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Jack Monroe on being non-gender binary

(210 Posts)
IShouldBeSoLurky Tue 20-Oct-15 23:30:25

www.newstatesman.com/politics/feminism/2015/10/being-non-binary-i-m-not-girl-called-jack-any-more-i-m-not-boy-either

I've got a lot of time for Jack and Jack's brave stance on poverty and honest approach to discussing it. I also think the the taunting Jack came in for when the Daily Mail took agin Jack was appalling (but then the DM treats everyone appallingly if they thing it's going to get them clicks).

But this article... I don't know. It seems to me it would all be SO much simpler if one were able to say, "I was born a girl and given a girl's name which I later changed. I'm a lesbian and a mother and proud of both those things. And I don't feel it's necessary for me to perform gender, because I think the things I enjoy like pushing weights and wearing high heeled shoes sometimes shouldn't be gendered things."

Instead we have this tortuous charade of writing copy that's confusing because individuals want to be referred to by a plural pronoun, and the massive shenanigans about deadnaming (of course it's offensive, but no more so than calling a woman by her husband's surname when she hasn't actually changed her name) - some of it might be bigotry but some might just be confusion. And some of it, like referring to the Olympic medalist as Bruce, not Caitlyn, Jenner, is just factually accurate.

I was talking to DP about it earlier and saying that almost all languages (all, maybe? I don't know) have been structured with gender as pretty fundamental, because when language was developing, a person's biological sex WAS significant in a way it perhaps isn't, or shouldn't be, now. What if language just wasn't gendered at all (eg if the phrase "Ladies and gentlemen..." were never used), and it was only necessary to refer to a person's biological sex when it was fundamental to the subject (eg pregnancy and childbirth)? What if we were all they/zhe/something else?

I'm sure this has all been gone over multiple times on here, but I find it so difficult. Part of me wants to give Jack the respect Jack deserves, and part of me is like, "Look, lots of us aren't comfortable with gender roles. Stop making out that you're some special snowflake who gets misgendered at every turn." And then I think maybe I'm just as out of touch and carmudgeonly as people who insist it's fine to call gay people "queers".

What do others think about all this?

WheresMyBurrito Wed 21-Oct-15 09:29:25

I didn't mean that it's trivial, Countess, I don't think I explained it very well tbh. I just don't think it's comparable.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 09:48:13

I am female.
Trying to answer your question honestly - it would probably be mostly '?????' if someone who had met me called me he because I don't know of a set of beliefs that would lead to that happening, so I'd want to know what on earth they were thinking that led to it. When I have been assumed to be male by people who haven't met me, on the basis that IRL I am Dr Fitzdotterel, that grates a hell of a lot less than people calling me Mrs DH'sName.
If someone called me 'he' in order to deliberately piss me off then of course I would be upset, just as a trans person understandably is when people use their previous name for malicious reasons.

FloraFox Wed 21-Oct-15 09:57:36

I'm not male so it would be odd for someone to start calling me "he". I'd think they were odd but it wouldn't particularly bother me.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 09:58:08

Thinking some more about that, Wheresmyburrito, I suppose I could imagine it happening a few years down the line if the current trend towards gender identity being related to acceptance of gender stereotypes continues to grow. So if it was a normal thing for people to start saying 'Oh, the Countess must be a man because she wears DMs and has short hair and is good with computers.' And yes, that would piss me off massively and I would feel erased by it. But my problem would be with the world view that led to that, and I would consider it to do with the people who believed it being wronger than a wrong thing on wrongness day rather than them being bigoted. I think the current trend to using the word 'bigoted' to mean 'someone whose worldview I disagree with' is really problematic.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 10:00:39

Actually, come to think of it, it is happening a bit already in that I have seen transactivists claim Cathy Brennan must be a man because she is a lesbian and has short hair etc. I am now pondering whether they are doing it just to piss her off or whether they really believe it at some level.

