them as a way to signal your membership to a tribe, and since it's not my tribe, I won't use them.

It's not the same groups creating each word, so it's not that they "can't decide", and you're choosing to just write them off is a statement on you, not them.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby leady » Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:41 pm UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:
leady wrote:Out of curiosity what is the reasoning that society at large should defer to self categorisations and by what criterion should such a categorisation be deemed valid enough for social enforcement?

Are we seriously playing the "it's all made up" card again?


I don't know - how do you make the determination?

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:42 pm UTC

Forest Goose wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:@Forest Goose: A person may be able to intend only the first, which doesn't make them a bad person, but words often carry unintended meaning, and so it's still a *problem* to say certain things.


Excuse the, perhaps, extreme naivete, but would this be analogous to how you shouldn't describe someone as "overweight"*, even if it is purely, and innocently, descriptive (I've made this accident, innocuously, and realize that it is not socially acceptable) - if yes, then I will, merely, say that I wish we lived in a society where we could speak innocently, and I will curtail my usage/modify it. If not, could you elaborate further.

*I attach no value to body weight, so please, no one, read me as trying to link up gender differences to something that might be considered negative by some.
If by "innocently" you mean "without our words carrying any of the connotations others conventionally attach to them", then yes, that's what I mean: It is not actually possible to speak "innocently" in the way you want. I would further suggest that such a world is not totally desirable, because it amounts to wishing for a world where no one expects you to fully understand the words you're using.

Autolykos wrote:English seems to be in a pretty good position with the singular "they" (assuming it is as well accepted as some here claim). But in most other languages, there is no such thing and addressing someone with the neutral pronoun is pretty universally seen as insulting (compared to implying that you can't tell their gender being only a little bit insulting). So you have a less than 5% chance of pissing someone off when using the "obvious" gendered pronoun and a be fine otherwise, compared to a 95% chance of pissing them off and a 5% chance of just coming over a bit awkward/confused with the neutral one. And then there are languages that don't even have a neutral, so you're just forced to guess.
Well, and then there's some people inventing new pronouns - but they can't seem to decide on one, and everyone outside these circles will just be confused if you use them. So I'll just treat them as a way to signal your membership to a tribe, and since it's not my tribe, I won't use them.
The fallacious reasoning here is that the "pissing off" is equal in both cases. But using a neutral pronouns doesn't piss off people in the 95% nearly as much as misgendering hurts those in the 5%.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:44 pm UTC

Also, if it is all made up, so what?

Money and laws and national borders and every word anyone has ever said are also all made up. That doesn't mean they aren't real or aren't important.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby KrytenKoro » Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:49 pm UTC

leady wrote:
KrytenKoro wrote:
leady wrote:Out of curiosity what is the reasoning that society at large should defer to self categorisations and by what criterion should such a categorisation be deemed valid enough for social enforcement?

Are we seriously playing the "it's all made up" card again?


I don't know - how do you make the determination?

How do you make the determination that someone has had appendicitis, or a tonsilectomy?
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby leady » Thu Apr 02, 2015 3:31 pm UTC

By the objective evidence that can be independently checked that these people belong to the category "people without an appendix" , scars, medical records, invasive surgery *shrug*

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Forest Goose » Thu Apr 02, 2015 3:37 pm UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:Stepping past what should be blinkeringly obvious situations for an analogy that might help illustrate them -- imagine the man overhears you, and has been constantly mocked and harassed by those around him for being "a midget". Maybe he had a dream of playing basketball and was told he was too tiny, whatever. Whether or not you meant ill, being told that he is "shorter than usual" (with the implicit comment that he is abnormal, an "other") can do a lot of harm, especially when we're defining "usual" in the completely slapdash, not-actually-realistic "6 foot white male" that American culture loves to do.

It's all well and good to say that you attach no value to body weight, when the language you're using still fundamentally tells the target that they are "Other".


So, how am I to describe people? I can no longer use weight, apparent gender, or height - what is acceptable?

Your, "Other" seems to carry some sort of value, but, on that point, all descriptors should isolate out what is being described - if I cannot do that, then I cannot describe, I see no real point to politeness if it cripples language.

How do you mean, "abnormal", most of us are full of abnormalities - or, our collective traits, as a unit, are highly abnormal. If you picked nine, or ten, things about me, then listed them, they would be quite abnormal, indeed, that is the point, a series of traits that is normal isn't very useful at all.

To a certain extent, your reply feels like it is picking apart language. I would also strongly dispute "fundamentally", I don't think something can "fundamentally" communicate something that it is earnestly not meant to communicate, is not felt, and is their own way of reading into words - I don't dispute that a term can, in the context of a hear-er, mean more than what it was communicating, or have unpleasant effect, but I'm struggling to seeing how that "fundamentally" tells the "target" anything (if I said your use of "target" strikes me as the type of language only a highly aggressive person would use, and truthfully meant that, would you agree that I, your target, in this case, have been fundamentally told, by you, that you are aggressive, that that is what you communicated, on the grounds that the word "target" can have an aggressive intent and that that is the association I made?)

The only point I'm getting from what you're saying is this: language can hurt others, even when the hurtful meaning isn't intended and not contained in the literal meaning and reference of your terms, avoiding this is not possible, and knowing if it will occur is unpredictable. In other words: inevitably, you will offend, there is no method of knowing if, when, and what.

*Why is the man in the gray suit being compared to a white male of six feet - I never specified that that is what "usual" meant, nor did I ever mention his colour. Or, is it that since that is what someone may take "usual" to mean that that man may therefore so take it, and, thus, supposing he does, that that is what is meant...no offense, but I am deeply confused here - perhaps I am out of my depth and should just stick to what has worked, thus far, and minimized offense as far as I've seen.

gmalivuk wrote:If by "innocently" you mean "without our words carrying any of the connotations others conventionally attach to them", then yes, that's what I mean: It is not actually possible to speak "innocently" in the way you want. I would further suggest that such a world is not totally desirable, because it amounts to wishing for a world where no one expects you to fully understand the words you're using.


