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0 votes
so there are two arguments about pronouns relating to autonomy and they are as follows:

One can choose their own pronouns, because it is a reference to them, they are choosing how they are addressed and exercising their autonomy. thus, anyone calling them otherwise is being authoritative. Most people agree that anyone can choose their own name, if examined logically, but I suppose I can see why it is more convoluted with pronouns as they are not unique to an individual, but when used they are specific to them.

One can choose how they talk and the words they use. someone can choose their own name and pronouns, however it is up to others whether or not they respect this.

can anyone see either of these arguments as superior to the other and say why? I know there have been questions on here about transgender people and gender roles feminism gender deconstruction etc. and I would be excited to discuss that stuff too but id really like to hear opinions on the above.
by (890 points)
completely agree. some trans people get pissy because they view this as being denied their identity, but not if it is always used for everyone. entirely solves a few problems raised by feminists and queer people.
i don't think "authoritarian" (as i use the word) has anything to do with what one person calls another (pronoun, or otherwise). it may say something about the relationship between the two people, or the attitudes of one or both of them.....but the situations and relationships (from complete strangers to acquaintances to close friends or family) could vary so much between any two people that i couldn't say what it means if someone chooses not to refer to a person in the way they would like.....but i wouldn't call that "authoritarian"....on the other hand, i assume most people who ask someone to call them by a certain name/gender/label would like others to do so (especially if they consider the person a friend, or a relationship where they come into contact with each other often)....and if the person didn't call them as desired, that would obviously cause conflict.

of course, often in relationships, people ask for a lot more than that. :)

edited to add:

i use "authoritarian" in the legal sense, derived from "authority" as defined by law/property/money. if used in another sense, like "domineering" or "belligerent", i would change my opinion of "having nothing to do with authority", but the particular circumstances would still make a difference in how i characterized the refusal to call someone as they wish.
this may not be directly relevant, but i think there is a thread of relevance.

i was in eugene in the early 00's, and the whole "co" movement was in full swing at the time (co being the chosen gender-neutral pronoun of the "radical" anarcha-feminists there).

although i was never asked to use the pronoun myself, other aspects of my normal language were similarly judged. i tend to use words like bitch and motherfucker a lot, and not always about people (neither was ever gender specific to me). when a couple of those feminists - who i considered friends at the time - rode my ass about certain words, i told them something very much like this (i don't recall all the exact words):

do not tell me what language is "good" or "bad", right or wrong, because that is authoritarian bullshit, and i 'm not having it. however, if a particular word offends you personally, i will do my best not to use it in your presence, because i care about you and our relationship. if i slip once in a while, you should assume it is because i have always used those words so frequently and i may forget in any given moment; feel free to point it out, but not in that authoritarian way. ("that authoritarian way" being the way they had just said it).

it mostly worked, although one of those women turned out to be someone whose behavior i found pathetic and unacceptable anyway.

edit: i usually do as nihilist suggests above; i say "they" or "them".

this does raise a question for me about language, which probably should go in a separate question, except that it is not at all specific to anarchy.

do people think that changing language changes behavior?

or that changing behavior changes language? both? neither?

@funkyanarchy, yup that pretty much sums up my opinion, but way clearer, and with an anecdote!

does language changes peoples behaviour;  yes.  but behaviour also changes language.  since language is a behaviour, i would just say 'behaviour affects behaviour'.  anyway, onto language.  heres hoping i can actually find the sources for these things im about to say with confidence.  it has been noted that many cultures split up the colour spectrum in different ways.  for instance im pretty sure russian has a word for light blue, in the same way we have a word of light red; 'pink'.  but that is by no means the most radical example.  for instance many languages do not share the distinction between 'green' and 'blue' that english has, sometimes referring to them as the 'same colour', using the same word for 'both'.  im fairly sure i heard somewhere that a test was done by anthropologists where english speakers and a speakers of a different language -i forget which one- were given options of many different colours, and had to pick one out, and group of language speakers on the whole performed very differently.  in one part of the colour spectrum -where the non-english speakers had more words categorising the same area of the colour spectrum- the non-english speakers were able to more reliably pick minute differences between colours.  in another part of the colour spectrum -where the non-english language had fewer words compared to english- they struggled to differentiate between colours that english speakers would think of as 'completely different'.  however as im sure you have noticed i cannot find the source for this, so it may be bullshit.  the experiment, not the 'green-blue' distinction.  im pretty sure about that one.  im also not sure how i feel about anthropologists, but eh.

