October 16, 2005

You know something is happening here, but you don't know what it is. Do you?

Tales of interviewing for a job in Gender Studies, from the Chronicle of Higher Education (via Poliblogger):
My faculty guide led me into a comfortable room in the Multicultural/LGBT Student Center, where about 12 students were gathered around open boxes of pizza and bottles of soda on a coffee table. A few looked up and smiled at me, and my faculty escort called one of them over and introduced her.

"Leslie, this is Dr. Haladay from the University of California. I'll leave her to speak with all of you until around 7:30, then I'll come and take her over to the job talk."

"OK," said Leslie, a pale young woman with short black hair and Buddy Holly glasses. "Nice to meet you, Dr. Haladay. Should we start off by introducing ourselves?"

Leslie asked the students to assemble in a circle and told them what was happening. "OK, we're starting with introductions, everybody, so why don't we all say our name, our year in school, our major, and our pronoun. I'll start."

I suddenly felt like I was back in the stairwell trying to decode one of the fliers. Pronoun? I didn't have time to dwell on it.

"My name is Leslie, I'm a fourth year in comparative ethnic, gender, and global studies, and I go by 'he.'" I stared at Leslie a little too long as I tried to grasp "his" words and readjust my obviously gender-biased and inaccurate first impression.

Then I smiled, probably too much.

The next person in the circle was a young Latina with thick, long hair and a red hair band. "My name is Nana, I'm queer, and I go by 'she,'" said Nana. "I'm in sociology, and I'm about to graduate. Yay!"

Jonny wore a black leather vest and motorcycle boots, and had multiple facial piercings, sparkling blue eye shadow, and a goatee -- and also claimed the pronoun "she."
Now it's the interviewee's turn to introduce herself. Will she follow the group's format and give a go-by pronoun? There are three good reasons to do so: 1. It will help her get the job she wants, 2. It's friendly and polite to adopt the convention of a group you join (if each member had stated his (!) favorite color at the end of the introduction, it would be casual and nice to state yours), 3. I had a third reason, but if it was so good, why have I forgotten it? (Maybe you can think of one.)

Side note: The sign on the door of the unisex bathroom was "a block of prose in rather small writing explaining the gendered politics of the public toilet." (For Althouse opinion on transgender bathrooms, start here.)


Sally said...

I don't have a problem with this sort of introduction in this sort of department. Not everyone is born with a specific gender, and I'm sure those who aren't might flock to the support given in a gender studies department in an academic institution.

Steve said...

Reason #3: Answer according to the rules to keep this conversation going. To make up for the possibly too-large-a-smile faux pas, make your pronoun 'most-men-call-me-bee-utch' to magnify your endearment to the group.

Decklin Foster said...

3. ..the interviewee generally uses a pronoun ("he"/"him" or "she"/"her") to refer to themselves anyway?

I mean, even if you think these people are a bit loopy, what are you going to do -- refuse to claim a gender? That'll teach 'em!

I don't see why it's such a big deal that I'm a he or so-and-so is a she, but the wide-eyed writing style of the "interviewee" here seems to imply that they do.

erp said...

If Jane had said her pronoun is it, she may have gotten their respect, if not the job.

Pogo said...

Oh. My. Heavens.
Sounds horrific, at first, but Hey!This could be fun!

I would make them refer to me by a brand new pronoun, "bootylicous", because I think a binary pronoun system is just a pernicious holdover from the failed patriarchy.

And I would demand a new pronoun every day, just to overcome the hegemony, dontcha know. Tomorrow's pronoun: "sistaaah"

L. Ron Halfelven said...

That ever-so-worrisome statistic about the greater education level of women needs to have an asterisk next to it, I think.

michael a litscher said...

3) To keep up the pretense long enough in order to witness the full measure of the off-the-hook outrageousness of it all so you have a guaranteed beer-out-the-nostrils freak-show story for your friends.

F15C said...

