“They”: Introductions

C. Travis Webb

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0103   |   December 23, 2019

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“They”: Introductions

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The fervor over pronoun usage might seem silly to some. Is it “he,” “she,” or “they”? But language has never been fixed, and how individuals refer to themselves is in constant flux. There’s nothing wrong with negotiation, but there might be with something wrong moralizing.

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C.T. WEBB: 00:18 [music] Good afternoon, good morning, or good evening, and welcome to the American Age Podcast. This is your host, C. Travis Webb, and I’m speaking to you from Southern California.
S. FULLWOOD: 00:27 Hi, this is Steven G. Fullwood and I am the cofounder of the Nomadic Archivists Project, and I’m coming to you from Harlem, and it’s a mild day here after several days of rain.
S. RODNEY: 00:39 Hi, I’m Seph Rodney, I am a senior editor at Hyperallergic and the author of a recent book, The Personalization of the Museum Visit. I am coming to you from the South Bronx, and I can say I’m glad to be alive. I had a yellow fever vaccine shot on Monday and went to work out and thought I was going to die. But I didn’t. So yay for me.
C.T. WEBB: 01:04 Glad you didn’t die. This is to remind our listeners that we practice a form of what we like to call intellectual intimacy, which is giving each other the space and time to figure out things out loud and together. I was just in New York actually, and I did a reading for the American Age at a bar called the KGB Bar, and actually had a chance to see Seph. I didn’t get a chance to connect with Steven while I was out there. But in trying to turn myself towards the holiday mood since we’re coming into the season, our topic is– so we’re going to introduce our topic for this week and then next week we’re going to break our format once again to talk about what we call unlucky days. So maybe stick around for that when you come back next week, and then we’ll pick the conversation up about they after that.
C.T. WEBB: 01:56 So the topic, as I just gave away, is the pronoun they. And what prompted– well, I guess all of us had kind of kicked around the idea of doing this a couple months ago, and then I was in New York not too long after that, and Steven and Seph and I had a chance to sit and share drinks and have a conversation in person rather than over the internet. And the topic came up again, and we had a really– for me, it was a really fruitful conversation around the topic, facilitated primarily by Steven because I think Seph and I were kind of playing in the same general territory with it. Anyway, so we’re not going to necessarily recreate that conversation, that’s not what this is about, but I think we’ll have some things to say. So, Steven or Seph, whoever wants to kind of jump into the topic first, please do.
S. FULLWOOD: 03:00 I always love the way you set things up. I always go, “I’m ready, I’m ready.” And then when you’re about at the last word– at the end of the last word, I go, “So what am I going to say? Oh. Okay, what would I say? Okay, this is what I would say.” And it’s all within milliseconds, and so Seph, do you want to? Because I can, or I can defer.
S. RODNEY: 03:18 I’ll follow your lead.
S. FULLWOOD: 03:20 Okay, cool. So I think one of the most useful things to me in terms of talking about they or trans or gender fluidity, these kinds of things, these gender ideas–
C.T. WEBB: 03:36 Steven, I don’t mean to interrupt but I just realized we should say what exactly we’re talking about around this issue because there is a small possibility that people will not know sort of the dust-up around this. So can you briefly– I’m sorry, can you briefly just gloss what the they thing is all about? And then please continue.
S. FULLWOOD: 03:58 Well, that’s funny because they, for me, is a refuting of a masculine or a gender– I mean, a masculine or a feminine role, right, or an identity or it could be both. So that’s how I see they. But gender identity and gender roles are very different. It’s the personal conceptualization as oneself as male or female or both or neither, right, this identity thing and so–
S. RODNEY: 04:24 Sorry to interrupt–
S. FULLWOOD: 04:27 Go ahead.
S. RODNEY: 04:27 –but I think it’s a key issue. It’s not just about this self-conceptualization by the individual, but it’s also about how the individual is identified publicly, right? So this is why we get pronouns in email–
S. FULLWOOD: 04:47 [crosstalk].
S. RODNEY: 04:47 –letters, right, like she/her, like what are your preferred pronouns?
S. FULLWOOD: 04:51 Right, right.
S. RODNEY: 04:52 The conversation is about– and this is why it’s so key, I think, and which is why we, I think, are going to talk about it– is that this meeting place, these ways of talking about the self come into the public lexicon at the meeting place of the way an individual thinks about him or herself or–
S. FULLWOOD: 05:19 Or their self. Yeah.
S. RODNEY: 05:20 –or their self, and how they are publicly identified, so they’re not the same thing, but they kind of cross each other on the Venn diagram.