I'm not exactly sure how the last part is meant - if we were speaking innocently, then words would have no implicit conventions of value attached. If I wanted to say you were bad things X, Y, and Z, then I could just say that you were such, explicitly. In other words, in such a world, there wouldn't be that additional meaning to understand, so there is no expectation unfulfilled.

But, my confusion, is that some of this seems to entail that the meaning of the words I'm using does not exist in the words, but in the minds of the people hearing - and from some of this discussion, I get the sense that the hearer of those words has rather ample freedom to determine that meaning. If the short man may decide my words are deriding his height, independently of me, then am I misunderstanding the word "short" or is he misunderstanding what I've said? If the former, then I'm at a severe loss of determining what to say, since I am, seemingly, responsible for things determined by others (not all of which I can be certain of in advance).

I can understand the notion that someone may mistake my meaning for another meaning, but if it is the case that I am the one mistaken because they chose another meaning, then I am at a loss. But, if it is the former, then I see no reason I cannot describe a man as shorter than usual (or short, relative myself - or relative my common experience and observation of height), or etc. If the latter, then why ought I trust any of my language to not offend - and, seeing no reason one offense is worse than another, why should I not assume it will all be equally, albeit unintentionally, offensive?
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby morriswalters » Thu Apr 02, 2015 4:05 pm UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:And the point I was trying to make is that your view on this issue is representative of how you work, not how humanity at large works. Specifically, there are other people with paradigms that completely contradict how yours works, so yours (and to be fair, theirs) shouldn't be assumed to be the end-all, be-all.
Communications is about the ratio of signal to noise. To get the signal requires us to understand the paradigms of the culture we inhabit. The noise occurs when the paradigms don't match. It is why there are discussion forums, water cooler conversations, and heated arguments between friends. An attempt is being made to sync these paradigms(social conventions). I'm sharing my meaning, or if you will, my opinion.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Apr 02, 2015 4:44 pm UTC

Forest Goose wrote:So, how am I to describe people? I can no longer use weight, apparent gender, or height - what is acceptable?
If you can't think of any way to describe weight other than "this person weighs too much" (which is what "overweight" means), then no, you probably shouldn't describe people by weight. If you can't think of any way to describe height other than with words like "midget", then no, you probably shouldn't describe people by height.

You should also probably try learning a few new words.

The only point I'm getting from what you're saying is this: language can hurt others, even when the hurtful meaning isn't intended and not contained in the literal meaning and reference of your terms, avoiding this is not possible, and knowing if it will occur is unpredictable. In other words: inevitably, you will offend, there is no method of knowing if, when, and what.
There's only no method of knowing if you insist on completely ignoring every single person who ever tells you what words or expressions are offensive.

Fortunately, there's nothing forcing you to ignore all those people!

I'm not exactly sure how the last part is meant - if we were speaking innocently, then words would have no implicit conventions of value attached. If I wanted to say you were bad things X, Y, and Z, then I could just say that you were such, explicitly. In other words, in such a world, there wouldn't be that additional meaning to understand, so there is no expectation unfulfilled.
And I'm saying such a world would be undesirable because there would be no way to communicate anything but by explicitly laying out every single detail, which is impractical if not impossible.

But, my confusion, is that some of this seems to entail that the meaning of the words I'm using does not exist in the words, but in the minds of the people hearing
Yes, that is how meaning works.

If the latter, then why ought I trust any of my language to not offend - and, seeing no reason one offense is worse than another, why should I not assume it will all be equally, albeit unintentionally, offensive?
Again, you are capable of comprehending what other people tell you, yes? Then you are capable of learning which things are okay to say to those people and which things are not, and you are capable of adjusting your behavior accordingly.

It's kind of like the literal entirety of human social interaction that way.

The problem isn't when you naively and accidentally cause offense, the problem is when you can't or won't learn from it.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Forest Goose » Thu Apr 02, 2015 5:55 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:If you can't think of any way to describe weight other than "this person weighs too much" (which is what "overweight" means), then no, you probably shouldn't describe people by weight. If you can't think of any way to describe height other than with words like "midget", then no, you probably shouldn't describe people by height.

You should also probably try learning a few new words.


Your response is confusing, for a variety of reasons:

1.) I admitted that using the term "overweight" can be offensive - as for "weighs too much", that is actually a thing, some people are, legitimately, visibly, "overweight". I smoke too much, if someone wants to describe me this way, by all means, feel free (with all the attendant implication of stained teeth, smoky odour, and otherwise - as those are actual side effects of smoking, as expected). So, not only am I not advocating using the term, your objection to it isn't even a great one - since, again, someone can actually be overweight, it is not a nebulous indicator; meaning "over the weight that is reasonably healthy". Would you object to saying that a person 5'10", 300 pounds, with high % of bodyfat is overweight; or would you simply object to saying it in front of them - for, the term does seem apt.

2.) I never used the term "midget", so you are bringing it up, why? I said "shorter than usual", which, again, is actually descriptive to most people - if a man is 5'5", I believe that "shorter than usual" would be a reasonable description of that man as pertains to his height. Do you believe it isn't?

3.) I know plenty of words, yet you are responding to one I didn't say and one I said I don't use...so, again, not really seeing the connection.

There's only no method of knowing if you insist on completely ignoring every single person who ever tells you what words or expressions are offensive.

Fortunately, there's nothing forcing you to ignore all those people!


The context of this was pointing out an individual to a friend, across the room. At what point was I refusing to listen to people telling me that what I said was offensive?

If I say "shorter than usual" and the man says, "I find that offensive", then I apologize and explain that I intended no offense and will not use it again - I fail to see the problem.

My problem is that, in the context given, it sure sounds like I would be in the wrong for saying "shorter than usual" because the man may take offense - my issue was that I fail to see how a story may not be concocted for any descriptor. Of course, once you remove the context, suddenly place me in a dialog with the person (in which, I guess, I'm describing them to them...I'm not sure why, you tell me, it's your context now, I guess), I can see why using terms they are saying are offensive would be offensive...good thing I never advocated doing that obviously offensive thing you're replying to me about...

Yes, that is how meaning works.