this does seem to make intuitive sense, at least to me.  every moment you receive far more data than you can process, and part of growing up is learning to filter a lot of it out.  one of the ways we do this is through language; indeed, i mostly think in language, and its pretty difficult to talk about the experiences that arent in our language, though i do have fun trying.  the environment you live in is going to influence what is important to you; in the city generally dont need to pay close attention to noise, as doing so would probably drive you insane pretty quickly.  fuck trucks man.  but in a more 'wild' environment, you have to be far more conscious of sound for things like hunting, not being eaten etc. and so you will learn to listen, or die.  the same is true for colours.  depending on what you do most of the time, different colours are going to be differently important to you.  a forager might need to distinguish between very slightly different shades of green, but someone who lives in a gray, drab, soul-crushing city isnt going to have as much experience with that.  this, along with other many factors, might explain why languages developed different ways of categorising colours.  since we are so immersed in language, we seem to think mostly in language, we communicate quite heavily using verbal language, and so it seems safe to assume that the categories that already exist in the language we use everyday are going to be reinforced.

here is a good episode of a mostly wanky podcast that might interest some of you

i like the conversation funky and skyline.

another thought i had about this subject....

the pronoun request only makes sense to me in terms of other people talking about you to third parties or when writing about you in third person.....not when talking to you....

people generally refer to someone by their name or "you" when speaking to each other....not she or he (or they) i guess you would need to ask someone to talk to other people about you in this way....which seems strange to me, since in most of the instances you wouldn't even hear it.

happens quite a bit actually when people discuss in front of you. idk its just really annoying we all have our things. perhaps most instances you wouldn't but its still like a constant everyday thing if you don't speak up

2 Answers

0 votes
the first argument is slightly authoritarian.  one person wants to be called by a specific pronoun, whilst another person might want to call them by a specific pronoun.  thats it.  it only gets authoritarian when people try to claim some objective position on the matter, as with the first argument.

i might think that the transgender person is putting too much power in other people and the way they are perceived, and i might disagree with them about the notion of 'gender'.  but i also understand the anger at societies restrictive, prescriptive notions of gender, and would go along with their wishes cause its no bother, and im not a dick.

anyone who purposefully says what they know will offend someone because of some strange insistence about gender essentialism is an arsehole.

edit; on rereading i can see that i am basically just agreeing with second argument, so i reworded it to match.
by (2.1k points)
edited by
thanks, and just btw about the notion of gender and people who don't conform to gender norms, not all of these people are gender essentialists and some are deconstructionists. its just that even without believing in gender or "becoming the other gender" there are certain things they would like to do and ways that they would like to express themselves, not for the end of conforming to a certain gender, but simply for the sake of those things themselves.
what do you mean by claiming an objective position on the matter? like either side can do what they want but the problem is when someone makes statements about what everyone SHOULD do?
hence the 'almost certainly'

'probably' would probably work better

my answer doesnt sit right with me.  despite my constant fiddling, i cannot seem to get it close to anything i am happy with.  i dont want to delete it -out of some deep-seated, probably pathological archiving fetish- so imma break down the issue again here;

first off, i dont think that you present two arguments in the way i understand the word.  an argument to me is a set of reasons for believing a certain thing or for acting a certain way;  neither of your arguments are set out as such, so its quite hard to treat them as arguments.

the first one comes the closest to being an argument in this sense. bear in mind i will take some liberties with the wording;

  1. people can choose their own name and pronoun
  2. anyone who does not respect another individuals wishes is authoritarian
  3. therefore anyone who doesnt use the pronouns chosen by a person is being authoritarian
thats the closest i can get it.  lets start with 1; it is simply untrue.  a name is whatever is used to refer to you.  you can express a desire to be referred to in a certain way -i think that is probably closer to what you meant-, but that doesnt mean that is how you will be referred; think 'the artist formally known as prince'.  the other way i could have interpreted that statement would have been 'people have a right to choose their own name', but since this is an anarchist forum with lots of egoist and nihilist influence, and my own personal opinion on 'rights', i thought that would actually be less charitable.
with 2 i dont agree.  i dont think there is an objective category of 'authoritarian', an while not complying with the wishes of an individual would definitely play a part in the way i use the word, it certainly wouldnt be all of it.
whether or not i agree with the argument, it doesnt really tell me anything.  my interpretation is based entirely on my own interpretation of 'authoritarian', as there exists no such actual criteria 'authoritarian' we can discover something meets, but that criteria is constructed by us.  it also doesnt give me any inspiration of what i might like to do about any of this. 
the second arguments most definitely isnt an argument, it is an observation.  people can and do express a desire to be referred to in a certain way, and it is up to the other person whether or not they 'respect that'.  that is consistent with my experiences.