S. FULLWOOD: 05:32 I’m glad you brought that up because I think I always start from the personal, from where the person begins in terms of the way I think about gender identity, do you know?
S. RODNEY: 05:41 Mm-hmm.
S. FULLWOOD: 05:41 So I want to ask you guys this now and I’ll start with my own experience with it. The first time someone ever asked me what was my gender pronoun, I was giving a talk at Princeton– no, Brown. I was at Brown and I was in a– I gave my talk and then I went to a poetry class and people were going around saying their names and what is your gender pronoun? This was 2014, and I remember thinking, “No ones ever asked me that before,” and I remember when they got to me, I was like, “Wow, okay.” I mean, he, yay, he, his, him, but I was struck by the diversity in the room, and this is a college campus so that’s not surprising that people weren’t thinking about these kinds of things but when was the first time someone ever asked you about you gender pronoun, what your preferred gender pronoun was? Do you remember?
S. RODNEY: 06:31 Oh, me. Yeah. [crosstalk]–
S. FULLWOOD: 06:31 Has it happened?
S. RODNEY: 06:32 Well, that’s the thing. It hasn’t, what happened was it happened implicitly. I was teaching a class at Parsons, and it just did not occur to me, even though it was in the air that people had essentially adopted a language that recognized the fluidity of gender. Right?
S. FULLWOOD: 06:58 Mm-hmm.
S. RODNEY: 07:00 Because we’re talking about recognition I think.
S. FULLWOOD: 07:02 Right.
S. RODNEY: 07:02 Honestly, I hadn’t really thought about it deeply and then I was teaching a class at Parsons. I think it was a year ago or two years ago and I didn’t ask anyone what their gender pronoun was, but some people– I think I may be conflating two experiences here because my recollection isn’t clear, but I think what happened was, at some point, I was referring to a student whose name is– well, doesn’t matter. But she looked to me– she – what’s the word? – appeared to be a woman, and I said, “How are we going to help out Blank whittle down her research question?” Because it was a research methodologies class, so I was dealing with research methods and methodologies. And she kind of angrily said, “My pronoun is they. Could you refer to me as they?” And I was like, “Okay.” I said, “Okay,” but it took me aback because I hadn’t ever experienced someone, somewhat angrily, demanding that I recognize them by they.
S. RODNEY: 08:25 And now I remember the first time I really dealt with it. The first time I dealt with it in conversation with someone – and I remember struggling with this – was they– I think it was a few months prior. I had run into an ex-colleague of mine from Hyperallergic, Jillian Steinhauer, who now occasionally writes for the New York Times and other publications. But we had both gone to see a performance by an artist named Cassils, I think that’s C-A-S-I-L-S, Cassils. And they identified by they. And I didn’t know that at the time until I got there. And then we were talking about– so Cassils appears to be a woman to my eyes, but they identify differently. And they have worked out a kind of– their bodies so much that they do, to my eyes, appear as almost intrasex. All right? So it could be man, or it could be woman. But I was talking with Jillian Steinhauer about Cassils, and Jillian did it fluid, flawlessly. She was like, “They did, they that, they.” And I was like, “Her– I mean they, and I’m sorry.” I was completely flummoxed, not because I had some internal guardrail against recognizing the gender that Cassils had claimed for themselves, but because I have an internal guardrail against bad grammar. Bad grammar just sucks for me.
C.T. WEBB: 10:10 Interesting.
S. RODNEY: 10:10 I hear it and it just sounds off. It’s like a singer singing off-key. It just don’t sound right. So I was struggling with that. And that’s where I– well, clearly, in this conversation, I’ve done better at this. I’ve figured out a way to be comfortable with it. But I was deeply uncomfortable from the start.
C.T. WEBB: 10:36 Yeah. So I’m with you on that as well because I take care in trying to speak in complete sentences and paragraphs.
