For the game Camel Up!, the directions use the pronoun “she” to describe gameplay. This is odd. It’s jarring to the mind, as you notice it is different than the “he” pronoun your brain has been trained to accept as normal.
This is an interesting phenomenon. The breakdown of women and men in the world is roughly equal, varying from country to country but typically within 1-2% of each other. Why is it weird, then, to use both pronouns?
My father-in-law made the comment that the directions were obviously being political.
Why do we assume that when we see it? Why is it so weird to read something with “she” in it?
I’ll confess – I’m still caught off-guard when I read “she” instead of the societally accepted “he.” I recently read Peter Thiel’s “From Zero to One,” and the only thing I remember from the book is his equitable use of describing CEOs and founders as “she” and “he.” It almost made me uncomfortable, because my brain is so unaccustomed to it.
The other thing it did was make me believe I could actually be a CEO.
So here’s the rub: we don’t like change. Using masculine pronouns is the defacto. What’s wrong with it? Why change it?
I recommend giving this article a read to see how much of our world is shaped by and for men, and start to really think about why it’s so wrong for our products and lifestyles to consider the sexes equal. Here, the author highlights the problem with branding specialized makes of products - often by adding pink or making it “sexy” - specifically for women:
Flip the situation — if cars were designed with only smaller framed women in mind, we’d find ourselves in an equally problematic situation. It seems immediately absurd when the roles are reversed, but we seldom question the disparity in design when it’s the status quo.
If our default for products, main characters in books, and business leaders were women, it would strike people as just as jarring if we started to include more men in those stories. Moving away from societal expectations will always be jarring, but that doesn’t mean it’s only done for political reasons. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done to make the society a safe and welcoming place for half of its inhabitants.
I started reading a new book last week. It’s a fantasy novel, and I’m very excited for it because it’s focused on dwarves, which are my favorite fantasy race. I have height in common with them, plus I’m mighty stubborn. The sad part is I already feel left out of the story.
In the first 50-odd pages, we meet a handful of characters, including two kings, one hero-to-be, a hero of lore, a magician, and several supporting advisors. None of them are female.
We have met two, decidedly minor, female characters. One is a little human girl who’s innocent and cute, and the other is her mother. They are there for the hero to protect and feel responsible for. (It’s actually been a very confusing read. Seriously, where are the women? I know they exist. Unless dwarves in this story are actually hewn from rocks? Maybe that’s a thing here?)
I don’t want a female character at the focal point of this story for political reasons. I want one so I can feel more involved. I read books to enter other worlds, but so far I don’t feel welcome in this one.
This explains why Thiel’s use of “she” to describe founders and CEOs hit me so hard. I finally started to feel welcome in the world of business and ladder-climbing and starting companies.
And this is why we need to not only use “she” and “her” - and “they” - more equitably, but why we also need to refrain from viewing it as a political move.
Star Wars just released their trailer for the upcoming Rogue One addition to the Star Wars franchise. On a Star Wars note, I’m much more excited about this movie than The Force Awakens.
On a post-related note, I had a very encouraging conversation with a coworker about the trailer. He had watched it with another coworker, and they were talking about how it’s out of the ordinary for Star Wars to make a second movie *gasp* in a row with a female lead. The question came up, “Are they trying to make a statement?”
Then, this coworker told me, he realized, “Wait, is this what chicks go through with every other movie?” We had an encouraging conversation about how perceptions of the male norm make it hard for female roles to be recognized as equals, because a lot of people spend time being angry that it must only be for politically correct reasons. I came away feeling hopeful that not everyone thinks like my father-in-law, and, one can hope, the people reacting vehemently to Felicity Jones’ role in Star Wars are in the minority.
Maybe our stories are changing, and I can be a part of them now.
(footnote: the coworker did ask if the term “chick” is OK, and I said I don’t have a problem with it. I see it as equivalent to “dude” and don’t avoid using it. I realize not everyone agrees with me.)