Is it? Really? You get to decide what the words of others mean and you are right in what you take that meaning to be? You say, "Yes, that is how meaning works.", I take that to mean, "Yes, Forest Goose, I'll give you a $100, you don't even have to pay it back, free gift!", will you now send me my hundred dollars? No, of course not, that's absurdly stupid.

People can take something the wrong way, and reasonably do so, on the basis of various communication patterns in conjunction with the words, but meaning is not determined by the hearer, ultimately. If you tell me I am "Too tall", without any nastiness meant, and I take that as "Wow, he hates tall people, fuck him!", I'm not correct - if you, then, clarified in a sincere fashion, I would not be right to insist that you meant the more hateful version - do you believe that I would be?

Again, you are capable of comprehending what other people tell you, yes? Then you are capable of learning which things are okay to say to those people and which things are not, and you are capable of adjusting your behavior accordingly.


Oh good! We've moved from describing a person across the room back to the person telling me what they think of my description and, for some reason, I seem to be refusing to listen to them - why am I refusing? Apparently this me in a different context from the original is a giant dick - good thing I'm not them and am not, at all, advocating any of the things this other me appears to be engaged in!

The problem isn't when you naively and accidentally cause offense, the problem is when you can't or won't learn from it.


Again, what does this have to do with anything I was saying?

Just to be clear: I at no point, ever, mentioned disregarding when someone says they are offended - indeed, as far as I can see, the context was pointing someone out from across a room and being overheard. I am talking with regard to that instant of being overheard - I am not saying that it should be impossible to cause offense, I am not saying people do not have the right to be offended, I am saying that I am having trouble understanding why I ought not be able to use genuine descriptive terms on the grounds that they may possibly offend (for example, apparently, the "shorter than usual" man may be very sensitive about his height) - seeing as that applies to every descriptive term ever, that was my problem. Again, let me stress this, really stress this: you are the one bringing in some sudden dialog between me and the offended party, you are the one replying as if I refuse to give a shit what they say, and you are the one saying I was using the word "midget"; so, yeah, I guess if I grant all of the things you imported from nowhere, then, yep, I'm wrong and you're right - however, I don't, so I fail to see their point.

And I'm saying such a world would be undesirable because there would be no way to communicate anything but by explicitly laying out every single detail, which is impractical if not impossible.


So, mathematics, physics, and analytic philosophy get by quite fine - so do most other branches of academics. But, that's not even what I'm talking about -- being able to communicate does not require that stating someone's skin colour carries with it the implication and memory of years of racism - nor does being able to communicate require that mentioning someone's weight need imply they are unattractive, or whatever nasty thing it's supposed to, instead of, simply, that they are of a certain body type. I'm not seeing what fundamental aspect of communication requires that words between generic people require culturally implicit meaning not connected to the definition of the term. Do you mean to say that I can't order a beer from the bartender, for lack of time to specify the details, if saying someone is "shorter than usual" doesn't make people think "midget"?*
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby KrytenKoro » Thu Apr 02, 2015 6:29 pm UTC

when I said to really truly think about what you're saying, I wasn't acting as an apologist saying all there's no such thing as overweight. I'm asking what how do you define overweight when you say it. Are you actually comparing it to some medical definition that you've researched? Have you actually determined what the average weight for their age, gender, and ethnicity is? Have you made a medical determination that they are unhealthy?

Ooooor, are you comparing them against some imaginary ideal that's not even based in reality and has no objective reasons to be called ideal behind it, beyond it being what you personally believe to be ideal?

Seeing as you claim "5 foot 5 is shorter than usual", evidence tends to lean toward the latter - that you are relying on personal, irrational biases with no basis in reality, and defending them because change is hard and youre not currently on the short end of the stick.

Also oh my god how is it so much harder to say " the 5'5"ish guy over there" than "the man who is shorter than usual"? That doesnt even sound like how native speakers talk, and is just crazy broad.

As for "being able to listen to other people", if you haveny heard objections to that kind of language until the guy actually says " i dont like being called that", then youve been stuffing your fingers in your ears. Like, right now, we're saying that kind of staff and youre just waving it off with "i dont understand why i should bother". Right now.

Leady: and like those, trans etc is possible to medically diagnose. So stop pretending it's just playing pretend.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Apr 02, 2015 6:36 pm UTC

If none of that is related to what you're saying, then I'm not sure why you were responding to me in the first place. I only said
gmalivuk wrote:If by "innocently" you mean "without our words carrying any of the connotations others conventionally attach to them", then yes, that's what I mean: It is not actually possible to speak "innocently" in the way you want. I would further suggest that such a world is not totally desirable, because it amounts to wishing for a world where no one expects you to fully understand the words you're using.


My first point was that it's impossible to speak without your words carrying some additional meaning. I didn't say that you are therefore wrong for ever saying words that happen to connote bad things for someone. I just said that it's impossible to use words without any connotation. You seemed to get defensive about this point, wondering, "How can we ever possibly know what connotations a word has?" My answer was that you can listen to other speakers when they tell you.

My second point was that it is both undesirable and impossible in practice to strip all symbols of all connotations apart from the one thing a person wishes to communicate. (Nevermind the fact that people almost never really want to communicate just one thing to begin with.)

Forest Goose wrote:I'm not seeing what fundamental aspect of communication requires that words between generic people require culturally implicit meaning not connected to the definition of the term.
Which definition of the term? The one in dictionaries that tracks usage after the fact? A good dictionary will list at least a few of the connotations that a word has, but can never completely enumerate all shades of meaning a word has in all contexts. But those meanings still exist, and like all meanings, they existed before they were added to "the definition".
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby leady » Thu Apr 02, 2015 6:59 pm UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:Also oh my god how is it so much harder to say " the 5'5"ish guy over there" than "the man who is shorter than usual"?


Thats quite likely to be far harder for people to judge so you are losing a huge amount of information, everything is relative

Leady: and like those, trans etc is possible to medically diagnose. So stop pretending it's just playing pretend.