S. RODNEY: 10:47 Indeed. Indeed.
C.T. WEBB: 10:48 And took time in my attempts to communicate, to reprogram myself to say she or he, him or herself, because I wanted to– when I was coming up in the– sort of in cutting my teeth on critical theoretical philosophy, which is where all this stuff come out of, it was making sure to be inclusive of women when you’re talking about accomplishments or assuming whatever a stranger happens to do that’s laudable wasn’t automatically assuming that person was a man.
S. FULLWOOD: 11:34 [Seriously?].
C.T. WEBB: 11:34 So there’s absolutely a reflexive hesitation about using the third person plural in that way. So here’s the thing though, And I’m going to use an analogy not to demean the use of they, but just to really make my point. If someone in a setting, in a one-on-one conversation or even a public setting said, “My preferred pronoun is grrr,” I would do my best to call them grrr as well as I was able to do that. Now, I’m not diminishing they by saying that. What I’m saying is that if another human tells me that they prefer to be addressed a particular way, I will do my best to address them that way. And any failure to address them that way is not a rejection of their place in the world, and I’m not impugning anything about them. It’s just my own inelegance with the language at that moment in time.
S. RODNEY: 12:53 But can I–?
C.T. WEBB: 12:53 And–
S. RODNEY: 12:55 Go ahead.
C.T. WEBB: 12:56 No, go ahead.
S. RODNEY: 12:56 No, go ahead, Travis.
C.T. WEBB: 12:57 And I find someone like Jordan Peterson that wants to like sort of aggressively reject the idea–
S. RODNEY: 13:06 Oh yeah.
C.T. WEBB: 13:06 of using they and stuff like that. So that’s not an argument I would make. Right? It’s fine. And there’s no reason to wall that off because clearly, there are people that are figuring their gender out and what that means. And figuring out their place in the world and language is a big part of that. So I don’t have an issue with that. But I do have an issue with people that are not generous about their desire to be referred to in an atypical way and their aggression towards other people that are incapable of doing that well.
S. RODNEY: 13:46 Well, I want to add the caveat to what you said because I think that it’s necessary. You will make the earnest attempt to address a human being in the way that they want to be addressed if you take seriously their request for such address. So in other words, if you get the sense that someone’s just playing with you, they’re like, “Oh yeah, my preferred pronoun is Mephistopheles,” you’re not going to necessarily go along. You have to–
S. FULLWOOD: 14:21 That’s right. Yeah.
S. RODNEY: 14:21 You have to read them as earnestly wanting this kind of specific address.
S. FULLWOOD: 14:26 But whose call is that though? It’s your call to say that a person can’t refer to him, her, they, or whatever manifestation of themselves they want to be called this way. If you feel like they’re fucking with you, how is that still your call though even if you might be completely wrong regardless if it’s aggressive or frustrating? Because there is a bit of a car crash going on here with this whole gender identification thing. Right?
S. RODNEY: 14:53 Mm-hmm.
S. FULLWOOD: 14:53 It’s a car crash. It’s in the class. It’s when you’re meeting with someone and they’re like, “I’m sorry. I’m him. I’m him.” And I feel like it’s a car crash that we need to pay particularly close attention to. Like what about us makes us feel uncomfortable? You were with the grammar, Seph. And I think the most people– The Peterson argument– or not the Peterson, Jordan Peterson. People like Jordan Peterson flatly out reject it. They just sort of like, “This makes no sense to me, and I have no space for it. I have no love for it.” And so I like that little car crash there. I do. It’s just that when we can’t– I like what you’re saying, Travis, about the being generous. Right?
C.T. WEBB: 15:36 Mm-hmm.
S. FULLWOOD: 15:37 You try your best to address them in the way that they would like to be addressed, which I think is the best of what a human can do. Because it is something that has been in the background, I think, forever. Right?
C.T. WEBB: 15:51 Mm-hmm.
S. FULLWOOD: 15:51 So this isn’t a new idea, it’s just that we’re finding language for it and that we are– we’re not even finding language for it, we are insisting that this language, this become a part of the public conversation. There is a lot of anger and frustration with people that I know personally that are just dismissive of it. “I don’t understand it.” But I’m thinking, don’t you remember? It’s a primordial– I mean not an argument, but just an idea of how we’re gendered. And now we have to deal with this.
