Rob Slane: When Jill turns into Jack words fail us

I came across a new word the other day. Themself. I chanced upon it quite by accident after happening to see a story about someone called Jack Monroe who had apparently been awarded a sum of money in a court case against Katie Hopkins. The case itself intrigued me about as much as statistics on 17th century wool production, but what caught my eye was that Jack didn’t appear to look very much like I’d expect a Jack to look. A Jill perhaps, but decidedly very unJackish.

I must admit I’d never heard of Jack Monroe before (one of the very great benefits of not having a television, alongside not having to give any money to the BBC, is remaining blissfully ignorant of the lives of most celebrities). Yet I was intrigued enough about Jack to head over to Wikipedia to find out more. Once there, I soon regretted not having a couple of paracetamol to hand, since the entry was quite obviously intended to induce headaches in its readers. For instance, there was this:

“Monroe, who was assigned female at birth, identifies as non-binary transgender and goes by singular they pronouns, rather than ‘he’ or ‘she.’”

So Jack was “assigned” female at birth? Not was female at birth, but assigned. Presumably the assigning was done by a midwife who thought she was pronouncing on the basis of objective observation, rather than simply assigning something still to be confirmed. Yet it now turns out that she was apparently so dim and backward that she thought that having “Bits Type-A” rather than “Bits Type-B” between your legs was a rather neat way of checking whether Jack – or Melissa as she once was – was male or female.

Thankfully, due to our advances in technology and science and all the things that make us much superior to every previous generation under the sun, we now know that determining whether someone is male or female on the basis of the Bits is just plain wrong. We must instead leave it up to each person to exercise their choice as to whether the Bits really ought to be there or whether they should be removed and changed for other Bits. A bit like fixing up a car. Only then can we really know.

In fact, because of the great leaps in our knowledge in recent years, we can now confidently say that midwives, or midpartners as they are about to be called, have been wrong on this business for millennia. There they’ve been, arrogantly and authoritatively assigning sex on the basis of nothing more than objective observation, whereas it was obvious all along that it is entirely a matter of choice. Jack’s parents should have given her what for:

“What do you mean ‘it’s a girl’? How dare you bring your antiquated objective observations into this and gender-assign our child on the basis of her/his/their/its lack of Dangly Bits?”

Later in the Wikipedia entry we get this:

“During this period, Monroe also had a brief relationship with a close male friend, which resulted in a son.”

Oh dear, oh dear, Wikipedia. How very antiquated and – dare I say it – gender stereotypical. What makes you think it was a male friend? What makes you think it was a son? How could you know? Can’t have anything to do with the presence of certain Bits, can it?

But all this is nothing compared to the assault on the English language that we get later on:

“On leaving the fire service, Monroe adopted a short haircut and took the forename ‘Jack’. They began identifying to friends and family as a lesbian woman, and began a long-term relationship with a woman; the relationship ended shortly after Monroe told their partner they were considering a mastectomy. Monroe was still careful at this point to downplay any suggestions of gender ambiguity, and in an interview in February 2014 described themself as a ‘lefty, liberal, lezzer cook who had reassured their parents that they identified as female.”

They began? Monroe told their partner? They were considering? What are she talking about (I have assigned Wikipedia as a she of course)? Are she talking about more than one persons here? Have she gone mad? There you see. If Wikipedia can mangle the English language up beyond all recognition, I myselves can do it if we put our mind to it!

But the icing on the cake is that word “themself”. Microsoft Word won’t let me type it in. Every time I write it and click the space bar it transmogrifies to “themselves”. I try again but Word won’t have it. When I finally put the cursor back over the word, delete the letters “ves” and replace them with “f”, it makes its disapproval abundantly clear by putting a squiggly red line underneath. It’s as if Word is rejecting the term as a gross distortion of the English language and pleading with me not to put such nonsense into it, else it will soon be having to deal with words such as ourself, himselves and herselves. Or is the explanation more sinister? Could it be that Word itself is fundamentally transphobic?