I want to understand how you get to the conclusion social categorisations based on objective measures should be redefined - which is essentially a question of how you define valid categories. I'm actually curious because its something I don't get from the other side so to speak (across multiple categorisations that are fluid)

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Cradarc » Thu Apr 02, 2015 7:04 pm UTC

What I think is a reasonable way to go about things:
1. Address everyone in a way you think is respectful.
2. If that person objects and wants to be addressed differently, you adapt accordingly and apologize for slips.
3. If that person's request seems too absurd or complicated, ask if you can use a more convenient compromise (eg. the name of that person).
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1. If someone addresses you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, respectfully tell them and offer a better way to address you.
2. If that person is genuinely courteous but feels the alternative title is too cumbersome, don't make a big deal about it.
3. The exception is if the word in question is a trigger word for you. In that case, make it very clear to the person in question.

If you follow these rules and for one reason or another, things don't work out, you should avoid talking to that person.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby KrytenKoro » Thu Apr 02, 2015 7:32 pm UTC

leady wrote:Thats quite likely to be far harder for people to judge so you are losing a huge amount of information, everything is relative

Honestly, saying someone is "about five and a half feet" is going to be about or even easier to judge than comparing them to an assumed and probably inaccurate "normal height".

I want to understand how you get to the conclusion social categorisations based on objective measures should be redefined - which is essentially a question of how you define valid categories. I'm actually curious because its something I don't get from the other side so to speak (across multiple categorisations that are fluid)

Oh, okay. Sorry, when things seem like rehashes of the same question over and over I start getting frustrated:

(1) Medical science has no consistent and accurate way of defining sex as a binary. Every known way to define sex ends up demonstrating a continuum.
(2) Gender, which is how people (usually?) want to be referred to by compared to sex, is generally defined relying on brain chemistry and structure, which also demonstrates a continuum. A doctor/scientist could tell you your brain was definitely a man, manish, womanish, definitely a woman, like a Loki's Wager sort of thing, but there's no hard, definite line between "man" and "woman", or even those and "in-between".
(3) So, as with not knowing whether someone has a hysterectomy or not, or had jaw realignment or not, or nose surgery, or what have you, the respectful thing to do is to just not assume until you ask or they tell you. The English language, at least, allows for it.
(4) If you end up in a situation where you absolutely have to describe the sex of someone you don't know, like maybe you got mugged or something, I should think it would still be accurate and objective to call them "masculine" or "feminine". Correct me if I'm inadvertently being offensive, but it seems to me that a continuum still implies edges or poles. With the height example above, it would seem acceptable to me to say "the shortest guy over there", for example, but I could be wrong. My experience is not representative.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby leady » Thu Apr 02, 2015 7:58 pm UTC

cheers - in effect you believe that vagueness invalidates the precision of the categories rendering external assignment irrelevant I think

Oh and the small guy contains more useful information than a precise height. In the same way that a precise description of me is less useful than "that bald guy that looks like a Russian bouncer" if you want to pick me out of a crowd :) (outside of Moscow anyway)

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby KrytenKoro » Thu Apr 02, 2015 9:50 pm UTC

leady wrote:cheers - in effect you believe that vagueness invalidates the precision of the categories rendering external assignment irrelevant I think

Not sure what you're trying to say here.

Oh and the small guy contains more useful information than a precise height. In the same way that a precise description of me is less useful than "that bald guy that looks like a Russian bouncer" if you want to pick me out of a crowd :) (outside of Moscow anyway)

"Bald" is a pretty objective and precise definition. And the actual definitions and guidelines I've been stating would treat "bald guy that looks like a Russian bouncer" as precise and inoffensive.

Go back and reread what I'm actually saying is offensive and unnecessary.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Forest Goose » Thu Apr 02, 2015 10:29 pm UTC

@gmalivuk
Apologies, it has been a stressful day and there are a lot of threads here, I think we may be talking about two different things with regards to listening to people.

My understanding was that, specifically, if I am pointing out a person and say something to which they take offense, even if entirely innocent and unintentional, that not merely do they have the right to take offense, but that they, so to speak, are right in their offense - in the sense that I am at fault for my statement being offensive; coupling this with the ability the render just about any descriptor offensive, seemed an untenable position to me (I would say that if "shorter than usual" can be offensive because a man wanted to play basketball, then "short", "shortest man over there", etc. all are too - "bald" is offensive if someone reads that as their lack of hair being socially unacceptable and is self-conscious, etc.).

At any rate, if I am able to apologize and cease using the offending term for that person, I have no problem with anything being said.

The only thing I find objectionable is the putting of the word, "midget" in my mouth, I never said, nor implied that.

KrytenKoro wrote:Seeing as you claim "5 foot 5 is shorter than usual", evidence tends to lean toward the latter - that you are relying on personal, irrational biases with no basis in reality, and defending them because change is hard and youre not currently on the short end of the stick.


5'5" is shorter than usual for an adult male, so how does evidence lean toward the latter - how are you determining I have irrational bias towards height on the grounds that I am referring to "shorter than usual" as "shorter than usual". (don't take my word for it, though: 1, 10% of males over 20 are 5' 5.5", or shorter - I would say that that qualifies as "less than usual", do you disagree, would you say 10% is usual?)

What change am I not making that is hard?

What stick am I "not on the short end" of? You know nothing about me, nor what end of anything I'm on. Well, I suppose you could go off of a bunch of irrational biases to reach that conclusion, because, again, you don't, actually, know anything about me.

KrytenKoro wrote:Also oh my god how is it so much harder to say " the 5'5"ish guy over there" than "the man who is shorter than usual"? That doesnt even sound like how native speakers talk, and is just crazy broad.


So, allow me to understand: you're someone I should trust to tell me how to not be offensive via assumptions and vague biases, yet you are telling me that I don't sound like a native speaker (by what objective criterion have you determined this? I am a native speaker, it is something I would say, my experience isn't yours, why are you denigrating mine) and, apparently find "crazy" a very reasonable word to use to highlight the uselessness of that description (why not just call it "retarded", I mean, you get to decide when pejorative terms can be used, or not, right - and, I know, I know, "crazy" is different, everyone uses it like that, its negative connotations shouldn't be a big deal...change is hard, I respect that).