I would select a pronoun based upon the perceived and stated cultural/sexual identity of the person to whom I was introduced. Through experiencing them in the introduction phase of our relationship, I'd select the pronoun I feel would be most supportive of the relationship based upon their diverse lifestyle makeup and sensitivities and mine.

Certainly, given sexual/gender-fluidity, (and other diversity measures important at the time) it would be fixed-pronounist of me to believe that my pronoun-of-choice today would remain such indefinitely.

Therefore, maintaing openess to all sensitivities and diverse possibilities within the human experience, I must realize though that over time the pronoun-of-choice must evolve based upon the other person's life-changes, my life-changes, and that of the prevailing groups within which we find support for our identities.

The other person(s) and I will therefore come together on special occasions to celebrate our current prounouns and to select and nurture our new prounouns-of-choice.

Meade said...

In any social setting, it's considerate of others to let them know specifically how you prefer to be addressed and how, in your absence, they can refer to you with due respect.

For example, "My name is Jane Haladay, as you know. My Ph.D. is in ethnic studies, with a designated emphasis in women's studies. Please call me "Jane" but if I'm hired for the job and I become your teacher, I will want to be addressed as Professor Haladay. As for a third person pronoun, I prefer "she" as in, "Has anyone seen Professor Haladay?"
"Yes, she was just here but excused herself to use the women's room."

So, reason #3: Respect and considerateness cuts both/all ways.

lindsey said...

Somebody needs to buy this woman's story and put it in a movie.

P. Froward said...

I would think that some "multicultural" people (say for example those from traditional Muslim backgrounds) might not necessarily take kindly to being lumped in with the LGBTBBQ crowd.

But I can see the reasoning, from the school's point of view: "This is where we keep the People Who Must Be Propitiated", which of course is very, very different from "this is where we keep the People Who Are Not Like Us". Very different indeed! Just happens they're both the exact same set of individual students, is all.

P. Froward said...

...not to imply that all "multicultural" or LGBT people demand to be be propitiated.

PatCA said...

It strikes me as somewhat ingenuous that someone applying for a teaching position in this discipline would be the least bit surprised by these events. I think she's using them, and that's not very attractive.

XWL said...

With all this talk about fluids and sex, I don't think this blog is safe for worktime reading anymore.

/sarcasm off

(our should that be /poor attempt at disingenuous humor off?)

(and another aside patca, I think you meant disingenuous in your comment, not ingenuous, you are accusing the article writer of knowing what she was walking into and pretending to be shocked, rather than just being shocked)

(and while I'm commenting on commenters prof froward, your construction of LGBTBBQ is a dangerous, aggressive and offensive construction insamuch as the BBQ reference recalls the use of the term faggot for gay men which stems from the burning of homosexuals at the stake (are you suggesting that these people should be rounded up and put to the flames once again?!?!?!??!!???) /sarcasm off, again, just thought I'd beat someone to that argument before someone makes it seriously)

David said...

Actually, if you spend enough time with people of vague gender, a custom of stating a preferred pronoun upfront is more helpful than anything else.

Jeff said...

The implications of all of this were already explored by Julia Sweeney and Dave Foley in "It's Pat!: the Movie".

Tim Sisk said...

Some conversations just aren't worth having.

Freeman Hunt said...

"Oh, I'm normal, so I go by she." Hehehe, it would be great comedy to watch the reaction to an antagonistic answer like that.

The Drill SGT said...

I'm surprised and shocked by the article. As a graduate (74) of DR JANE HALADAY's UC Davis, I'm amazed that someone who did graduate studies in Enthic studies or Women's studies or Native American studies, whatever... within the UC system would not be in touch with the latest seminatic usages in the LGBT ghetto. Could it be that a mid-western college is even more standard deviations (some pun intended) left of the mainstream of liberal academic thought as represented by the UC system? A scarey thought. Obviously the UC system has gone reactionary since I left. NOT!