C.T. WEBB: 16:20 Yeah so let me respond to two things that you brought up. So A, I think whose call is it? I think it’s my call in that moment–
S. RODNEY: 16:29 Agreed. Agreed.
C.T. WEBB: 16:30 –to make that– because that’s what an inner– that’s what a sort of an interaction between another human being is about. It’s that negotiation. And I’ve known a lot of humans. And I do think that– I mean so where I think where Jordan Peterson and I think those people fall down is that they don’t have a sufficient imagination to understand that this is what happens when you’ve got six billion people in the world. It is absolutely true that our biology predisposes us to being male or female, just statistically. But there is a significant– there’s a very small percentage of human beings that for a variety of reasons, cannot easily identify with their social or biological construct. Right? But multiply that very tiny percentage by six billion people and you get a whole lot of people that cannot easily identify with their biological and social gender construct. So–
S. FULLWOOD: 17:33 I would say the caveat is here though that it isn’t a small– it isn’t a small amount of people percentage. I think that, that that’s not what–
C.T. WEBB: 17:41 It’s a small percentage. It’s a lot of people in a small percentage.
S. FULLWOOD: 17:44 I disagree. Where are you getting your numbers?
C.T. WEBB: 17:47 So let’s bracket that. So I have a great book by an evolutionary biologist that takes very seriously– she’s coming at it– she was trained as a social scientist and she takes this very seriously. And there are all these stages of development, from female development through puberty, and where your sex can get fucked up, and it can like– I’m sorry, not fucked, whatever– I mean, where an atypical process can emerge. Right?
S. FULLWOOD: 18:20 Okay.
C.T. WEBB: 18:20 So there are all these stages where it can happen, and it absolutely, it becomes a biological issue. And then, of course, you add the social stuff as well. Right? I’m not saying that the social is not a very critical part of it, and we should probably have a podcast on that too because historically–
S. FULLWOOD: 18:41 We should, yes.
C.T. WEBB: 18:41 –there are all kinds of examples of how catholic priests have imagined themselves as women in relation to God, in their writing and in their rhetoric and all this stuff. So I’m not bracketing any of it.
S. FULLWOOD: 18:56 Very good. Because I was thinking sex does not inform gender like a straight line. It’s not a straight line.
C.T. WEBB: 19:01 No. Yeah, not at all. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
S. FULLWOOD: 19:03 Right. That’s all I want to bring up. That’s all I wanted to say. Yeah.
C.T. WEBB: 19:06 I know Seph was going to jump in with something, so [inaudible].
S. FULLWOOD: 19:09 Seph, jump in.
S. RODNEY: 19:09 Well, thanks for the invitation. It’s warm in here. Get your ass in this water too– in this water here [laughter]. So a couple of things. One is, I think that generosity is a really key term. I think that what we’re saying is that– or one of the things we’re saying is that we all around the microphone here in this show are willing to be generous to other human beings, and we recognize that underneath that generosity is a more complicated understanding of what constitutes humanity. Right? That there are a number of us who biologically– we can just start there. Like Caster Semenya, right, is a South African runner, right, right–
S. FULLWOOD: 20:04 Right.
S. RODNEY: 20:04 –whose gender is just not– visually, to me, their gender is not apparent. Right?
S. FULLWOOD: 20:14 Mm-hmm.
S. RODNEY: 20:14 And he or she has had to go through– I forget how Caster identifies. I may have known at some point, but I don’t know, so I’ll just refer to Caster as Caster. Caster has gone through a rigorous process by organized sports officials to determine where Caster can run and under what gender rubric. Right?