i think the problems i have with the question -and subsequently my answer- are similar reasons i have to dislike the question 'Is the initiation of force preferable to the non initiation of force?'.  its certainly better worded, but the idea of absolutes, of morality, of the good -singular- is still at its core, and it still uses words in a way i would shy away from myself, and as such answering the question in its own terms becomes difficult.  


i appreciate that you jump in and then (re)consider sms.

my response to the question/prompt would be "no." there is nothing inherently authoritarian about the things that you posit, DD, and without a specific instance with details, your hypothetical(s) rely on too much baggage and expectation (ie, there's not enough info to draw out the complexities). maybe this means we should have a question about "what is *authoritarian*"?! ...maybe there is one already...
i was trying to discern if either one is superior or negates the other, as they seem to contradict eachother, when practices, they cant exist simultaneously. (the situation would be the trans person has to be around the other person so avoidance wouldnt be an option) but even that is very general.

sms: I think they are both arguments, but i did a very poor way of wording the latter

one has autonomy has choice over their name (im using the definition of what you call yourself, i call what people call you exactly that, if you went somewhere like prison and everyone there called you shitbitch most people would view that as "no one calls me by what my name is") and how they are addressed --> therefore it is authoritarian for someone to force otherwise on them

one has autonomy over the words they choose to use --> therefore it is authoritarian for the transgender person to insist that they must call them by their preference.

rights are why i framed the question as if anyone is demonstrating authoritarian tendencies.

im not sure how i would define it, but i do think that we can specify what authoritarianism is, i do not think it is objective but not impossible to discuss whether something is.

the conclusion im coming to is almost something like both.

edit: oh and i disagree about giving someone else too much power. asking someone might put the ball in their court, but feeling upset about being called a certain way isnt any different than being upset about the condition of the world or any other thing, it comes from within and just happens.

@dot yeah, that was my original reaction before i began to tinker with things.  i dont like general examples about whether 'types' of action fall under certain 'categories', but then i realised that my position was effectively just the second 'argument' that @dd mentioned, so i got a bit flustered

@dd ok with the arguments framed like that i dont think either of them lead to the conclusions that you set up, mostly because there are a lot of intermediate steps that you have missed out in setting up the argument.  for an argument to work you have to set out the criteria for 'authoritarian' internally, otherwise its impossible to discuss.  perhaps something like 'it is authoritarian to violate the autotomy of another person', with which i wouldnt even agree anyway, so there is that.  like dot, without the context of a specific example, my answer is basically 'that depends on the context'.

another problem with the first one is you do not have autonomy over how other people address you, thats why they are other people.

the problem with the second one is again you do not have autonomy over how other people want to be addressed.  however, the person insisting they 'must' be referred to in a specific way seems clearly incorrect, as if that were true, then the situation they are objecting to would never have arisen.

"for an argument to work you have to set out the criteria for 'authoritarian' internally"

or agree on it with whoever you are discussing, in which case that criteria would probably well answer the question.

I'm actually struggling to figure as to why it is necessary to be more specific...‚Äč I'm not sure how much more specific I can get without talking about specific people, in which case if their reasons for changing their pronoun is the same it seems it would apply to other people using the same reason no?

"another problem with the first one is you do not have autonomy over how other people address you, thats why they are other people.

the problem with the second one is again you do not have autonomy over how other people want to be addressed.  however, the person insisting they 'must' be referred to in a specific way seems clearly incorrect, as if that were true, then the situation they are objecting to would never have arisen."

ya I cant really see either one as negating or being superior to the other. they can be simultaneously true.

ya know actually, the biggest lesson I've learned from all of this is, the only place you really "have" to be somewhere specific, atleast daily for certain times as a requirement, is work for most people, making it the only place avoidance doesn't work. I cant think of anything else off the top of my head. so maybe as usual capitalism is the real problem cheeky

–1 vote
Neither. They're both stupid and I'm under zero obligation to play along
by (110 points)
Thanks for your feedback. How do you refer to the genders of your friends and comrades?
costanza, when you say "both", do you mean in reference to the genders...or the two arguments in the question?

i don't know about "stupid", as that is way too subjective and broad a term for me to apply here, but i definitely agree with the last part of costanza's statement.

you (anybody, really) have absolutely have no obligation to play along. you may choose to, for any number of reasons.

ingrate i don't use gender pronouns when in company with friends. friend and comrades is redundant unless you're meaning a fellow member in group for comrade. im not a member of a group that im aware.

bornagainanarchist the word "both" is referring to the binary, either or question. "so there are two arguments about pronoun..." im not using "both" in reference to genders. the question didn't mention there being one or the other in regards to gender.