Here’s news from the world of Catholic higher education. The Office of the Provost of Fordham University sent this out today to the faculty:
We hope that some of you can join us at our Faculty Teach-In on Pronouns and Gender Identity, Friday at 1:30 in Martino 801 (45 Columbus Ave., Lincoln Center Campus). This student-led teach-in is part of our semester-long initiative on Inclusive Pedagogy and Student Engagement. Students will be presenting on four areas of student and academic life: housing, healthcare, curriculum, and policy. They will spend a large portion of the event answering questions about these topics as well as the experiences of trans identifying students at Fordham. In preparation for this event, students recommend reading the two attached articles discussing pedagogy and gender in higher education to help bolster lively, informed conversation.
To help make this event as effective as possible, we have developed an anonymous survey to gauge faculty understanding of gender as well as to gather your questions. Please take 5 minutes to fill out the survey to help guide our conversation during the event. Filling out the survey is not required but highly suggested; if you’re unable to attend but still want to have your concerns heard please still fill it out. The anonymous survey can be found here. Please fill it out using your Fordham email.
The event will be held on Friday, April 12th, at 1:30, Martino 801. Cookies & coffee will be served!
Anne E. Fernald
Professor of English and
Special Advisor to the Provost for Faculty Development
From the first of the two articles, a paper in TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly:
Educators engaged in critical pedagogy are tasked with developing productive learning spaces that both respect and invite students’ multiple, embodied differences into a curriculum that inspires action and social change (Freire 1970). To do so, teachers must acknowledge students’ full personhood and identities. Teachers are likely to have a diverse group of students who identify as cisgender, transgender, genderqueer, or gender nonconforming. An increasing number of university students express a fluid gender embodiment and identity, resisting both traditional binary gender categories (i.e., women and men) as well as binary transgender categories, such as female-to-male and male-to-female (Beemyn 2008; Wilchins 2004). My research suggests that students do in fact identify and express their gender in multiple ways, and that educators are more likely to use correct pronouns when students reinforce the gender binary. Educators must resist taken-for-granted gender attribution processes in order to honor and value each student’s personhood. This can be simply achieved by asking all students to indicate their pronouns—much in the same way students introduce themselves by their name.
The second article is about stamping out the evil of “he” and “she”. Excerpt:
Despite these interventions, the relationship between language, knowledge production, gender production, and mastery over third persons goes relatively unquestioned. With little conscious attention to its necessity, many expect third-person singular pronouns to carry one particular kind of information. The smallest bits of language—the parts of speech that are felt to uphold every spoken and written sentence, the parts that are supposed to come “automatically”—may be the most pernicious and powerful of all. To put it bluntly: in English, conventional singular third-person pronouns (he, she) act as a technology that produces a whole social order that relentlessly perceives and thinks in binary gender.
A whole social order based on male and female? Tear it down, Fordham, tear it down.
The author, a trans professor of LGBT studies, asserts — doesn’t argue, asserts — that failing to use the requested pronouns of genderqueer students is an act of violence against them that causes them to drop out of school. Once again, we see fragility wielded as a weapon against anyone who questions these radical claims. What’s wrong with you? Why do you want to hurt these vulnerable students? Et cetera.
Read on, the deep end of the pool beckons:
Recently, I’ve also been offering this first-letter practice: a person’s pronoun is created by taking the first letter or sound of their name followed by the vowel sound ee. The pronoun declension used for me, for example, would be fe, fe, fe’s. Frank might love fre’s pronoun because it’s pronounced free. Harold and Harriet would both get the pronoun he, he, he’s. Jonah, Jane, and Jonathan all get je, je, je’s. This has potential because it makes pronouns do what they are supposed to do, and do it even better, in both writing and speech: the pronoun unmistakably refers back to and signals the person earlier named. Moreover, such pronouns carry no social information other than harking back to a person’s name. Promising as this is, it invariably begs the question: why not just always use people’s names instead of third-person singular pronouns? For my pedagogical purposes, it lacks the opportunity to engage language and sign systems creatively, but it is worth a try now and then.
None of these classroom practices are a substitute for learning and teaching the arts of gender-neutral and nonbinary pronouns. Students in fact have identified that their greatest immediate need is to have opportunities to practice using varied pronouns. Recently a student in an advanced undergraduate seminar intervened in our expansive category exercise saying, “I love everyone choosing these creative pronouns, but I really need practice to be totally fluent with the pronouns that my friends and others are actually asking for. Why don’t we practice using a different pronoun each week from ones people use?” After all these years of trying to teach alternate pronouns, I was bowled over by the simplicity of the suggestion: if we’re going to learn a new language, let’s treat this like a language class. Each week we choose a single pronoun from a long list, we make up a practice sentence showing every declension, and then we use only that pronoun in every sentence, for every author and person in the class. We are all growing more fluent and therefore more able to honor everyone’s gender identities.
So this is what the faculty at Fordham have been invited to discuss tomorrow, to be enlightened by woke students, with the support and encouragement of the university provost for faculty development.
It is good to know which side Fordham is on. Regrettable, I suppose, but good to know. I mean, look, it’s a Jesuit university, so you expect them to embrace every possible progressive fad that blasts Catholicism to rubble. Now the administration is encouraging its faculty to embrace a progressive fad that attempts to destroy human nature.