S. FULLWOOD: 20:45 Right.
S. RODNEY: 20:46 So clearly there are people in the world who are on this kind of continuum, right?
S. FULLWOOD: 20:53 Yeah.
S. RODNEY: 20:53 And it’s not easy at all to place them as either male or female. And what we’re also saying is socially that – and this is where gender begins to separate from sex, right? – that gender is a social construct and it is buttressed. It’s made up by both the individual and the surrounding community. And what we’re saying is that in our communities, we are very ready to have that conversation, and we’re very ready to recognize the individual’s agency. And I would actually say it is about time. I mean, it’s strange for me, yes, but having read The Left Hand of Darkness when I was a kid– when I was a teenager, Ursula K. Le Guin’s science-fiction novel. What she did with that was made it apparent to me that, to an extent, the ways that we have of cordoning off male and female in our broad United States popular culture are just arbitrary. It’s just fucking arbitrary. The whole boys blue, girls pink think–
C.T. WEBB: 22:08 I would want to say historical instead of arbitrary.
S. RODNEY: 22:10 Hey what?
C.T. WEBB: 22:10 I would just want to say historical instead of arbitrary. I mean ultimately, arbitrary, yes, I mean but we inherit a world in which all of those previously arbitrary moments have now become the way in history.
S. RODNEY: 22:25 Right. They’re meaningful. No. They’re–
C.T. WEBB: 22:26 Right. They’re meaningful, yeah.
S. RODNEY: 22:26 –meaningful, that’s right. They’re traditions and I think what I would guess that even though Jordan Peterson may not admit to this that part of his struggle with they is that he wants to preserve tradition. He believes that there is something useful, something worth fighting for in the inherited human traditions in that. And there could be an argument made for that, there could be.
C.T. WEBB: 23:03 I think there is an argument to be made. I think I don’t ultimately agree with it but it’s not a ridiculous argument. And I think Steven might have a response to this. Two things in order to take Peterson’s type of positions seriously. Right?
S. RODNEY: 23:20 Mm-hmm.
C.T. WEBB: 23:20 So one is A, that if the more you raise the level of anxiety about how we are to interact with strangers, the more difficult the interaction with strangers becomes. And so to have traditional markers for how we are to address and regard one another are important handholds in that constant negotiation with people we don’t know. That’s A. B is that just like– and I’ll change my rhetoric slightly to one that I don’t necessarily think but I think makes the point a little bit better. Just like a bunch of white kids can take black culture and buy it and drive up the price, that is absolutely what is happening culturally right now. A bunch of people that have too much time and too many twitter followers have decided that they are going to be combative about gender. And it obscures the real struggle for people who are actually legitimately confused. I don’t mean confused in a negative way but I mean are struggling– let me change the word– are struggling with their gender identity and that that’s not a funny fun thing. I mean so think of the runner. I mean, that is a real serious struggle. That is a hard thing to figure out. If you don’t know like on one of these sort of baseline continuums of how we parse people – all cultures do it – and you don’t know where you land, that’s really difficult to make your way in the world.
S. FULLWOOD: 25:01 Okay. So I want to say something about Caster Semenya. So when she–
C.T. WEBB: 25:04 Caster Semenya, thank you.
S. FULLWOOD: 25:04 –identifies as, she goes, “I am the girl from the South African bush who’s the most powerful runner in the world.” So she identifies as a woman. She is lesbian. She has a partner, Violet Raseboya who she married in 2015. So she’s not unclear. It is the culture around her that is unclear, right? So there’s that. God, I have so much to say. I just want to go. So I want to say this about the dynamics of this particular kind of culture. When I was at the Schomburg Center, I was working on the building In The Life Archive which was an archive that was created by and about people for people of African descent who identify as LGBTQ and whatever else configuration comes about that is not heterosexual. That’s basically it. And one of the most dynamic aspects of that community was the trans community and the ways in which they were thinking about gender. They were moving the needle. They were pushing things. And they were just dusting up a lot of conversation about who gets to call who what because of being comfortable. Right?
S. RODNEY: 26:15 Mm-hmm.
S. FULLWOOD: 26:15 And there were so little information at that time, there was– it was funny because Janet Mock, for example, when I was at the Schomburg, she came and I took her to the archive and I kind of showed her what was going on. And I said, “Take care of your archive. Because this is history in the making. And here you are, this journalist who has made this amazing splash, and you’re doing this kind of work, what have you.” And she was really kind of moved by it. And I was just like, “Over the years I’ll probably check in with you to make sure– or not make sure, but to see how you’re managing your archive as it relates to your own journey. Because it’s a very new thing to be caught and captured in culture and hopefully archived in the future. But that dynamic, I think when I think of tradition– immediately, Travis, I thought of the Aztecs cutting out the hearts of people and I was like, “There’s a tradition. I don’t need that one [laughter].” So all traditions can’t go by the way of the dodo. Unfortunately, the dodo, I’m sorry. Sorry, dodo.
