Quantcast

«

»

Jan 22 2013

Jailbreak the Patriarchy

Here’s an interesting app for a number of browsers that lets you, with the click of a button, swap all the pronouns and gendered words (save for slurs, for some reason) in order to get a different perspective on the thing you’re reading. It makes for an interesting juxtaposition to see how male and female politicians are described in general discourse, for instance.

And take any arbitrary story about sexism, and you’ll end up with something that would get MRAs’ blood boiling:

Yesterday, a man by the name of Gabrielle Toledano – evidently a human resources manager for EA games – wrote a rather confusing and deeply problematic op-ed for Forbes outlining why, in his estimation, sexism isn’t responsible for the dearth of men in gaming. To quote his opening remarks:

It’s easy to blame women for not creating an attractive work environment – but I think that’s a cop-out. If we want more men to work in games, we have to recognize that the problem isn’t sexism.

…The issue I have is that the video game industry is being painted as more sexist than other female-dominated workforces. I know sexism exists, but the issue isn’t just in video games. And it’s not what’s holding us back.

Nonetheless, there are still too few men working in my company, so it’s clear there is an issue to fix. Rather than blame the majority just because they are the majority, I believe the solution starts with us – men.

Which is, frankly, one of the most flippant, useless and blithely ignorant summaries of the problem I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter.

Completely changes your perspective on things, doesn’t it?

The original Chrome extension written by Danielle Sucher was also ported to Safari and the cross-platform cross-browser Greasemonkey, so no need to feel left out of the fun.

And there’s also a Jailbreak the Binary app to scrub out all references to gender. Take Katy Perry’s hit:

I kissed a person and I liked it,
the taste of hir cherry chapstick.
I kissed a person just to try it,
I hope my significant other don’t mind it.

I’ve got both installed, and am going to make a point of enabling it on all my posts when doing re-reads of drafts. I think it’ll pay dividends in my writing, possibly.

15 comments

1 ping

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    LeftSidePositive

    Can I just say I hate the use of “hir”? Phonetically it is completely indistinguishable from “her” and obliterates the whole point, unless it has never friggin’ occurred to anyone ze might be communicating in some method other than writing?! Ze, zem, zir–clear, and both aurally and visually distinct!

  2. 2
    Sunil D'Monte

    I just tried this out and it slipped my mind that the app would “convert” Facebook also. So some of the groups I’m in appeared like they had been hacked – the word “Feminist” had been replaced by “Masculist”! I went into full emergency mode until I realised what had happened. :)

  3. 3
    hjhornbeck

    I’ve been doing that for about a month, only without a feminist-specific plugin. FoxReplace” lets you set up word substitutions that apply to URL wildcards. I matched up sexist insults that refer to body parts with racist ones, and let ‘er fly.

    It’s been an interesting month.

  4. 4
    Hank_Says

    @1 LSP:

    Can I just say I hate the use of “hir”? Phonetically it is completely indistinguishable from “her” and obliterates the whole point, unless it has never friggin’ occurred to anyone ze might be communicating in some method other than writing?! Ze, zem, zir–clear, and both aurally and visually distinct!

    I’m in a similar boat to you: I don’t like “hir” either but I also don’t really see the point of the “z” impersonals. I default to the perfectly serviceable “they, them, their” (I’ve not heard any objection to them thus far). The “z” (or “x” as I’ve seen used elsewhere) versions and their ilk just seem redundant. Phonetically, too, they’re something of a mess – you’re either saying “hir” which, as you say, is practically the same as “her” or you’re saying “zir”, prompting people to ask if where you get your interesting accent from :)

    That’s just my tuppence though – I’ll take no issue with anyone using whatever impersonals they want to.

  5. 5
    Kilian Hekhuis

    I default to the perfectly serviceable “they, them, their”

    Totally agree, English has a nice genderless pronoun, singular “they”. No need to invent a new one, other than to say “hey, look at me being unsexist!” And if Crommunist happens to read this: yes, I’m looking at you too!

  6. 6
    ericoides

    I “invented” hir long before it became common, and I prefer ze to sie.

    And, yes, I’m familiar with singular they going back to Jane Austen, and have read the many Languagelog posts about its acceptability. Still don’t like it though.

    However, I don’t complain when others use it, and in really formal situations, acknowledge that it’s probably the most acceptable.

