Jun 7, 2022·edited Jun 7, 2022Liked by Eneasz Brodski

In German there are three pronouns for third person singular, same as in English ("Er", "Sie", "Es", equivalent to "He", "She" and "It"). The difference is that in English every nonhuman is always an "It". In German the moon is male and the sun is female (in French it's the opposite btw), a tree is "er", a door is "sie" and a house is "es". It is a fairly even split between the three for all things.

A boy is "er", a girl is "it", a child is "it", a man is "er", a woman is "sie" and a human is "er". Most words that describe grownups come in male and female variants. For example a male medical doctor is an "Arzt", the female version is "Ärztin".

There's a bit of a debate going on about how to write it in texts to adress both sexes equally without putting one in front of the other. It is mostly about removing expectations about professions, such as that doctors are male and nurses are female (as you would assume when people write "Ärzte und Krankenschwestern", with "Ärzte" being the plural form of the male doctor and "Krankenschwestern being the plural form of the female nurse), so that children don't automatically (even subconsciously) assume that a profession isn't for them because they are of the wrong sex.

So instead of "Ärzte und Krankenschwestern" people would for example now write "Ärzt*innen und Krankenpfleger*innen" to sort of have both the plural male and plural female version of the word used at the same time. (There is no exact male version of "Krankenschwester", "Krankenpfleger" is the male equivalent and "Krankenpflegerin" is the female version of that word)

I put that whole wall fo text here because as far as I know that problem doesn't exist in the English language and I thought it might be interesting to know about it for non-German speakers. Of course the debate is mostly because of people being against the language changing and also some people are coming up with their own solutions (for example I know someone who always uses the female plural version of a profession unless they know that the group they are talking about is exclusively male). Right now I don't know what will establish itself as the accepted norm for the future.

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Eneasz has already seen this (and commented) but for anyone else who's interested, I did a twitter thread in response to this, which might be of interest to you if this post was:


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So if I were to summarize, there’s disagreement between you and E on

1) whether the modern infinite spectrum of gender connotes something distinct from just one’s personality.

2) Eneasz says pronouns arise from sex as a way to disambiguate their reference, you deny it and stating any gender can go with any pronoun (since sex isn’t gender, I assume you mean any sex can go with any pronoun).

3) Whether there is a clearly distinct male/female sex (and now trans male/female) based on physical characteristics. (Near as I can tell, Cis male/female sex term is wrong here. Whether you still identify with your birth sex is gender, and not based on physical characteristics).

4) Whether the recent encouragement of people to disassociate their gender with their birth sex is effectively encouraging traditional gender roles, since if you “don’t feel like a (traditional male thing)” you must not be a male. E implied yes, you say that’s not something which actually happens.

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Very quickly:

1) Yes

2) More precise: I think the right pronouns for someone are the ones the person wishes for. And yes, these wishes are not limited by sex or even gender.

3) If trans applies, then cis applies. And yeah, I think sex is bimodal rather than binary or indeed quaternary. We both believe it is mutable.

4) Largely correct. If you are very disconnected from apparent manhood or unhappy with it, you might (!) not be a man, but that's for you to figure out, not for someome else to decide. You're not suddenly nonbinary because I say so, based on you not being a stereotype, that would be silly!

There's loads more in the twitter replies, but I cant replicate all of that here.

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