I’m not sure whether this is sensible or political correctness gone mad, or simply mad, but a journalist on the Washington Post has decided to speak to her cats and refer to them in a gender neutral way to encourage her to do the same thing towards humans.
It’s a rather hard concept to grasp in my opinion but “gender neutral” means referring to people of the opposite sex in a way that does not pigeonhole them into meeting expectations regarding behaviour in relation to their gender (that’s my interpretation).
The argument is that a lot of people are in between, in that grey zone between the extremes of femininity and masculinity, and people should give them the space to behave in a way which suits them and not pigeonhole them into one stereotype or the other.
That’s, as I understand it, the meaning of the phrase “gender neutral”. The question then remains whether it is going to an extreme to refer to your cats in a gender neutral way. Clearly a cat won’t understand what it’s all about (I can barely understand it myself) so if a person wishes to refer to their cats and talk to their cats in a gender neutral way, they are doing it for themselves. They are using their cat as a vehicle to train themselves to address people in the same way.
To me this seems wrong and stupid. Also, it is very difficult to refer to your cat or cats in a gender neutral way. If you would normally talk about your male cat as “he did this or that”. You would have to say “Charlie did this or that”. Even that might be non-gender neutral. I don’t know. At least it is better than referring to your cat as ‘it’.
The author in question says that she uses plural pronouns when referring to her cat even when she is referring to one cat. Accordingly, it is grammatically incorrect. People to whom you are talking will be puzzled. It would be misleading.
If this lady is referring to a brother of her female cat, she uses the word “sibling” rather than the word “brother”.
I think this is just a rather clever topic that a journalist has decided upon so that she can write about cats on the Washington Post and possibly get some sort of conversation going. She has succeeded in that objective if that is indeed her objective.
I don’t think it is actually realistic or sensible to refer to your cat in a gender neutral way and I don’t think it actually helps you train yourself to use the same language with respect to people.
The writer concerned, Lauren Taylor, wrote:
“People are coming to understand that not all of us fit into the ‘girl’ box or the ‘boy’ boy box. Those who don’t are claiming space to be who they are. We all need to find ways to acknowledge and respect that. My way of respecting it just happens to be raising my cats gender neutral.”
I understand this sensitivity towards people. I understand the need to allow people to be themselves if they are somewhere in between a girl or a boy in terms of their sexuality (arguably a lot of people are). That’s important, quite obviously. And people do tend to assume a human is either a paradigm man or a woman when in truth that is being rather narrow minded and stereotyping people in a fundamental way. However, as mentioned, using domestic cats as a training aid seems foolhardy to me. What do you think?