Gowditay Wed 21-Oct-15 10:02:15

I think anyone who really worries about what other people call them and spends a long time navel gazing about how they appear to others doesn't have enough to do. Fgs there's some real tragedy going on in the world without having to worry about whether you've offended someone who has deliberately taken a convoluted and antagonistic stand about their own gender.

Bigbiscuits Wed 21-Oct-15 10:02:39

I know someone who came to the UK in 1956 from Hungary (Hungarian does not have pronouns)

He still sometimes gets pronouns wrong when he speaks in English. He can be happily talking away for 10 minutes before it dawns on me that "he" is actually his sister.

IShouldBeSoLurky Wed 21-Oct-15 10:28:38

Countess has summed up very well the issues I have with the idea of deadnaming. Obviously if someone refuses to acknowledge the name by which you're now known, that's offensive. But denying the existence of your previous name of rewriting history to suggest that Caitlyn Jenner was the Olympic medalist for eg, seems highly disingenuous to me.

I also totally agree with the point about implying that one's self-declared non-binary status makes everyone else either high heels and lipstick or pints and football, and if you're neither then you too must be non binary, as opposed to just being a woman who likes football.

welshHairs Wed 21-Oct-15 10:34:29

Yes I think the 'dead naming' thing is weird. I understand getting upset if someone purposely calls you the wrong name and pronoun after you've asked them not to/told them the correct name etc, but the complete denial that any other name was ever used or that you were born a different sex, well that's bizarre.

welshHairs Wed 21-Oct-15 10:37:27

Did Laurie Penny also 'come out' as something? I dont know if I imagined that.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 10:40:05

I don't know why it matters to anyone other than Jack Monroe how Jack Monroe chooses to identify and what pronouns they prefer? confused It makes no odds to anyone on this thread other than perhaps having to make a bit of effort to remember to use the pronouns requested.

I will happily admit it does feel a bit awkward and clunky to use "they" instead of "he" or "she" but do you know what? That's my problem. I'll get over it and get used to it.

As for the crap about "language doesn't work that way" do you know anything about linguistics or language development? Because that is exactly how language evolves and develops.

I also thought the "special snowflake" bit in the op is quite offensive. It clearly matters to Jack and clearly has bog all impact on you to accommodate Jack's wishes because how Jack chooses to identify is about them not about you. So get over it and show some respect by respecting Jack's wishes as a person to choose how they are addressed and regarded. It won't make your life harder but might make their's easier and more pleasant so that has to be A Good Thing.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 10:44:11

Fgs there's some real tragedy going on in the world without having to worry about whether you've offended someone who has deliberately taken a convoluted and antagonistic stand about their own gender.

What an odd assumption to make. Why have you decided that Jack's feelings and attitude to their own body and identity are "convoluted and antagonistic" rather than just, I dunno, being her feelings that matter to her?

They could only be consider convoluted and antagonistic if they had the slightest bearing on anyone else which of course they don't. Jack's identity does not diminish or impact on your identity, my identity or anyone else's in any way. They just are; Jack just is.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 10:45:29

Bugger. I put her when I meant "their" and "them".

Still, I am trying and learning at least smile

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 10:45:46

'I don't know why it matters to anyone other than Jack Monroe how Jack Monroe chooses to identify and what pronouns they prefer?'

Not at all unless we are being told what language we must use when discussing her. What Jack calls herself is her issue. What we call her is ours.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 10:47:16

Surely wanting a mastectomy for non-medical reasons counts as having an antagonistic attitude towards one's body? If not, I don't know what does.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 10:47:35

Why shouldn't Jack own their identity? You own yours Countess so why shouldn't they?

What gives you the right to decide?

WindyMillersProbationOfficer Wed 21-Oct-15 10:48:01

Not Jack in particular, but the idea of identifying as non-binary has huge repercussions for feminism. Whilst Jack's individual identity doesn't directly affect me as an individual, the concept of a non-binary identity in general does affect the idea of a female identity. And that's something that affects me - a female.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 10:49:34

Surely wanting a mastectomy for non-medical reasons counts as having an antagonistic attitude towards one's body? If not, I don't know what does.