As for "being able to listen to other people", if you haveny heard objections to that kind of language until the guy actually says " i dont like being called that", then youve been stuffing your fingers in your ears. Like, right now, we're saying that kind of staff and youre just waving it off with "i dont understand why i should bother". Right now.



So, why are you in a position to talk for a person you aren't about what they find offensive? I'm more than willing to listen to the person in question, I'm more than willing to listen to a reasonable argument - but your story about how a man may find "shorter than usual" offensive proves that someone can, possibly, take offense, that isn't much of anything. I'm rather tall, I like when people refer to me as tall - I also have a rather long nose, I like when people notice that too (and I've had multiple people say a variety of offensive things about it, throughout my life; but, oh my, I wouldn't be happy at all if someone, not me, was telling people that they can't bring it up because I, who they are not, might get offended).

KrytenKoro wrote:"Bald" is a pretty objective and precise definition. And the actual definitions and guidelines I've been stating would treat "bald guy that looks like a Russian bouncer" as precise and inoffensive.


How do you reach that conclusion, if "shorter than usual" can be offensive because someone has been made fun of for being "shorter than usual", then what about:

1.) A person that does not consider themselves bald and, indeed, does have some hair on their head? (or do you mean "bald" as in there is no hair, none, only, ever? I know lots and lots of people that are sensitive about the quantity of hair that they have; "bald" would offend some, for sure, even if many many people would agree with the word).

2.) "Look like a Russian bouncer", so, what happens when someone considers themselves sophisticated, yet comes from a poor background they'd wish to hide, finds "bouncer" as linking them to bars and brawls and feels painted as a thug by the term? By what objective criterion does one determine "looks like a bouncer"? Indeed, not even just "a bouncer", but a Russian one (yet, I see nothing indicating that the person indeed need be Russian, just that they look Russian...whatever exactly that means). And etc. (I look German, I'm quite Irish, several family members would take deep offense at "Looks like a German"-anything.)

The same game can be played with every descriptor you want, and I'm not seeing any convincing reason why what you say is acceptable is actually acceptable, and what you say is not is not -- why do you get to decide, exactly, in the first place? I can twist uncomfortable assumptions, biases, and else out of most anything you say that isn't perfectly formal - to within the same degree of reason that "shorter than usual" is capable of being twisted.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby KrytenKoro » Fri Apr 03, 2015 2:29 pm UTC

Forest Goose wrote:My understanding was that, specifically, if I am pointing out a person and say something to which they take offense, even if entirely innocent and unintentional, that not merely do they have the right to take offense, but that they, so to speak, are right in their offense - in the sense that I am at fault for my statement being offensive; coupling this with the ability the render just about any descriptor offensive, seemed an untenable position to me (I would say that if "shorter than usual" can be offensive because a man wanted to play basketball, then "short", "shortest man over there", etc. all are too - "bald" is offensive if someone reads that as their lack of hair being socially unacceptable and is self-conscious, etc.).

No.

If someone's bald, then they are bald. If they are five foot five, then they are five foot five. There's some objectification issues if you harp on that, if you treat them like that's all they are, but at a certain point if they're in denial of reality, that's not on you. Like, if someone gets offended by their doctor telling them that their drug use is harming their health, they're being irrational -- being pissed about the doctor pointing it out isn't going to stop their heart from quitting. I think if they ask you not to bring something up, but it's clearly, objectively true, like that they're wearing blue shoes, then their offense would only be justified if you are mentioning it not in order to help them, but in order to taunt them. At that point you know they don't like hearing it, and you would refrain out of empathy unless not refraining would be more compassionate.

The defendable offense would be if the manner in which you mention it dehumanizes them, which othering is generally the start of. "You're not normal because you're shorter than what a normal person should be", traditionally, leads very quickly to "you're less of a person because you're shorter than a person should be." (And a lot of this happens on a societal level where individuals with fairly tame, innocuous versions of the prior make the latter seem acceptable, so I'm not trying to say that you, personally, are leading a crusade against short people or anything.)

5'5" is shorter than usual for an adult male, so how does evidence lean toward the latter - how are you determining I have irrational bias towards height on the grounds that I am referring to "shorter than usual" as "shorter than usual". (don't take my word for it, though: 1, 10% of males over 20 are 5' 5.5", or shorter - I would say that that qualifies as "less than usual", do you disagree, would you say 10% is usual?)

For the United States, yeah. I should have clarified, I apologize -- your example is still relying on defining one group of people as "the norm", and comparing those outside it.

What change am I not making that is hard?

The bit about modifying your language to not other people. Your arguments strongly come off to me as devil's advocate arguments, so I may be mistaken, but the simplest way to put what I am arguing is that language that compares people to some idea of "normal" (which is generally unreflective of reality or even mathematical averages) fundamentally communicates that you find the person "abnormal".

So, allow me to understand: you're someone I should trust to tell me how to not be offensive via assumptions and vague biases, yet you are telling me that I don't sound like a native speaker (by what objective criterion have you determined this? I am a native speaker, it is something I would say, my experience isn't yours, why are you denigrating mine) and,

Do you actually say "that man who is shorter than usual" in speech? Not even "that short man", or something? If you do, then I apologize, but reading it, it comes off as a really awkward construction, being used to try and justify a certain mode of description when a more-to-the-point method seems equally quick and even more fluid and understandable.

apparently find "crazy" a very reasonable word to use to highlight the uselessness of that description (why not just call it "retarded", I mean, you get to decide when pejorative terms can be used, or not, right - and, I know, I know, "crazy" is different, everyone uses it like that, its negative connotations shouldn't be a big deal...change is hard, I respect that).

I honestly was not aware that "crazy" was a perjorative by default, but I'll not make excuses to try and justify its use. I apologize for my language.

