I have been assiduously following my institution’s recommendations regarding preferred student pronouns. Students announce their pronouns on the first day of class. We all commit to remembering not only their names and faces (always a burden for me) but also their pronouns. In class discussion we have little signs on our desks with name and pronoun identifiers.
I find this extremely annoying, but not because I’m bothered by the freedom of my students to define their gender as they choose. Far from it. What irks me is that we have to go through so much bother because of the shortcomings in our language. Rather than spend so much energy on pronouns, why not change the language?
Simply eliminated gendered pronouns from English—poof. We could all get along just fine with a generic, formerly plural they-them. Less to remember and stress about. This reform would be even more welcome in languages like French, German and Spanish that are gendered through and through and throw up so many more barriers to well-meaning language learners like myself.
And for reciprocity, and to make it a package deal, the US could switch to a metric system at the same time.
Peter Dorman (he/him)