The verve of English is under house-arrest by the under-educated: the students of Ivy League universities. They are the standard-bearers — Premium Woke — of our freshly scoured language. Still hallowed as God’s little incubators of future elites, America’s most prestigious universities began their decline in the 1980s. The humanities became a forum for hurt feelings instead of nuanced thought. Now America is carpeted wall-to-wall in the egg shells the Woke have laid.
The born-again Roundheads of academe damp-mop our language with trails of their tears. They hold conversations in capital letters too numerous to remember, tacking on new ones to keep pace with fresh categories of victims. Our future leaders neither speak nor write. They abbreviate.
Last time I checked, I was a woman who likes men and clothes. But now I am an amoeba known as a “cis.” My femininity — note the absence of inverted commas — is not a “construct” foisted on me by society, but a fact, from infancy on.
I was born, never “assigned.” I loved dresses and dollhouses, and hated the shouts and sports of boys. Until desire disrupted reality, the only thing boys had that I wanted was their freedom to use bad words.
The amputation of words and word-endings which denote the female sex started two decades ago. First came the fluffy claims of Hollywood starlets that they are not actresses but “actors,” as if the feminine suffix diminished their status as artists. Why should a male moniker carry more prestige than a female one? Why is it “better,” or even “neutral”? It is neither.
To replace a grammatical marker of femininity with the masculine does not refute male superiority. It engraves it. “Actor” out of the mouths of babes on late-night TV never fails to make me cringe. I wonder what Joan Crawford or Bette Davis or Barbara Stanwyck would have to say about crossing out “actress” and writing in “actor,” in block letters, of course. It is a drab demotion, like calling Maria Callas a singer.
To fledgling elites, there are no pregnant women, only “pregnant people,” two words clapped together like strangers in a twin bed. I even see this odd couple on city buses, printed on signs admonishing riders to give up their seats to “pregnant people.”
The Woke invention, “pregnant people,” snatches from women a physical capacity exclusive to their sex, and vaguely extends it to all humankind. Floating around that sign on the bus is an odd scent. It is the whiff of pregnant men, like the smell of urine, from a beast marking its territory.
In an editorial for the New York Times in 2020, Daniel Radcliffe scourged Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling for her tweet mocking a headline on the website Devex, which referred to The People Formerly Known as Women as “people who menstruate.” Congressional-menstruator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes recently stuttered over this tongue-twister when barking at Governor Greg Abbott of Texas about the state’s new abortion law. Then, in a podcast of January 26th 2022, Candace Owens screened a recent Tweet by The Daily Caller writer, Mary Margaret Olohan, announcing that the New York Times has added “menstruator” to its august lexicon.
This fair-trade expression has a rich potential for mirth, historically so lacking at The New York Times. Almost from its founding in 1851, the newspaper has been known as “The Gray Lady.” I hope her gray hair is premature, since now we must call her “The Gray Menstruator.”
As far as I know, no words have yet replaced “man” or “men.” (Somebody call in a sub-contracted, Woke Google fact-checker, please.) The Old Boy privilege of their antique noun abides almost undisturbed. “Men” is not erased, but garlanded with adjectives, e.g., “cis,” “queer,” “trans,” etc.
For the sake of noun equity, I hereby demand we begin immediately to refer to men as “ejaculators,” or perhaps the more trans-friendly, “appendage bearers.”
Two popular Woke crimes against logic and language stick in my craw:
First, I loathe the Woke for ‘disappearing’ the words “man” and “woman.” (My casual observation is that it is “woman” the Woke more energetically work to ellide.) Without the nouns of sex they piss on, we are as good as nameless. We are cut into a batch of cookies, or a chain gang of paper dolls cut out to serve totalitarian regimes.
The Woke denial of inborn sexual difference curiously negates the very purpose of gender reassignment. Why swap genitalia at all if they are markers of nothing? An individual’s burning desire to transition fortifies the fact so hotly disputed by the Woke: that there are two genders, and that we are born as one or the other. For a trans person there is the gender they want to escape, and the other they passionately long to be — the half of humanity they always knew was theirs.
Why wouldn’t a person who transitions simply declare they are a man or woman, or better still, own their sex and live it with pleasure rather than explanation? Gender, biological or transformed, needs no backstory constantly unpacked for everyone to see, like so many old jockstraps or bras.
My second beef is with the bustling pronoun police, the Woke creme de la creme of universities, corporations, governments, and the entire media. It’s a filthy job, but somebody’s gotta do it. In fact, I’m happy to use whatever pronouns these citizens want, provided they peel their adjectives off my back.
I am not a “cis.” I never consented to be called by your invention, nor did you ever ask.
In this scared new world, “woman” is the new N-word. Which is worse, an historically degrading slur hurled at a large swathe of the population; or the linguistic genocide of half of it? The first is deplorable; the second, delusional.
The English language is as wily as it is irrepressible, a customer too tough for the kindergarten scissors of censors. Such aspiring Gelders of language can’t wield a butter knife, let alone the scalpel of a mot juste.
When political or moral crusades forbid the English language to burn, she calmly hides her matches — to light the fuse next time.
Hypatia is an urban commuter and owner of a cat. She is an observer of Form and is schooled in the sword. She contributes to Riot Material from New York City.