Honestly, most of the rest of this is missing the point:
So, why are you in a position to talk for a person you aren't about what they find offensive? I'm more than willing to listen to the person in question, I'm more than willing to listen to a reasonable argument - but your story about how a man may find "shorter than usual" offensive proves that someone can, possibly, take offense, that isn't much of anything. I'm rather tall, I like when people refer to me as tall - I also have a rather long nose, I like when people notice that too (and I've had multiple people say a variety of offensive things about it, throughout my life; but, oh my, I wouldn't be happy at all if someone, not me, was telling people that they can't bring it up because I, who they are not, might get offended).

KrytenKoro wrote:"Bald" is a pretty objective and precise definition. And the actual definitions and guidelines I've been stating would treat "bald guy that looks like a Russian bouncer" as precise and inoffensive.


How do you reach that conclusion, if "shorter than usual" can be offensive because someone has been made fun of for being "shorter than usual", then what about:

1.) A person that does not consider themselves bald and, indeed, does have some hair on their head? (or do you mean "bald" as in there is no hair, none, only, ever? I know lots and lots of people that are sensitive about the quantity of hair that they have; "bald" would offend some, for sure, even if many many people would agree with the word).

2.) "Look like a Russian bouncer", so, what happens when someone considers themselves sophisticated, yet comes from a poor background they'd wish to hide, finds "bouncer" as linking them to bars and brawls and feels painted as a thug by the term? By what objective criterion does one determine "looks like a bouncer"? Indeed, not even just "a bouncer", but a Russian one (yet, I see nothing indicating that the person indeed need be Russian, just that they look Russian...whatever exactly that means). And etc. (I look German, I'm quite Irish, several family members would take deep offense at "Looks like a German"-anything.)

The same game can be played with every descriptor you want, and I'm not seeing any convincing reason why what you say is acceptable is actually acceptable, and what you say is not is not -- why do you get to decide, exactly, in the first place? I can twist uncomfortable assumptions, biases, and else out of most anything you say that isn't perfectly formal - to within the same degree of reason that "shorter than usual" is capable of being twisted.

The issue is not that it's morally bad to describe people, or that it will always piss them off. It's not that there are certain "magic phrases" that are unforgiveable insults, that you have to keep a list of (although there are phrases that people or groups have loudly, vocally made it clear are personally offensive to them!). It's not that everything that ever pissed anyone off can never be mentioned again anywhere -- not all offense is reasonable, even if it's still offense. It's not that people who like having their "unique features" pointed out are wrong to do so. It's not "hey, you can't say something to that person because someone else said it wasn't okay."

The issue is dehumanization, and how dangerous it is. You're conflating "I, the hypothetical 5'5" person don't like being reminded that I am 5'5"" with "You shouldn't be telling 5'5" people that they are abnormal, with the implication that not being normal makes them lesser." One is a personal request -- if someone tells me they don't like being compared to bouncers, I'll stop -- one is a warning against dehumanizing those around you -- because due to a shit-ton of baggage, it's basically impossible to compare someone to some hypothetical "normal" without communicating that, for some reason, normal is "best". It is not noting an innocent feature that is offensive, it is implying that someone is lesser for possessing it that is offensive.

You're mis-framing this whole thing as being some kind of cultural arbiter telling you which words are okay and which words are not, ignoring the feelings of those imputed to be at risk, and that's not it. There are two rules -- be compassionate to the people around you, so if they want you to point out they're tall, go ahead, if they don't, then you shouldn't, and treat the people around you like people -- try as hard as you can not to use language or actions that imply that those outside of a narrow circle are outsiders and lesser than human.

For easier to understand examples -- suppose that white/caucasian/whatever you want to call it was the majority in an area. Or even, let's say, across all humanity, just to be safe. In that case, being white would technically be "normal".

Can you see how it would still be dehumanizing to have a billboard saying something like "Our multicultural program supports all races, black, yellow, brown, and normal!"

Or here, how about this House quote:
Dr. Cameron: Is it so wrong for them to want to have a normal child? It's normal to want to be normal.
Dr. House: Spoken like a true circle queen. See, skinny, socially-privileged white people get to draw this neat little circle. And everyone inside the circle is "normal". Anyone outside the circle should be beaten, broken and reset so that they can be brought into the circle. Failing that, they should be institutionalized. Or worse - Pitied.


There might very well be people who claim that pointing anything out for commendation is necessarily implying otherness and objectification, but to me, that way lies stasis. If you're careful to not objectify others, to always treat them as people just as much as you are, you should be golden.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby morriswalters » Fri Apr 03, 2015 3:26 pm UTC

Ixtellor wrote:Answer to OP.

1) So that when your in a crowded room and trying to point someone out by saying "See that blonde lady over there? She works in accounting and ...."
Instead of:
"See that pigment challenged non-binary over there?"

This was the statement which kicked this current line of discussion off. It isn't about addressing the person you're talking about. It was about picking someone out of a crowd to another person. Using visible heuristics.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Forest Goose » Fri Apr 03, 2015 4:00 pm UTC

Thank you for clarifying, your position makes far more sense to me now.

Where I'm coming from, personally, is a lot of inability to innately grasp how one implies that baggage (not disputing I, just confused by it being a usual meaning). For example, I would, literally, take someone saying "taller than normal", for me, to be, literally, meaning taller than the normal height - that anyone might mean more is difficult to grasp.

And, yes, I would absolutely say "shorter than usual", or "average", or some such, being that that is exactly what I mean - "short" may be acceptable, but it doesn't even have an implied reference, it would feel like I meant "shorter than me", which isn't helpful as I'm quite a bit "taller than usual".

Part of the problem here may be being autistic (or maybe not, I don't like to pass things off to things like that), but, personally, I would have a very hard time with juggling these extra meanings and implications - additionally, I have a difficult grasp of how abnormality, in the objective sense, implies wrongness (I don't dispute people think this, it just seems so untennable, it disturbs me that they get to ruin language features by their negativity and illogic).

Nonetheless, your position is much clearer, thank you for that, definitely some good food for thought, I will attempt to be more mindful of such things (I must confess, I'm still not sure exactly how to delineate what is, and isn't, associating someone with wrong otherness...). Again, thank you for the clarification, it was very helpful to me :-)
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby KrytenKoro » Fri Apr 03, 2015 7:06 pm UTC

Forest Goose wrote:For example, I would, literally, take someone saying "taller than normal", for me, to be, literally, meaning taller than the normal height - that anyone might mean more is difficult to grasp.