But that's Jack's right and has zero impact on anyone else. We all should have the right to have autonomy over our own bodies. Isn't that rule #1 of feminism?

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 10:50:12

You will need to unpack what you mean by 'own your identity', Movingonup.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 10:52:46

It's fairly obvious that no-one on here is saying whether or not Jack has a mastectomy is anything to do with us - if it's what she wants, I hope it works out for her. I just don't see why we are forbidden from noting that wanting one looks like an antagonistic attitude towards her body.
Are we not allowed to discuss the stuff she has made public in her New Statesman article?

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 10:57:45

Now that's an interesting point Windy. And one borne out of an actual argument rather than "different to me is wrong" which a lot of this seems to be on this thread.

I suppose I don't feel threatened personally because I'm only a feminst until we have equality and feminism will be redundant will probably never happen. Equality would by default include all groups including non-binary identities.

I can also see as a marginalised person (a woman) the impact of othering so I can't really do that to others and deny their right to an identity because it is different to mine.

So is it a threat or just different? I feel the latter because I'm still a woman and still a feminist and the issues haven't gone away just because some people do not identify as women. There have always been those that don't identify as women - men - and that doesn't stop me being a feminist or a woman.

I'm still a woman and still a feminist and Jack's decisions and those of people like them don't change that at all.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 11:00:00

You will need to unpack what you mean by 'own your identity', Movingonup. In what way?

I haven't said anyone can't discuss things. I'm just challenging some view points I disagree with. I believe that would count as discussion smile

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 11:09:24

Yes, discussion is fine, and I think this is a very interesting one (and still constructive and civilised, which is nice). I think it helps that many of us taking different positions to gender identity on this thread actually rather like and admire Jack - I certainly do- so the irritation and hostility that appears when we talk about gender identity issues in relation to certain other people isn't there.

'Why shouldn't Jack own their identity? You own yours Countess so why shouldn't they?
What gives you the right to decide?'

I can't answer unless you explain what you mean by 'own your identity'. What does 'own' mean? Does it mean have the power to control what everyone says about you and the terms in which you are discussed, or just not be stopped from living your life in accordance with it? (And are those things separate anyway?) Does 'identity' in this context mean all aspects of your identity or is gender qualitatively different?
It seems to be clear to you what you mean by the deceptively simple phrase 'own your identity' but I genuinely do not have a clue what you mean by it and I would like to answer your question but as it stands I can't!

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 11:26:12

By own your identity I mean you get to choose how you present to the world and what name and pronouns people use to address you because that is your right as an individual.

I would think (like me) you'd probably find it at least odd and more likely disrespectful if people started calling you he instead of she or even "it". If people started using a different name to the one you'd them told was your name that would be rude - you just have to look at some of the threads on here where people have had their name shortened without their consent to see how it upsets people.

Our identities are chosen by us to a greater or lesser extent even if they are influence by society (typically pronouns) or our parents (typically names). We can choose to accept or reject those (lots of people go by a different name to their full birth name) and decide our own identity with things like how we present ourselves (our "look") what title we use and other very important signifiers of identity. We choose those, we own them.

Primarily it's just good manners to address someone in the way they have asked you to regardless of the wider implications of disrespecting someone's perfectly legal wishes.

Sadik Wed 21-Oct-15 11:50:39

A bit ot, but I actually think if they/their took off in general as a replacement for s/he hers/his for everyone it would be great. I don't see that it's relevant to most people in most circs (given that I'm in a long term relationship, so not out on the pull) whether I'm a woman or a man.

And yes, I agree with a pp that it is perfectly possible for language to change in that way. Just as it's really common these days to refer to a fire fighter / police officer / bin collector (ie not fireman/ policeman/ bin man) whereas when I was younger it would have been definitely only something weirdy lefty types would have done.

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