In a discussion that surely made a few heads spin, a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh considered the “intersection of race, gender and sexual orientation within the use of the word ‘it.’”
The Rhode Island School of Design’s Joon Lee, a researcher of “feminism, fiction writing, African-American literature and culture and queer theory,” led the dialogue this past Thursday.
Since nearly everything in the humanities these days is somehow affected by “oppression,” according to The Advance Titan, Lee argues even the word “it” is a victim: it has had “to bare [sic] an unimaginably oppressive wave of the idea of oppression itself.”
“It reassures us that humans are not only not objects but they are better than objects,” he says.
“‘It’ is a word that stands outside human identity with its lack of gender,” the professor said. “‘It’ is not ‘he’ nor ‘she,’ but lately I’ve been wondering what ‘it’ might be, what it might feel like for the word ‘it’ to become a functioning gender pronoun in the English language.”
Lee said the English language is just now learning to use “they” as a new pronoun for those who identify as non-binary.
“I love this little word and in these cultural times, when the English language, at least American English, is undergoing the beginning of a sizement and therefore doubtlessly the eons-long shift of using ‘they’ as a genderless singular pronoun,” Lee said. “‘It’ is being left out of the conversation of gender politics and has made me want to express its love to anyone.”
Lee said the process of introducing “it” as a new gender pronoun may take a long time, but the chase to understand “it” as a new pronoun is a step in the right direction.
“To me, imagining the functionality of ‘it’ as a gender pronoun is a philosophical chase that doesn’t reach a finish line,” Lee said. “The chase itself may be rewarding enough in forcing us to think about the physical limits of our bodies and how language might work with or against individual sexuality, race and gender to draw out the most comfortable alpine for those limits.”
Student Sierra Skindzelewski attended the lecture because it tied in to what she is studying in her class on human race variations.
“In my class I’m learning how race is a social construct,” Skindzelewski said. “It’s not biologically truth necessarily, and how Dr. Lee, from my perspective, was taking gender and saying that it’s a choice as well, similar to how sex is a biological concept whereas gender is that other choice one can make too.”
Wait wait wait wait wait wait — again with this “race is a social construct” stuff? Just yesterday a student newspaper story quoted a University of Maryland student who “identifies as black.” But … during the whole Rachel Dolezal chronicle we were scolded that people cannot do that.
If anyone can keep track of what is and what isn’t in progressive academia these days, pat yourself on the back.
IMAGE: Pat Guiney/Flickr