S. RODNEY: 27:19 Not all traditions, Steven.
S. FULLWOOD: 27:20 No, no, not all traditions should– well, all traditions that were all developed– like you said, we’re all in this experiment. We’re moving and we’re developing. I agree with basically everything you guys have said. I’m interested in staying and laying in the cut when it comes to how we manage how we think of ourselves. Earlier on, when you– I forget exactly what you said, Seph, but it was something like you’re thinking about it and it involves other people, but it also involves you and Travis. It involves our families, and in very personal ways that we may not want to get into. But I remember, for example, when I was a kid, I wrote in they in my journal because I was afraid that someone was going to find out that I was being with– that I was with a guy, right? They, right?
C.T. WEBB: 28:07 Yeah.
S. FULLWOOD: 28:08 And so that language there and so you guys would have totally hated the grammar of my journals, so. But I have that lifelong fascination with gender and who gets to say what. I was at a film recently at the Institute of American African American Affairs, the Center for Black Visual Culture at NYU. We premiered a film called In a Perfect World. And it was by a director by the name of Daphne McWilliams who went around and talked to men who didn’t grow up with their fathers or who had contentious relationships with their fathers. Almost every single man talked about when they were younger and their father was absent, felt like their vulnerability and their sensitivity came from the fact that they had no father [laughter] and that they were adjacent to their mother, right?
S. RODNEY: 28:51 Wow. Wow.
S. FULLWOOD: 28:54 And I was like, “Wow. Yeah, I mean, this is some serious stuff to pull apart.” As if a man cannot be these things. Do you know what I mean? So it’s like in–
S. RODNEY: 29:03 In the presence of another man. Right. Yeah. Right. Right.
S. FULLWOOD: 29:05 Or that that man would build that into them, build something else into them that may or may not be about vulnerability or sensitivity. Do you know?
S. RODNEY: 29:16 Right.
C.T. WEBB: 29:17 Yeah.
S. FULLWOOD: 29:17 So I was struck by that. And I was like, “Wow.” Because men have everything that women have in different levels of it, depending on testosterone I guess and all that. But it was still those hard-held beliefs that if I had a man in my life, I’d be more masculine or I’d be more this.
S. RODNEY: 29:36 Well, I want to say something to that, if I may.
C.T. WEBB: 29:38 Seph said a lot of things [crosstalk].
S. RODNEY: 29:40 Quick anecdote was an episode of – what’s this show with Ira Glass? – This American Life where they surveyed the team that produced This American Life. And this must have been, I don’t know, seven or eight years ago maybe, maybe longer. And socially, they measured like– not like– they measured the degree to which they were stereotypically masculine, i.e., all the men and women were measured in terms of how aggressive they were, how commanding they were, how much they talked– or how much or little they talked about their feelings, la, la, la. And they were scored along a gradient. And then they actually, medically – I think medically, yeah, that’s the word – measured the levels of testosterone in all of them.
S. RODNEY: 30:39 And it turns out that there was an odd twist in that or an unexpected twist in that. One of the producers, who’s a gay man, had among the highest levels of testosterone. So slightly unexpected, but the woman who was like the hard-hitting producer, the go-getter, the woman who’d like just get shit done and not look behind, she had the highest testosterone level among the women. So there’s a way in which it correlated with certain kinds of ideas about masculinity and femininity and then the ways in which it did not, so.
C.T. WEBB: 31:21 Yeah. So if I can piggyback on what Seph just said there. I think if I were to have– if I were to muster an argument against the prevalence of the pronoun they – and I would not necessarily do that, and I’m not playing it safe; I’m saying I’m actually just undecided where I stand on this – I think that my objection would lie somewhere along the lines of, why are our gendered pronouns so constrained? Why are the capacities for what it means to be a he or him or a she or her–
S. FULLWOOD: 31:58 Very good point.
C.T. WEBB: 31:59 –so constrained that we cannot just be sensitive men that want to wear dresses?