Actually, the word themself was once in usage in the early 1500s, but had pretty much died out by the end of the century. However, the use of it back then was simply as a singular form of themselves. For instance, “Anyone would find themself thinking similar thoughts” rather than “Anyone would find themselves thinking similar thoughts.That kind of makes sense. What doesn’t make sense, though, is when we are asked to talk about someone who is biologically female (clue: she gave birth to a son) as if she were biologically neither one thing or the other.

We could try out the language of using singular “they” pronouns by adapting a famous work of literature to see how we get on:

“Oh! my dear Mr Bennet,” as they entered the room, “we have had a most delightful evening, a most excellent ball. I wish you had been there. Jane was so admired, nothing could be like it. Everybody said how well they looked; and Bingley thought them quite beautiful, and danced with them twice. Only think of that my dear; they actually danced with them twice; and they were the only creature in the room that they asked a second time. First of all, they asked Charlotte Lucas. I was so vexed to see them stand up with them; but, however, they did not admire them at all: indeed, nobody can, you know; and they seemed quite struck with Jane as they were going down the dance. So, they enquired who they were, and got introduced, and asked them for the two next.”

In the next scene in the book, Mr Bennet loses his patience with Mrs Bennet. In this new non-binary transgender third-person plural personal pronoun adaptation, he’d be more likely to reach for the paracetamol and contact a psychiatrist.

(Image: Ted Eyton)

Rob Slane

  • Owen_Morgan

    Will “Jack” Monroe now be suing the BBC? I see the linked Beebyanka article refers to “it” throughout as “Ms”. That, in itself, started out as a way to fudge the distinction between married and unmarried women, but, the last I heard, it was still a decidedly feminine appendage.

    And let’s face it: when it comes to male appendages, “Jack” is always to come up a bit short, isn’t them?

    • Mike Hunt

      Times were nicer in the 80s we could listen to Swing out sister ” am I the same girl you used to know”

      • Bik Byro

        “Tweeter was a boy scout ’til she went to Vietnam…”

  • Timmy

    In my day they would have gotten professional help.

    • TheRightToArmBears

      In my day they would have received therapy in the playground.

  • Labour_is_bunk

    I think a lot of lawyers, bureaucrats, sociologists, counsellors and the like are smelling red meat and extra income from the fall-out of all this.
    Wishful thinking, of course, but those who perpetrate all this nonsense should be willing to foot the bill.

    • Mike Hunt

      You’ve offended them with red meat! They’re probably vegan you know 🙂

  • I am 21 and utterly confused by this gender non-binary stuff. Mostly because the presence of this group is MINUSCULE, and yet they act as though their needs are representative of the human population.

    • Bik Byro

      I agree. Likewise, I suspect a lot of things (feminism, antisemitism and lot of other isms) haven’t really increased much in the last 30 years; the invention of Twitter has just meant that each minority has the chance to shout more loudly so it appears that each is massively bigger than it really is.

    • James Chilton

      I’m convinced that “gender confusion” is a humour of the times, and it will one day vanish into thin air. I just don’t think I’m likely to live long enough to see it happen.

      • Mike Hunt

        Lou Reed “walk on the wild side”

      • Busy Mum

        It will vanish, along with all the people that fell for the delusion.

      • Coniston

        It has been called ‘a contagion of mass delusion’ on one website.

    • Mike Hunt

      Absolutely everyone I know is happy to be identified as they appear, even the gay people I know don’t try and pretend to be a different sex. In gay clubs there are trans people and everyone gets on fine, it is as you say a very small minority

    • Mary Waters

      Miniscule. And even minorities should have rights. Surely ?

      • Busy Mum

        Is that the right to force everyone else to share their beliefs?

        • TheRightToArmBears

          It is according to them.

      • That is the incorrect spelling. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/spelling/minuscule-or-miniscule

        And I never said minorities shouldn’t have rights. But the demands that the majority should stop using the so-called gender conforming words on account of a minority are unreasonable and disproportionate.

    • TheRightToArmBears

      Its called bullying in the real world.
      Which is why when bullies get called out they start crying and yelling for safe spaces.
      Sniggering is the kindest response.