The point is the quick implications:
(1) What is the normal height? What group are you setting as implicit "normals"?
(2) The second is the "It's normal to want to be normal." idea. The very deeply ingrained message in the global culture that there is something fundamentally moral and good about being as close to average as possible.

You may sincerely not mean the second implication, but whether you like it or not, that's a fundamental implication. Honestly, you could probably say it is one of those "magic phrases" that you'd have to avoid, whether you mean ill or not.

And, yes, I would absolutely say "shorter than usual", or "average", or some such, being that that is exactly what I mean - "short" may be acceptable, but it doesn't even have an implied reference, it would feel like I meant "shorter than me", which isn't helpful as I'm quite a bit "taller than usual".

Well then, I very much apologize. Looking back, I assumed you were arguing that phrasing for the sake of arguing, and I responded pretty shittily. I would say I neglected my own advice, there.

Part of the problem here may be being autistic (or maybe not, I don't like to pass things off to things like that), but, personally, I would have a very hard time with juggling these extra meanings and implications - additionally, I have a difficult grasp of how abnormality, in the objective sense, implies wrongness (I don't dispute people think this, it just seems so untennable, it disturbs me that they get to ruin language features by their negativity and illogic).

It's pretty much just how society operates. There's probably a ton of evo psych theories to explain it, but for practical purposes, it should just be assumed as a given.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Forest Goose » Sat Apr 04, 2015 8:57 am UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:The point is the quick implications:
(1) What is the normal height? What group are you setting as implicit "normals"?
(2) The second is the "It's normal to want to be normal." idea. The very deeply ingrained message in the global culture that there is something fundamentally moral and good about being as close to average as possible.

You may sincerely not mean the second implication, but whether you like it or not, that's a fundamental implication. Honestly, you could probably say it is one of those "magic phrases" that you'd have to avoid, whether you mean ill or not.


That second one is what is troubling to me, once you account for all of the traits we have, no one is very normal - not absolutely so, there is always going to be some set of metrics by which any person will fail to be normal. I'm not disputing that that is the case, just that it is very hard to internalize -- it seems more like it would just be an irrational, yet highly convenient, excuse to "justify" distaste for others, where elsewise it is not so warranted. The notion of it as being analogous to a "magic phrase" does help, though - taking it as the case, in absence of evidence otherwise, is something I can do.

Well then, I very much apologize. Looking back, I assumed you were arguing that phrasing for the sake of arguing, and I responded pretty shittily. I would say I neglected my own advice, there.


Thank you for your sincerity, but no apology is needed: I, usually, seem to be taken as meaning, or intending, something I am not, save for those that know me very well.

It's pretty much just how society operates. There's probably a ton of evo psych theories to explain it, but for practical purposes, it should just be assumed as a given.


Outside of my already existing connections and this forum, and Wikipedia, I do not socialize (happily so, personally), a lot of how society operates is fairly alien, to be honest, I go, only, off of, as does everyone, my understanding of things, what I would mean, how I would react, and my notion of language - as mentioned, I find it somewhat staggering that people care about being perceived as average to that extent, or that culture desires to emphasize it (troubling might be more apt: the idea that people ought be normal, and are wrong for deviation, is troubling - and, seemingly, untenable.), nonetheless, thank you for clarifying - I shall endeavour to be more mindful of this in the future.

It was helpful discussing this, thank you:-)
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Derek » Sun Apr 05, 2015 9:41 pm UTC

(2) The second is the "It's normal to want to be normal." idea. The very deeply ingrained message in the global culture that there is something fundamentally moral and good about being as close to average as possible.

This goes both ways. Compare and contrast I Just Want to be Normal and I Just Want to be Special. Obviously not all values of "special" are equally desirable, but people often want to stand out in a crowd.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby KrytenKoro » Mon Apr 06, 2015 3:17 am UTC

Derek wrote:
(2) The second is the "It's normal to want to be normal." idea. The very deeply ingrained message in the global culture that there is something fundamentally moral and good about being as close to average as possible.

This goes both ways. Compare and contrast I Just Want to be Normal and I Just Want to be thpecial. Obviously not all values of "thpecial" are equally desirable, but people often want to stand out in a crowd.

Those are fictional tropes, dude.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Mon Apr 06, 2015 3:20 am UTC

They are, but fictional tropes tend to reflect aspects of our culture. Why would there be a lot of characters who "just want to be special" if that weren't something that a lot of people identify with?
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Mon Apr 06, 2015 3:41 am UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:
Derek wrote:
(2) The second is the "It's normal to want to be normal." idea. The very deeply ingrained message in the global culture that there is something fundamentally moral and good about being as close to average as possible.

This goes both ways. Compare and contrast I Just Want to be Normal and I Just Want to be thpecial. Obviously not all values of "thpecial" are equally desirable, but people often want to stand out in a crowd.

Those are fictional tropes, dude.

Those are nouns and adjectives, dude.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby KrytenKoro » Mon Apr 06, 2015 12:53 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:They are, but fictional tropes tend to reflect aspects of our culture. Why would there be a lot of characters who "just want to be thpecial" if that weren't something that a lot of people identify with?

Being special? Sure. Other people being special? Very much not so much.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Shackled » Tue Apr 07, 2015 1:29 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:They are, but fictional tropes tend to reflect aspects of our culture. Why would there be a lot of characters who "just want to be thpecial" if that weren't something that a lot of people identify with?

You see the difference here is that the penalties of not being normal vastly outweigh the penalties of not being different. "Normal" is "normal" for a reason, and while there are no doubt people who just want to be thpecial, there is nothing anyone has said that really convinces us that wanting to be different is a major cultural force.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Autolykos » Wed Apr 08, 2015 1:36 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:The fallacious reasoning here is that the "pissing off" is equal in both cases. But using a neutral pronouns doesn't piss off people in the 95% nearly as much as misgendering hurts those in the 5%.
It doesn't have to be equal, only less than twenty times worse. But even buying into that, do *you* actually address anyone you meet who hasn't been introduced yet with neutral pronouns, or are you just making a theoretical argument here?
And let's not forget that transgender people also may or may not feel insulted if you use the neutral on them instead of their preferred pronoun (which is likely strongly correlated with how they present themselves, anyway). English may be a special case here, but at least for German, using the neutral pronoun would imply that you don't even consider them to be a person. This may well be insulting to anyone, not just cis people.
And then there's languages without a neutral case (say, French). Should they, on principle, always use the less likely pronoun?