S. FULLWOOD: 32:08 Right. Right. Exactly.
C.T. WEBB: 32:08 I’m just like, why is that just not another way that you can be in the world as a man.
S. FULLWOOD: 32:14 As a him, right.
C.T. WEBB: 32:15 Because it is and it should be. Yes.
S. FULLWOOD: 32:17 Because it’s the truth of it. It’s the simple truth that’s in front of our faces. So what’s the space between what you just said and the reality of not acknowledging that? What is that space? I don’t know what that’s about.
S. RODNEY: 32:28 Right. Right, I agree.
C.T. WEBB: 32:30 Yeah, yeah, yeah. So anyway, Seph, I think we’re–
S. RODNEY: 32:34 [crosstalk]–
C.T. WEBB: 32:34 Go ahead, Seph, please.
S. RODNEY: 32:35 Well, I was just going to say, I think that that’s what we need to talk about the next time. And I also want to say– I want to put a pin in this and talk about this for the next time or the time after the next, which is when we talk about inherited traditions, ways of addressing strangers, people we do not know or we meet in a public space and we need to figure out, relatively quickly, how to interact with them, traditions are important. And I’ll just leave you with this quick anecdote. Years ago when I was trying to sell– I think it was, I was trying to sell an old computer, and I went on Craigslist to do it and some kid– and I’m assuming it’s a child because the way he addressed me. And I’m assuming he’s a he because of what will follow.
S. RODNEY: 33:23 The way he addressed me was just kind of petulant and sort of passive-aggressive. Basically, I just said, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, I want to sell this computer. And he responded. “Yeah. What’s the blah, blah, blah?” I forget what he asked me, but something silly like, “Yeah. How much space on the drive?” And I said, “First of all–” because I am who I am, I said, “First of all, what’s your name? My name is Seph. If we’re going to deal with this thing, I just want to know your name.” And he’s like, “Ah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. How much space do you have on that drive?” And I said, “Wait. Hold on.” And this is over a series of emails, all right? I went, “What’s your name? I don’t want to deal with this interaction if I can’t– I just need to know.” And his response was, “What’s the deal, bro? Just sell the computer,” or something silly like that. And I, because I am who I am, went into this screed where I said, “Look. It’s a simple gesture but an important one.”
S. RODNEY: 34:28 Like when, in the medieval epoch, when people used to meet strangers on the road and they would shake their hands, they would shake each other’s hands so they’d know that they didn’t have a weapon in that hand. So then they knew that they weren’t going to smash them over their head and try to take their money or their food or their clothing. It’s a simple thing, but it’s important. We are shaking hands in this moment by exchanging names. That’s what this is about, and then I ended it. I was like, “I’m not dealing with your stupid ass anymore.” But this is to say, “Traditions for interacting with strangers are important.” And I think that where the gendered pronouns get some people into difficulties, that they have a hard time letting go of the old tradition and embracing a new one because they don’t know how, exactly, to deal with the person who no longer conforms to their sort of bifurcated or Manichean view of the world.
C.T. WEBB: 35:28 Yeah. And on Seph’s very eloquent note, we will let that– we will let that conclude the podcast, so. And we’ll pick it up next week with Unlucky Days, our third Unlucky Days, and then, obviously, returning to they after that. So thanks very much for listening.
S. RODNEY: 35:46 Thank you. [music]

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References

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**No references for Podcast 0100**

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First referenced at 20:53

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.0.6″ max_width=”50%” module_alignment=”center” link_option_url=”https://www.amazon.com/James-Baldwin/e/B000APVA9U/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1549293361&sr=8-1-spons” hover_enabled=”0″ locked=”off”] Ursula K. Le Guin

“Is an American author of novels, children’s books, and short stories, mainly in the genres of fantasy and science fiction. She has also written poetry and essays. First published in the 1960s, her work has often depicted futuristic or imaginary alternative worlds in politics, the natural environment, gender, religion, sexuality and ethnography.” Amazon[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.25″][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.25″ custom_padding=”|||” custom_padding__hover=”|||”][et_pb_divider divider_style=”outset” divider_position=”center” divider_weight=”2px” _builder_version=”3.19.15″][/et_pb_divider][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

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