  • Russell

    This ‘gender fluid’ movement has the potential to diminish feminism by confusing the class identity of politics. How can I be a member of the hated Patriarchy when I identify as a gay, transexual transvestite. I think this would make me a man who dresses as a man and likes women – but I’ll have to check.

    So don’t be too quick to condemn them. After all, there are only a tiny number whom this gender fluid movement would claim. Contrast this to the destruction of civilization that feminism has wrought. I say go for it – my transgender friends.

    • Groan

      I agree hence the ideological “battle” in feminist circles. Despite their protestations to the reverse almost uniformly “essentialist” that the Sexes have innate different characteristics and characters, though at the same time illogically insisting Gender is a “social construct” . The “gender fluid movement in effect confronts feminism of the “reality” of the idea of socially constructed gender and flushes out what is at the core of feminism in fact, a Victorian view that females are innately more worthy and virtuous than males. The latter being the core of the arguments for quotas on boards etc. etc. that women bring something different and better.
      It challenges feminism by taking the theory of social construction to its limits. It appears feminists don’t like it.

    • TheRightToArmBears

      See how far it gets you on Cologne Railway Station on New Year’s Eve.
      See if any lawyers appear to rescue you as you protest your soi-assignment.

      • Russell

        Arms and bears aren’t the only things you seem confused about.

      • Russell

        “See how far it gets you on Cologne Railway Station on New Year’s Eve.”

        As ‘… a man who dresses as a man and likes women…’ ???

        • TheRightToArmBears

          I was thinking of the respect given to a gender-flake woman, who re-assigns herself as a man, by the enrichment flooding in from the Arab world.

  • Bik Byro

    After reading your Pride & Prejudice rework, Billy Joel is scratching his head what do about his hit song “She’s always a woman to me”

  • As Mr Slane so deftly makes clear, the use of ‘they’ (as a singular third-person pronoun) might advertise itself as a way to reveal a person’s ‘gender,’ but in truth it serves only to linguistically conceal his or her sex.

    • Guglielmo Marinaro

      But when a person uses “they” as a singular third-person pronoun, they are not necessarily doing it to deliberately conceal anyone’s sex. They may be doing it either because they wish to explicitly and linguistically include people of both sexes in their statement, or because they are not able to knowledgeably state the sex of the person to whom they are referring. To continually use such phrases as “he or she”, “him or her”, “his or her” and “himself or herself” may feel rather clumsy to them, so they prefer to quite understandably grant themself some grammatical licence and to therefore use “they”, “them”, “their” and “themself” instead.

      • Vera

        Sorry got too weary to carry on reading after third line.

        • Guglielmo Marinaro

          No need to be sorry.

      • I agree, and have become aware of just how often I use ‘they’ to describe a single person. I am happy to continue doing so. However, there is a big difference between (1) being limited to using ‘they’ (on account of not knowing somebody else’s sex) and (2) requesting that other people do not refer to you through the proper pronoun. Nobody can opt out of the structure of language, as language is public property.

        There is also a difference between intention and effect. Again I agree with you, in that the intention to conceal one’s sex might not be present, but, nevertheless, the effect is present regardless.

    • Gary

      But in Monroe’s case they are more than happy to discuss sex, as they often do, entirely unconcealed…

  • Mike Hunt

    I fell sorry for “Jack’s” child imagine growing up in that world of confusion

  • J M

    I am going to identify as a woman and use the ladies next time I want a pee. I won’t be perving because I have chosen to be a woman and to identify myself as such! Promise!

    • Mr TaxPayer

      I self-identify as a transgender female crossdresser. So I was assigned male at birth, have undergone surgery to prevent me from reproducing and cross dress to wear men’s clothes.

    • Rachel Lawson

      If the sheer fact of being in a ladies toilet is enough to make you start “perving”, you have issues. Ines that you should see someone about

      • J M

        No issues apart from a taste for irony!

      • Vera

        But otherwise OK?

  • Mr TaxPayer

    It’s simple; we have two sorts of prison (and two sorts of sporting event) in this country. Ask them “If you were convicted of a custodial sentence; which prison would you choose?”.

  • SteadyOn

    In a comment board the other day I was having a constructive conversation about policies that help disabled people live fuller lives. Something I’m quite passionate about.