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Apr 08, 2015 5:54 pm UTC

The 3sg neuter pronoun is "it", and would tend to be dehumanizing. That's why the common preference is for "they".

In person I usually don't use pronouns unless I know which are preferred, and online I use "they" until I know.

(It's not actually hard to avoid assuming someone's pronouns, because you don't talk directly to people in the 3rd person, and if they aren't in your conversation you can take cues from those who may know better than you.)
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Re: Why was there a need beside be labeled? (gender, sexuali

Postby KrytenKoro » Wed Apr 08, 2015 10:47 pm UTC

Autolykos wrote:It doesn't have beside be equal, only less than twenty times worse. But even buying into that, do *you* actually address anyone you meet who hasn't been introduced yet with neutral pronouns, or being you just making a theoretical argument here?

Is the argument there that if you can find one person who finds a thing acceptable, then there's no need to correct it?

Like, if gmalivuk had said "yes, I do the thing that I'm saying is immoral", how would that logically make the thing moral? At best, it would just invalidate gmalivuk as a moral person.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Autolykos » Thu Apr 09, 2015 9:53 am UTC

No. The point I was getting at is that I suspected following his suggested policy would be quite impractical and frequently backfire if done consequently. Thus, I asked him if he has any experience trying it (admittedly with a bit more snark than absolutely necessary, because my suspicion was quite strong).
I was also open to the possibility that I misunderstood his suggestion, so the clarification of what he *actually* does helped here, too.

And I agree with his half-point that you rarely have to use third-person pronouns when the person in question is within earshot. It's only a half-point though because quite a few people would defend the notion that it is still wrong to say insulting things about people even when they're not listening. Also, "avoid third-person pronouns whenever possible" only gets you so far. And according to Finagle's Law, this will probably fail you at the worst possible moment.

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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby KrytenKoro » Thu Apr 09, 2015 2:53 pm UTC

Autolykos wrote:No. The point I was getting at is that I suspected following his suggested policy would be quite impractical and frequently backfire if done consequently. Thus, I asked him if he has any experience trying it (admittedly with a bit more snark than absolutely necessary, because my suspicion was quite strong).
I was also open to the possibility that I misunderstood his suggestion, so the clarification of what he *actually* does helped here, too.

How is it impractical and freuqently backfiring to simply use "they", "their", "them"?

English-speakers are able to use it to no ill effect when describing an individual who identity is unknown, so why would making the identity partially known suddenly cause us to flail about aimlessly?

And I agree with his half-point that you rarely have to use third-person pronouns when the person in question is within earshot. It's only a half-point though because quite a few people would defend the notion that it is still wrong to say insulting things about people even when they're not listening. Also, "avoid third-person pronouns whenever possible" only gets you so far. And according to Finagle's Law, this will probably fail you at the worst possible moment.

There is an awful lot of quoting joke pop culture laws and tv tropes as counterarguments to the idea of "treat those around you as people worthy of respect". It's getting pretty tiresome.

Gmalivuk was pretty clear -- take cues from those who know the subject, otherwise, just use the "they" set to refer to...them (le gasp!). It is exceedingly simple. No one's asking you to conjugate the restive participle of the neuter past-klein-future adverbial adjective dangler.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Apr 09, 2015 4:44 pm UTC

it is still wrong to say insulting things about people even when they're not listening.
Yes, it is, which is why no one is suggesting you say insulting things.

We're suggesting you avoid pronouns or default to "they" until you learn what the person prefers, and then you use that. The thing that would be rude is if you insist on using the pronouns you decided on yourself even after being told the correct ones.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Forest Goose » Thu Apr 09, 2015 4:55 pm UTC

I was going to respond with something, but I actually have a question:

Is it offensive to ask someone what pronoun they prefer? I can imagine that being offensive if done in front of a large group of people (perhaps making the person uncomfortable if it is a private subject to them - does that make sense? I'm not very good at this kind of thing), but, supposing so, if done privately and in a neutral way, is that offensive?

I have no point to make here, I genuinely have no idea how to answer this question.

*I don't doubt that 99.9% of the time this never needs be done since it should not be hard to avoid or determine from context, etc.. But, I would like to know the answer, nonetheless. (and will probably err on the side of caution whatever the case is).
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Apr 09, 2015 5:15 pm UTC

If you make a habit of asking everyone, it's not a problem. The problem would be if you're perfectly happy to assume most people's pronouns and only ask if they don't fit snugly enough in either of your mental gender boxes.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Forest Goose » Thu Apr 09, 2015 5:37 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:If you make a habit of asking everyone, it's not a problem. The problem would be if you're perfectly happy to assume most people's pronouns and only ask if they don't fit snugly enough in either of your mental gender boxes.


That makes sense, thank you for answering - as I said, I don't plan on asking anyone, but the reasoning is helpful.
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Re: Why is there a need to be labeled? (gender, sexuality, e

Postby Quercus » Thu Apr 09, 2015 6:01 pm UTC

Since this thread appears to be on pronouns for the moment I thought I'd ask a question - what do people use when they need a gender-neutral or gender-spanning honorific? I'm not talking formally, because that tends to be pretty firmly codified, so you unfortunately don't have much choice, but if you wanted to convey respect/admiration/deference informally, what would you use?

I like "ser(s)" except a) that's indistinguishable from "sir(s)" when spoken and b) George R.R. Martin may have irreparably scuppered it by using it in a gendered way in A Song of Ice and Fire.

Anything else I've come across sounds really contrived: there doesn't appear to be a convenient pre-existing construct for this in the same way as "they" for pronouns.


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