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Rachel Anne wrote:
: If you wish to show respect: "she", and not: "s/he" or "he", is the way to do it.

 

It's not just a question of respect; it's a question of what narrative one is participating in or privileging. Given that Lana uses "she" and SDG uses "he", my use of "s/he" was meant to prescind from that aspect of the discussion.

 

Language is an intersubjective thing, but it sometimes points to objective realities -- and where people's understandings of the objective reality differ, allowances sometimes need to be made for differences in language, too.

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Given that Lana has not personally chosen to expand on her meaning here, I am at some risk in attempting to do so on her behalf. But generally, denying the gender binary is used to endorse two ideas:

 

(1) that many traits treated as two wholly separate points, one "male" and one "female" actually exist as a line, where people can be found anywhere along it.

 

(2) that people often embody a mix of "male" or "female" traits; that statistical or cultural distinctions are often mistaken for absolute or natural ones.

I think my basic contentions that a) gender matters, and that b.) a culture of overwhelmingly male filmmakers copying other male filmmakers will produce work that looks different from a culture of male and female filmmakers in more proportionate numbers, are robust and flexible enough to hold across this set of propositions.

 

Finally, I would note that trans people generally regard it as offensive to refer to them by pronouns that deny the reality of their transition, and Lana has made herself clear that she shares this general feeling. If you wish to show respect: "she", and not: "s/he" or "he", is the way to do it. If you wish to show disrespect, well, frankly, you have many options available to you. No doubt she will have heard all of them before. No doubt I will have too.

Expanding a bit on what Peter has written:

How respect is signified and recognized between persons involves a complex of intersubjective conventions -- conventions that sometimes break down over cultural divides and contrasting ways of interpreting and representing reality.

When and where this happens, sensitive individuals on one side of a cultural divide can often accommodate themselves to the expectations and conventions of the other side. An ecumenically minded Protestant addresses a Catholic priest as "Father"; a sensitive Christian avoids pronouncing the divine Name in the presence of a Jewish person; a respectful atheist removes his hat entering a church (for a wedding or funeral, say).

However, sometimes such accommodations conflict with deeply felt beliefs or precepts that one side or the other feels unable in conscience to compromise, however little one may wish to give offense. A devout Mennonite may feel unable in conscience to address a Catholic priest as "Father" or even "Reverend." A Sikh or Jew entering a church cannot uncover his head as Christian convention dictates.

Such individuals do not necessarily intend or hold any disrespect for those on the other side of these cultural divides. The Mennonite may esteem the Catholic priest as much as any other man, even the ministers of her own faith. Even so, it is possible, perhaps unavoidable at times, that offense may be taken at these non-accommodations. I think culturally aware individuals who wish to interact productively and respectfully across such divides must seek to find ways of rolling with these issues without taking undue offense, and without construing disrespect where none is intended.

I recognize that Lana Wachowski is invested in identifying as a female. My respect for Lana as a person is equal to that of anyone in the world (parse that however you like). I recognize that calling Lana "he" may give offense (if not to Lana, who is unlikely ever to become aware of it, then to others). I regret that, but in this respect my wish to show respect cannot take the form of the desired cultural accommodation.

My non-accommodation betokens no disrespect, but a deeply felt belief that is contrary to the presuppositions and values informing Lana's choices and self-identification. There's no getting around the fact that this is awkward, and I understand and accept that my views will be deemed offensive by some. I can't help that, but I think it is incumbent on us to accept that there is a limit to how far we can expect one another to stretch, and to recognize that deeply held disagreements do not necessarily equal disrespect.

Edited by SDG

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I understand and accept that my views will be deemed offensive by some. I can't help that, but I think it is incumbent on us to accept that there is a limit to how far we can expect one another to stretch, and to recognize that deeply held disagreements do not necessarily equal disrespect.

 

BURN THE HERETIC!!!!

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