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Re: Being excellent to one another

From: Alex Sassmannshausen
Subject: Re: Being excellent to one another
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2017 12:21:59 +0100
User-agent: mu4e 0.9.18; emacs 25.1.1

John Darrington writes:

> On Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 11:17:28AM +0100, Alex Sassmannshausen wrote:
>      Perhaps we have to agree to disagree on singular they, but I hope we can
>      still agree on the following statements from my earlier email:
> I agree to a slightly edited version:
>      -----------------
>      [...] sometimes there is not a simple solution, however :
>      - if you know someone has a preference for particular pronouns, use 
> those when
>        refering to that person.
>      - don't use pronouns when *you know* the other person does not identify
>        with them.
>      - if unsure, ask the person how he or she would like to be referenced.
>      If you make a mistake, an apology will show your intention was not 
> malicious.
>      In manuals we can just use "singular they",  or another non-gender 
> specific
>      form of reference.
>      -----------------

In the end, when you communicate informally, there is no arbiter of what
you write, so, to be clear, the first part above is not some form of
official guideline — just thinking out loud of what it means to engage
respectfully in a public, anonymous space.  I believe you approach in a
similar vein, which I appreciate.

The problem with your above suggestion is that it leaves out the default
How will you write emails to the list?  Will you assume a default "he"?
Or a default "she"?  And what about non-binary identifying people?   We
don't know who's sitting at the other end.

Also, in the context of a default "he" usage (which you may not do, you
mentioned in the past that you sometimes default to "she"), I'm
concerned that emails are archived: they become a written representation
of what our community is like — and I do not want our community to
reinforce in a written form, that "only boys hang out around Guix / are

>      Alternatively it would be incumbent on you to provide an
>      alternative that is not just "I will bloody-mindedly stick to
>      gendering people when I don't know anything about them".
> It is this tendency to call any difference of opinion by terms such as
> "bloody-minded" which offends me  - I try not to take offence - but I find
> hard not to.  I'm sorry.

My intention was to call-back to my impression of other parts of this
conversation where it seemed you were point-blank refusing to
acknowledge ng0's request.

But I can accept that you may find that an unfair characterisation, and
I phrased my sentiment too sharply in this case. My apologies for this.

> To answer your question:  How about saying "he or she" or "the person".

As mentioned above, the first renders non-binary identifying people
invisible.  For the second, if you can write a section of a manual using
"the person" in such a way that it won't sound clumsy, then by all

Personally I would still suggest that "they/them/their" is wonderfully
short, to the point and unambiguous.  Also, it's a wheel that was
already invented: it has widespread usage outside of our community.

>      In the formal context, well??? I think there is broad consensus that
>      "singular they" is awesome.
> There is a broad concensus that Donald Trump, Rodrigo Duterte and
> Recep Erdogan are awesome.    However I do not agree.

Say whaat?  Way to blow our discussion out of proportion.  Are you
seriously suggesting the consensus established through conversation and
convention in a small community is in any way comparable to the pile of
dung that is the contemporary ridiculously complex and terrifyingly
non-egalitarian state of global authoritarian politics?

>      > People having been talking about being "welcoming".  Well, I beleive 
> the way
>      > to achieve that is threefold:
>      >
>      > 1. Try not to offend.
>      > 2. Try not to be offended.
>      > 3. Recognise that diversity is an asset.
>      Absolutely, wonderful sentiment.  To that I would add:
>      4. Respect the integrity and right to self-definition of all participants
> I agree.  Put that one in too.

Nice :-)

>From my perspective, I'm probably done with this conversation for now,
though will respond if specific queries are addressed at me.


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