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Old, Tired: Conservative Screeds Against the Pronoun Evolution

Writer Peggy Noonan

Note to editors: Wanting the world to stay exactly the same is not a hot take.

The other day I was in the drive-thru getting me some tacos because tacos, as the kids say, "whip." As I was sitting there waiting on my order, the blue haired girl in the window said, "If I get your pronouns wrong, just let me know." How awesomely random is that? Here I am, sitting in the drive-thru, getting me some munchies, and this girl is wanting to make sure she gets my pronouns right. With a smile on my face, I let her know that she was fine and thanked her.

She fucked up my order though.

I'm glad that people are taking the pronoun thing more seriously these days. It shows an awareness of the evolving understanding of the spectrum that is gender, and showing that as individuals we respect the identity of the people that create the beautiful spectrum that is humanity. I also like it because it pisses off the squares and olds.

Pronouns have given us the ability to more perfectly ferret out the folks who are not merely transphobic, but also the intellectually dishonest and uninspired. The latest mystery guest to be revealed in the "Not as smart as everyone hyped them to be," game is Peggy Noonan, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, columnist, and speech writer. Noonan, who wrote two of the finest speeches of the 20th-century, also got George Bush Sr. to say "Read my lips, no new taxes," and subsequently get thrown out of office. So to be honest, she's a mixed bag when it comes to rhetoric, but somehow folks have thought of her as an intellectual heavyweight. Well, maybe in the 1980s, but in the 80s Mike Tyson was a beast of a heavyweight boxer; now he's an Adult Swim cartoon.

I'm not going to get into to many of the specifics of what Noonan wrote in her Wall Street Journal article entitled, "What Were Robespierre's Pronouns," because from the title, you can pretty much guess the foundational premise, the argument, and the subject of the piece. As someone who reads these types of articles pretty frequently, it's honestly pretty hack for a Pulitzer Prize- winner. At this point, anti-pronoun/gender variant articles are pretty formulaic. A cultural conservative, most often a Nixon-voting Boomer (You were alive in the 1960s and you stanned Nixon? Woodstock, good drugs, Stonewall, civil rights, peak rock and roll, and you went with Nixon? God, you're not culturally conservative, you're culturally anhedonic), thinks that the PC Left are akin to some authoritarian regime that murdered tens of thousands of people, and is wanting an Orwellian state because they want to change up what words mean, and then you slip in something about bathrooms and children. Bang this out in about 1,500 words and you've got yourself a cultural commentary perfect for publication in an esteemed news outlet. It's the social commentary version of a Katy Perry greatest hits album.

The only unique thing about this particular commentary I liked was that instead of invoking some tired trope about George Orwell's 1984, or some Stalinist/Maoist take is she went with the French Revolution. I guess that's because these days a lot of the terminally online Left have gotten into invoking the French Revolution, via its symbols such as red Phrygian caps, the term "Jacobin," and guillotine GIFs to comment on Twitter. Of course this is hilarious to me in itself, because the period of the French Revolution these things invoke were a horrifyingly violent failure of extremist ideology that ended the pursuit of democracy in France, led to the rise of Napoleon, and ultimately the restoration of the French monarchy until 1870. Of course that was Noonan's goal, because maybe she recognized the trope of 1984 was a bit played out. Respect to her for that, but no points for tired historical comparisons.

These articles also lament how pronoun politeness is an attempt to change the language. It's kind of weird that Noonan is complaining about forcing changes of language, because working for Reagan she got to witness him calling rebels and terrorists he supported "freedom fighters." Look, language evolves, everyone knows this. New words are invented all the time, words change their meaning, grammar rules change, and it's not a problem for anyone except for people who are upset at calling someone "Zhir." They also have started getting grouchy about the use of "they" and "them" in the singular form. As if it's some radical departure from norms, when it's been around since the Black Death. It's only an issue for stuffy grammarians, writing style guide writers, and people who don't like gender variant people. No one else cares.

As far as some of the odder new pronouns gender variant folks use like "Zhir," "Ze", or whatever; yeah, sometimes they are a bit much to keep up with, and honestly more than a few folks are trying to use unique pronouns to make up for having no personality, but who cares? Call someone whatever they want to be called. It causes you absolutely no harm, it's polite, respectful, and even tactful. Ironically, according to Noonan's article before this one, she thinks world needs more tact.

Why even bother trying to write a serious rebuttal to these things anymore? It's like reviewing another formulaic network sitcom, a Netflix zombie movie, or another food truck with an ironic name. There's nothing new here. Ever. It's the same tired arguments about language, the runaway radical left out to make you marry your pets, and no small amount of dog-whistled bigotry. Yes, they are always bigoted. No one else cares about pronouns. Sure, some get frustrated by them, some confused, but the overwhelming majority of folks adapt after a few missteps to what a person prefers. Why? Because otherwise, you're just simply being a dick about it. Noonan, like so many other conservatives are simply trying to wrap their inability to act with basic human decency in some sort of pseudo-intellectual appeal to sanity that tries and fails to achieve the image of compassionate conservativism. It's just small-minded bigotry with cocktail party pretentiousness.

Amanda Kerri is an Oklahoma-based writer and comedian, a regular contributor to The Advocate, and a former board member for Oklahoma City Pride. Follow her on Twitter @Amanda_Kerri.

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