There are a great many things that are plain wrong or objectionable within the Bills and Acts that have emerged from the Oireachtas in the last number of years.
This varies of course, from the attacks on life and liberty to the taxes they have levied or indeed that they have failed to levy, as the case may be (think of the criticism from the political left of the corporation tax for example).
What has not been seen as a major problem until now has been the fairly unproblematic use of the pronouns ‘He’ and ‘She’ in the linguistic construction of the texts themselves.
This grammatical breach has now been filled by the Social Democrats.
In fact, they have made it clear that should they ever get anywhere near political office they will “commit to using gender neutral pronouns whenever possible in future legislation and recognise Them/They pronouns.”
The commitment is outlined in the Social Democrats LGBTI+ Rights policy document which can be found here.
The reactions to this move will probably range from an eyebrow raising and eye-rolling sigh to real alarm about how the distinct categories of female and male continue to be slowly eroded and undermined.
Of course, for very many people the discussion around gender neutral pronouns necessarily involves taking a detour from grammatical and biological reality into a labyrinth of absurdities that is dizzying in its complexity.
Little wonder then that unless you are really invested in the issue you might just pass on and put this down to one more example of fringe liberal thought.
The problem is that such thinking is not at the fringes anymore. It has in fact entered the city walls and has metaphorically taken hold of an increasing number of tongues and thoughts.
As an example of the kind of confusion the Social Democrats policy would entail we can turn to a rather ambitious and optimistically titled article from Time Magazine called Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Gender-Neutral Pronouns.
There we are told the following:
“the most common gender-neutral pronoun used by genderqueer and gender nonconforming people is “they/them/their,” but that doesn’t mean it’s the only option. Some people choose to use the gender-neutral pronouns “ze/hir/hirs” (pronounced “zee/here/heres”) or “ey/em/eir” (pronounced “ay/em/airs”), among others. There are lots of gender-neutral pronouns out there, and they can certainly get confusing. That’s where Google comes in handy!”
In case this was not clear, Time provides a links to a helpful grammar card that the reader can practice along with:
Any lingering doubts about potential grammatical violations are also dealt with:
“My fifth grade teacher always told me that using “they” as a singular pronoun was grammatically incorrect. Is my fifth grade teacher wrong about that? While I’m sure your fifth grade teacher meant well when they were teaching you the rules about pronouns, the rules you learned in fifth grade are most likely outdated by now. In fact, the 200 linguists at the American Dialect Society declared the singular “they” the 2015 word of the year. Merriam-Webster and the Oxford dictionary both also include the singular “they.” Whether your fifth grade teacher likes it or not, “they” is now a recognized and grammatically correct singular pronoun.”
Leaving aside the fact that it was 187 and not 200 linguists, it is hard to share the confidence that the author has in the American Dialect Society.
Consider for instance that in that same year, 153 of its members voted for ‘ammosexual,’ or “someone who loves firearms in a fetishistic manner” as the Most Creative word of the year.
Meanwhile 43 members of The American Dialect Society also listed ‘yass, yaass, yaaass,’ (the expression of excitement, approval or strong agreement) as one of the Most Creative words they had come across.
I can just picture the scene. It is a few years from now and Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall are both being asked if they agree with the latest woke policy objective. Catherine replies:
“oh yass, yaass, yaaass, and Róisín told me this morning that zee approves of it too.”
In all seriousness, if this is the kind of problem that the Social Democrats think deserves political priority when it comes to addressing the faults within our legislative process then God help us.
In reality it would create an additional and interminable drag on law-making as legislators would be forced to engage with the unending and ever shifting intricacies that characterise the gender-neutral pronoun debates.
What is woke and neutral today is highly discriminatory tomorrow, so quickly does the mood change.
It would surely be far better to spend time debating the policy outcomes and the impacts they have on ordinary people than engaging in obsessive and niche quarrels about whether ‘He’ or ‘Xem’ is the least offensive pronoun?