Sunday, October 26, 2014

Kinks -- "Lola" (1970)

Well, I'm not dumb but I can't understand
Why she walked like a woman 
But talked like a man  

The lyrics to this song seem to imply that Lola was a cross-dresser — a gay male who occasionally dresses in female clothing but who does not identify himself as being a female.

"Lola" was released on this Kinks album
Or Lola may have been a transgender woman — that is, someone who was born with a typically male anatomy, but who feels he/she was born into the wrong body because his/her gender identity is female. 

Using paired pronouns like "he/she" and "his/her" is a clumsy way to refer to a transgender or genderqueer individual.

(NOTE:  For those of you who are not familiar with the term "genderqueer" — a group that included me up until about ten minutes ago — it is a term used by some people who identify neither as entirely male nor entirely female, but as some mixture of the two.  Or those who shift back and forth between wholly male and wholly female.  Or those who feel they are without a gender.)

Genderqueer flag
Some people have decried the lack of gender-neutral third-person pronouns in English.  Believe it or not there is a blog devoted to this issue.  Click here if you'd like to read the "Gender Neutral Pronoun Blog."

That blog lists six suggested gender-neutral (or "epicene") third-person pronouns.  

For example, ze has been suggested as a substitute for the nominative third-person singular pronouns "he" and "she."  The objective third-person singular pronouns "him" and "her" would become hir (which is a combination of "him" and "her").  The possessive adjectives "his" and "her" would also become hir.

The possessive version of that pronoun would become hirs (a combination of "his" and "hers").  And the reflexive version would become hirself (a combination of "himself" and "herself").

Ze/hir/hir/hirs/hirself seems to be the most popular gender-neutral pronoun among the transgender/genderqueer community.  But ze sounds a lot like sie, which is German for "she," and hir was a feminine pronoun in middle English — so those pronouns aren't sufficiently gender neutral to suit the author of the blog.

One variation on ze/hir/hir/hirs/hirself is ze/zir/zir/zirs/zirself.  The blog's author doesn't like that alternative either.  Why?

Try reading this sentence out loud: “As ze looked up at the stars, ze realized that this was zir favorite moment of them all.”  The second ze — which follows an "s" — ends up sounding like "he."  And the zir — which also follows an "s" — ends up sounding like "her."

A third option -- xe/xem/xyr/xyrs/xemself — presents the same problem if the "x" is pronounced like "z."

The author's choice is ne/nem/nir/nirs/nemself.  For one thing, neutral starts with "n," so pronouns beginning with "n" are symbolically gender-neutral.

Another good option is ve/ver/vis/vis/verself, although ver and vis and verself are more obviously derived from "her" and "his" and "herself" than nem and nits and nemself.

Finally, there are the Spivak pronouns -- ey/em/eir/eirs/eirself.  Those pronouns were invented by an American mathematician, Michael Spivak, who has authored several textbooks.

By the way, Spivak inserts references to yellow pigs in each of his books.  That's because he and fellow student David Kelly created "Yellow Pig's Day" — an annual holiday that celebrates mathematics and the number 17 — while at a bar during their undergraduate days.

July 17 is "Yellow Pig's Day"
You know, I always thought English already did have a gender-neutral third-person pronoun -- IT.  But for some reason, "it" is not an option for the transgender/genderqueer crowd.

This might surprise you, but it appears there is bad blood between many radical feminists and transgender females.  A recent New Yorker article explained why this is:

[R]adical feminists insist on regarding transgender women as men, who should not be allowed to use women’s facilities, such as public rest rooms, or to participate in events organized exclusively for women. . . . In this view, gender is less an identity than a caste position.  Anyone born a man retains male privilege in society; even if he chooses to live as a woman — and accept a correspondingly subordinate social position — the fact that he has a choice means that he can never understand what being a woman is really like.  By extension, when trans women demand to be accepted as women they are simply exercising another form of male entitlement.  All this enrages trans women and their allies, who point to the discrimination that trans people endure; although radical feminism is far from achieving all its goals, women have won far more formal equality than trans people have.

Click here to read the entire New Yorker article.

This debate seems to be particularly hot at women's colleges.  The New York Times recently published a long piece about trans students at Wellesley College (the alma mater of Hillary Clinton and many other accomplished women).

Timothy Boatwright (center)
The Times article discussed a Wellesley junior who calls himself Timothy Boatwright:

From the start, Timothy introduced himself as “masculine-of-center genderqueer.”  He asked everyone at Wellesley to use male pronouns and the name Timothy, which he’d chosen for himself. 

For the most part, everyone respected his request.  After all, he wasn’t the only trans student on campus.  Some two dozen other matriculating students at Wellesley don’t identify as women.  Of those, a half-dozen or so were trans men, people born female who identified as men, some of whom had begun taking testosterone to change their bodies.  The rest said they were transgender or genderqueer, rejecting the idea of gender entirely or identifying somewhere between female and male . . .

Two trans male Wellesley students
The you-know-what hit the fan last spring, when Timothy sought election to the student government position of "multicultural affairs coordinator," who is responsible for promoting a culture of diversity at Wellesley.

Along with Timothy, three women of color indicated their intent to run for the seat.  But when they dropped out for various unrelated reasons before the race really began, he was alone on the ballot. An anonymous lobbying effort began on Facebook, pushing students to vote “abstain.”  Enough “abstains” would deny Timothy the minimum number of votes Wellesley required, forcing a new election for the seat and providing an opportunity for other candidates to come forward.  The “Campaign to Abstain” argument was simple: Of all the people at a multiethnic women’s college who could hold the school’s “diversity” seat, the least fitting one was a white man.

Say what?

“It wasn’t about Timothy,” the student behind the Abstain campaign told me.  “I thought he’d do a perfectly fine job, but it just felt inappropriate to have a white man there. . . . Having men in elected leadership positions undermines the idea of this being a place where women are the leaders.”

I asked Timothy what he thought about that argument, as we sat on a bench overlooking the tranquil lake on campus during orientation.  He pointed out that he has important contributions to make to the MAC position.  After all, at Wellesley, masculine-of-center students are cultural minorities; by numbers alone, they’re about as minor as a minority can be.  And yet Timothy said he felt conflicted about taking a leadership spot.  “The patriarchy is alive and well,” he said. “I don’t want to perpetuate it.”

Click here if you'd like to read the entire Times article.

They say you can an old dog new tricks.  But this old dog is incapable of wrapping his brain around the logical tricks that are being taught at Wellesley College these days.

Here's how Ray Davies of the Kinks put it in the band's 1970 hit, "Lola":

Girls will be boys and boys will be girls
It's a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world

He took the words right out of my mouth.

Here's "Lola":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

1 comment:

  1. We can go all the way back to the 1920s and the song "Masculine Women and Feminine Men"--"Which is the rooster and which is the hen..." Regarding the song of the day, I saw the Kinks perform "Lola" live at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles back in the 1980s (mostly because Joan Jett was opening for them). I noted how the Kinks' newer songs were greeted with mild applause, while their "greatest hits" from the 60s and 70s drew much more enthusiastic reactions. I'm also reminded of Weird Al Yankovic's parody "Yoda"--a bootleg recording was a big hit on the Dr. Demento show, but before it could be recorded and included in an official release, Al's label had to get approval from both Ray Davies (who owned the rights to the song) and George Lucas (who owned the rights to the character "Yoda").