Minding Your Language at Monash

Pronouns are not everyone’s idea of a good time, and this is especially true of Bonnie Logan, a 23-year-old law student at Monash University. Last week, The Age drew its readers’ attention to the terrible hardship Logan has undergone while doing her pre-tutorial readings: repeated and unrelenting encounters with he and him.

Despite the fact that such pronouns are intended to be gender neutral, and such a reminder is helpfully included next to an asterisk, young Bonnie, a sensitive plant, has found it all too intolerable. To use her exact words, the whole experience with these masculine pronouns has been “deflating and disempowering.”

What, as Lenin wondered in similarly urgent circumstances, is to be done?

Logan’s answer is the replacement of that ghastly he with an ungrammatical they, and the means of this change is an immediate legislative amendment. A petition, aimed at Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes, received sympathetic treatment in Wendy Tuohy’s newspaper article, where Logan banged on about the Sale of Land Act and the Victorian Crimes Bill, both of which commit pronoun sins. She also argued that should her campaign be successful, it would go some way to preventing “sexism, discrimination and gendered violence.” Big, as the kids say, if true.

However, such a fabulously stupid argument didn’t cause so much as a raised eyebrow from The Age‘s  Tuohy. Instead, she rounded up a lot of very serious people from Victoria’s useless bureaucracies to nod approvingly. I’m sure the reader will hardly gasp in astonishment when I reveal two other names backing Logan’s campaign: feminist windbag Jane Caro and journalistic abomination Louise Milligan.

My favourite detail in the story, however, offers a wry surprise: the legal requirement of gender neutrality that Logan so ardently desires was actually enacted in — let me just check my notes — 1985! What she has found so oppressively bothersome, the poor lamb, is having to read legal writings published before this date. The purpose of her whiny activism is to get all that earlier legislation edited so as to avoid having her feelings hurt.

Yes, I know: it’s tempting to write all this off as woke nonsense that hardly matters. After all, should Attorney-General Symes buckle and pass a bill, what’s the worst that could happen? One may feel some sympathy with the chappie tasked with editing out all those pesky pre-1985 pronouns, but there could be unintended benefits as well: perhaps the tantrums of Bonnie Logan would no longer be considered newsworthy, and she could retreat from the spotlight to do her torts readings in peace. Regrettably, I think such an outcome unlikely.

Logan correctly notes “the power of language”, but she errs in thinking that she and her co-thinkers are its victims rather than its practitioners. In recent gender-related squabbles, the preferred vocabulary of the woke finds soft and hard versions of enforcement, and there are a few methods that I’ll set out.

The first is simple repetition. You can shape reality to your unhinged worldview by simply uttering the latest orthodoxy enough times. If your pliant comrades can have it easily memorised — and tweeting it ten times is particularly effective, apparently — the language you use becomes the truth. A few examples come to mind: transwomen are women (actually, they’re biological blokes); of course, men can get pregnant (don’t be silly); and your genderqueer identify is real, beautiful, and must be respected (good grief).

Keep practicing and don’t give up. Soon enough, with any luck it’ll all become so natural that you’ll be referring to women by the much more inclusive term of “vulva-owners” as the authors and editors over at ABC Everyday have done on more than one occasion.

The next method, if you have a bit of institutional power, is to issue guidelines on what is acceptable language and what is now inappropriate to mention in civilised society. The academics at ANU’s Gender Institute, unashamed to be regarded by some as insane, clarified this to all university staff in its recently published Gender-Inclusive Handbook. Words like mother and father — very offensive to the non-cisheteronormative community, don’t you know? — should be replaced with gestational individual and non-birthing parent. After facing criticism, the Gender Institute hastened to add that its disfigurement of the language was merely a recommendation, and everyone should settle down.

Of course, such recommendations soon look very much like demands. If you work in that institution and you don’t tag along, well, soon enough, everyone will know. It’s the same with the latest practice of your People and Culture Team, quick to remind all employees they can add their preferred pronouns to their workplace email signature, you know, so we know you’re inclusive. Of course, yes, this is optional, for the time being. But do you really want to be the non-conformist? Safer to shut up, keep your head down, and go along with the madness.