    Still hate it, though. Yes, hir sounds like her. Yes, this is the first time I’ve encountered zem and zir, and given the amount of feminist reading I do, suggests they’re not exactly common. Yes, it would be nice if we could agree: is it gonna be zir, hir, their?

    But the fact of the matter there is no one good solution, so a little tolerance would be nice. We manage if Crommie writes colour or honour, just as he does so when we USians write theater or aluminum.

    So please, use your favorite, but don’t crap on me for mine.

  7. 7
    Scr... Archivist

    I always thought “hir” sounds just like “hear”. And that “zir” was pronouced “zeer”. Are these wrong assumptions?

  8. 8
    TerranRich, Yet Another Atheist

    Scr… Archivist: Nope, you’re not wrong. That’s how most people I’ve come across have been pronouncing it. And it only makes sense; why not differentiate it from “her”?

  9. 9
    Jason Thibeault

    Under that impression as well, Archivist.

    Also, Canucks like me and Crommunist don’t use “aluminium” despite it being the British spelling. Canadian English is a mishmash of American and British.

  10. 10
    John Horstman

    Losing comments to the “Possible Imposter!” dialog is getting aggravating; is there a way to keep the check in place without discarding all of the form data?

    Anyway, once again…
    @1: They’re only phonetically identical in certain dialects, like many dialects of American English that rhoticize vowels preceding [ɹ] (or collapse them to [ə] or syllabic [ɹ]). Even then, it’s possible to train oneself to say [hIɹ]. I rather like the difficulty: it queers both the morpheme and phoneme, forcing the speaker to stop and actually think about hir use of pronouns. It’s a sort of linguistic activism.

    As for singular “they”, it generally doesn’t exist. People certainly use “they” to describe an individual, but the word is still linguistically plural, as is evident in the common phrase, “What do they think?” instead of, “What does they think?” which is what people would say if they were using “they” as singular. The description of individuals of indefinite (binary) gender as plural while describing those of definite gender as singular is politically problematic: it’s potentially marginalizing or Othering. An actual gender-neutral singular pronoun set is very much preferable to the use of implicitly-plural “they” to describe an individual.

    @7, 9: I’ve heard that as well; it’s based on the common [i] pronunciation of “i” (Italic languages that use the Latin alphabet for their written representations, instead of the [I] pronunciation, which is far less common across languages, but what many Germanic languages that use the Latin alphabet default to). The etymology of “hir” is a portmanteau of “him” and “her” (also “his” and “her”), so the ‘correct’ pronunciation would be [hIɹ]. This is extremely difficult to reproduce for North American English-speakers, as [Iɹ] is not a legal phonetic combination in many NA English dialects. I consider that to be part of the point, but if you disagree, then [hiɹ] ought to be a perfectly acceptable pronunciation; alternately, you could use “zir” pronounced as [zIɹ] or [ziɹ].

  11. 11
    Kilian Hekhuis

    As for singular “they”, it generally doesn’t exist. People certainly use “they” to describe an individual, but the word is still linguistically plural, as is evident in the common phrase, “What do they think?” instead of, “What does they think?” which is what people would say if they were using “they” as singular.

    “singular they” is about semantic use, not syntactic number agreement. Or do you also maintain that “singular you” doesn’t exist because it takes “are”, which is plural (we are, you are, they are)? “you” is a very clear example of singularisation of a once plural-only pronoun. “They” has already gone the exact same semantic road, whether you tend to believe that or not, and is a perfectly good alternative for he/she, and (imho) much better than “hir” (which as you already pointed out correctly violates phonetic rules and doesn’t rhyme with simlar spelled “sir”).

  12. 12
    Jason Thibeault

    John Horstman: actually, yes, I think I know a way to fix it pretty simply. I might be able to make the error form kick back your comment within the error message, and a warning that you should copy/paste it elsewhere. Looking into it now.

    If singular they gained popular acceptance, it would become part of the English language and it wouldn’t be a syntactic problem any more.

  13. 13
    Captaintripps

    I used Jailbreak the Patriarchy for a couple of days last week. The goal is admirable, but I think the execution kinda stinks. Some site-level control would be nice and even turning it off doesn’t always work.

  14. 14
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    No, this really does nothing for me. More power to those who get mileage out of it.

  15. 15
    submariner

    I personally find nothing wrong with the gender-reversed EA games post.Just that men don’t choose to enter that field as much as women (kind of like nursing). Is it supposed to show something else?

  1. 16
    Around FtB » Pharyngula

    [...] Jason is mangling text on the web. [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>