The final method — and this brings us back to Bonnie Logan — is the law. It’s easy to dismiss her legislative demands as trivial or risible. It’s also easy to imagine harsher and woker laws coming into effect. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in one of the first acts of the new Congressional session, moved to excise from the House lexicon gendered words like mother and son and sister. In Canada and Britain there is always sinister talk about making misgendering a hate crime, and it is disturbingly common for police to dedicate their time and resources to knocking on doors of allegedly transphobic tweeters. If you think Australia can manage to escape such legal lunacy, you’re simply deluded. As demonstrated by the institutional and media cheerleading Bonnie Logan has already received, I’d say much worse things are still to come.

Anyhow, we mustn’t let all that get us down. Shake off any gloomy thoughts that Ms Logan, according to her Twitter bio, is in her final year as an inmate at Monash University, and will soon be free to kick off more asinine campaigns on a pusillanimous Victoria.

Remember that such woke types, by nature, suffer from a kind of allergy to cheerfulness, as there is always the next project, the next cause, and the work can never really be done. We should inflict political disappointments on them with a smile, and it’s easy to get started: next time you’re met with an unreasonable request to mind your language, impolitely decline.

Timothy Cootes has written for Quadrant, Quillette, and The Spectator Australia. He lives in Sydney

21 thoughts on “Minding Your Language at Monash

  • gary@erko says:

    There’s no need to do anything so radical as alter all past acts and regulations with non-gender plural pronouns. Just alter every second mention of “he” and “him” to “she” and “her”. Future generations are sure to understand the ambiguity caused is subservient to the moral superiority of sentences such as “When she does such and such he will be guided by instructions in the Act of Queen Victoria, XVII of 1873.”

  • Greg Williams says:

    After the pronouns, it will be the punctuation marks. An English professor wrote the words: ‘A woman without her man is nothing’ on the chalkboard and asked his students to punctuate it correctly. All of the males in the class wrote: ‘A woman, without her man, is nothing.’ All the females in the class wrote: ‘A woman: without her, man is nothing. Punctuation is powerful. You can definitely say that again!

  • J. Vernau says:

    “… the notion that ‘he’ represents every person is outdated and damaging.”
    —Mr, Ms or Mx Bonnie Logan.

    I wonder why the notion that ‘actor’ represents every Thespian is considered up-to-date and nurturing.
    By their contradictions we shall know them.

  • Bert White says:

    The naive regard this pronoun thing as all about personal safety, fairness, and equality or something.
    Their puppeteers know that the degradation of language, esp in ways to create ambiguity and reduce the ability to see specifics and differences, all assists in destroying Western Civ.

  • STD says:

    And Monash the man was altogether something very different – fair dinkum.

  • Ian MacKenzie says:

    Quibbling over pronouns -just about the best example of a first-world problem I can think of right now.
    Certainly the best response when confronted with this nonsense is to “impolitely decline” to participate or, if one feels aggravated, to accuse the idiot concerned of being offensive to “real” women.
    My main concern however is that the epithet “vulva-owners” sounds a lot like a euphemism for a bad driver, and the women I’m acquainted with would definitely interpret that as a major insult.

  • Biggles says:

    This woke gender nonsense has long been alive and well in government publications. Here is part of report AO-2021-020 from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau:
    ‘A short time later, a witness at the house heard the helicopter take-off and, very soon after, heard a loud bang. Suspecting that the helicopter had crashed, they drove to the yards and found the helicopter on its side. First aid was rendered to the pilot however, they sustained fatal injuries. The helicopter was substantially damaged.’ The one witness and the lone pilot are referred to as ‘they’. Madness.

  • Biggles says:

    Timothy C. – The expression ‘What is to be done’ has been attributed to various leaders, but Nikolai Chernyshevsky used it as the title of his 1863 book, a work few Western readers have ever heard of and fewer still have read.

  • Salome says:

    I remember learning in French classes something to the effect of, ‘Right now, girls, in the third person, you’re “elles”, but if a boy walks in, you’ll all be “ils”.’ And as I grew, I recognised that ‘Man’ is the name of our species (‘human’ being a pretentious scientific term, a bit like calling a dog a canine or a cat a feline) and that no harm is intended. And yes, as my nom de plume suggests, I do identify as female, which possibly brings a little extra authority to my aversion to seeing my beloved English language turned inside out to accommodate ignorance.

  • Ian MacKenzie says:

    “If people can no longer struggle against injustice then they’ll struggle against justice because what they want to do is struggle”. Francis Fukuyama.

  • Daffy says:

    A recent letter from my niece’s all-girls school referred to her as ‘they’. I pointed out that they is the 3rd person subjective plural pronoun, the use of which in reference to a singular female was ungrammatical. No answer (probably didn’t understand).

  • Dave Winefield says:

    I, for one, think this is all a load of feminist rubbish, and is best ignored in the manner of our forefathers. There is one term though that I think the redoubtable Bonnie has erred in. That is the term “Bigender”. My young apprentice, a science graduate from New Zealand pointed out that this as written reads as (Big ender) which could be damaging to the psyche of the little wonders from Monash. If she wishes it to read as I believe less brash people might prefer she needs to use a hyphen thus. Bi-gender. We offer this in genuine concern for the welfare of the willowy brides of Monash. However my6 Secretary has pointed out that a hyphen could have masculine connotations also. Dear Me!!~

  • Quilter says:

    Too many people are giving into this BS. Recently I was asked to put my preferred pronoun on my signature block. I said, happily, okay I will add (preferred pronoun -work it out from my name and my dress). The HR person went pale, Said shouldn’t it be she, her. Reply, yes it should and grown-ups can figure that out for themselves. It’s not hard. If you want something different spell it out otherwise let’s treat us all like grown-ups and act our age. Consequently my signature block has just remained with my name. I’ve also noticed a few others started dropping the preferred pronouns BS as well. Those that really do want something different can specify what their preferences are. Leave the rest of us (The very significant majority) alone!

  • johnflynne says:

    The Age I do not see it but from what one reads about it. The current chairman obviously does not care for a good variety views being part of its paper

  • Gabrielle says:

    What on earth are the Bonnie Logans going to do about all the European languages (and surely others that I don’t know of) which decline in case, number and gender etc? Le, la, les in French, Die, das, der in German and all the others? Good luck with that!

  • pmprociv says:

    How offputting: I could never be a Volvo-owner after this. But Bonnie doesn’t go far enough — doesn’t she realise “per-son” should be “per-offspring”? So “woman” should be “woperson” — whoops, “woperoffsrpring”? “Women” then becomes “woperoffsprings”. Hey, this is fun — maybe we could make up a game?

  • simonbenson65 says:

    Sounds like the ravings of a PERSON with far too much time on THEIR hands. I actually find it all quite comic. I’m sure it’s just an undergraduate joke. I mean how can anyone in their right mind take this nonsense seriously? It’s intriguing how most people – I mean the vast majority of normal working people – get on with their lives and use words like wife, husband, son, daughter etc and don’t give two hoots what the alleged ‘intelligentsia’ think of it all. I’d say the average person finds this sort of nonsense a good argument for defunding certain university faculties to bring those who abuse the privilege of education to heel. My only response to such undergraduate high jinx is the same as William Shatner’s to the Star Trek conference: “get a life!”

  • en passant says:

    I suppose we will have to revise Robert Burns o remove all those references like “Bonnie Lassie, will ye go” – and what it may imply. Not to mention Bonnie Mary being [trigger warning] kissed by Charlie Gregor.
    Although we have all but removed any value or respect for a university education it still amazes me how so many mentally immature, but reasonably intelligent people enter any university’s portals, yet come out the other end of as ignorant fools.

  • RAS25 says:

    I actually have little aversion to “they” if I don’t know the sex of the person described, but would always use he/she or him/her if I did…….in German “sie” is used as the nominative/accusative pronoun for 3rd person singular if female, or all 3rd person plural…..but verb conjugation tends to show number.

    Poor Bonnie seems to have got a bit of attention for herself by making fatuous points about vacuous fashionable themes……I am sure she gets lots of groovy dinner party invites because of such.

  • guilfoyle says:

    My mother used to complain about the awful “chairperson “ – yes, this language abuse has been a long time coming and it’s origins were the feminists. The knee- jerk rejection of ‘chairman ‘ as being sexist revealed the ignorance coupled with such a lack of humility that the fact that the suffix ‘man’ in this instance differed from the use of ‘man’ as delineating sex was not even considered. The old English word ‘man’ simply meant ‘human’ and was exemplified by the word for ‘wife’ – ‘wifman’. The control of language, while funny, is actually quite sinister and should be peremptorily rejected. It should never be acceded to in the desire for a peaceful life – it is an encroachment into the thought control of totalitarianism and is no joke.

  • Biggles says:

    My preferred pronoun is Sqn Ldr.

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