    It was a good discussion but someone pulled me up because at one point – in a long piece of text – I’d referred to ‘the disabled’ instead of ‘disabled people’. Someone then told me that what I had done was offensive, despite the evidently compassionate tone of the conversation. Is that wrong? I was briefly mortified that I’d done something needlessly offensive. I thought about it and it seemed to me that people use that type of shorthand all the time – as in ‘the French’ instead of ‘the French people’.

    There seems to be an entire army of people who set out to police our language according to ever changing rules. I’d like to ask them what on earth they think they’re achieving other than making people wary of engaging with important issues.

    • Groan

      I think the purpose
      is exactly as you describe in your sentence. To shut down discussion by either
      appearing to appeal to higher knowledge or virtue and consequently dismissing
      your views or ending the discussion altogether to avoid a proper “test”. The PC
      agenda is to “change the terms of debate”.

      • SteadyOn

        I think you’re entirely right, the sad thing in this particular incidence is that no one was really disagreeing about anything. Just utter mindlessness.

    • Little Black Censored

      The C of E changed the title “Chaplain to the Deaf” to “Chaplain among Deaf People”. Don’t you love that “among”!

      • TheRightToArmBears

        Yes, just contemplate him getting out of bed and stepping over all those deaf people.

    • The scourge of PC.

    • Patrick Selden

      @SteadyOn
      Making people wary of engaging with important issues is EXACTLY what the language police are after: it’s one of the regressive left’s favourite tactics for muting criticism of its “ideas”.

    • Owen_Morgan

      Oh, yes. The trick, in the world of the professionally offended, is always to be a step (or two) ahead of everyone else. “LGBT”? – no, that’s so yester. There are many more gender possibilities today and, if people are daft enough to indulge those, there will certainly be even more of them tomorrow.

      In the world – no, make that universe – of taking offence, there really are no limits.

  • Rachel Lawson

    Sorry to hear your copy of MS Word can’t cope with modern usage of English language. I’m sure you will be relieved to hear my Mac happily recognises “themself”.

    There are many things in the World that we don’t understand; that’s what makes it a fascinating and interesting place to live. If everyone was the same, it would be very boring.

    That Jack has openly declared something about their identity that you don’t yet understand shouldn’t be something to be upset about. Simply take the opportunity to learn something new. There are LOTS of non-binary people around that would be more than happy to sit down and help.

    Rachel

    • Little Black Censored

      Gosh, how patronizing!

      • Rachel Lawson

        Rob or me? I wasn’t intending to be, if I came across that way. If so, my apologies

    • Rob Slane

      Thanks Rachel. There are indeed many things that we don’t understand. One of them of course is how, for millennia, people could have got such an obvious thing so wrong. I mean, they actually thought that they could claim a thing to be true based on objective observation!

      But as it happens, I have a reasonable understanding. Jack is unhappy with who she really is. She is unable to accept that she was created as a female, and instead of seeking help to come to terms with who she really is, has instead chosen to deny reality.

      Believe me when I say that I feel sorry for her. I wish that someone who loved her had been willing to sit down and work this through. And so instead of trying to bend who she really is to who she thinks she is, via a process of bodily mutilation, she might instead have sought to reconcile her subjective beliefs with objective truth. I believe that she would have been far happier had she done that. There are LOTS of Christian pastors and counsellors around that would be more than happy to sit down and help such people.

      Best wishes,

      Rob

      • Mary Waters

        For many years we believed the world was flat. You are so patronising and uneducated.

        • Busy Mum

          But people didn’t flatten the world in order for it to fit in with their wrong beliefs.

        • Daniel

          No actually we did not this is a myth. You also fail to understand the difference between objective observation and subjective declaration. In both you demonstrated only your own lack of education.

        • Rob Slane

          Did you? I’m sorry to hear that. I never did myself.

          But seriously, this is what is called a category error. Belief in a flat earth would have been a perfectly reasonable thing for someone to believe at one point, until it was scientifically proven that this was false. “Flat earthers” are those who deny the scientific evidence.

          But tell me, what scientific evidence can you point to which proves that Jack Monroe wasn’t born female, rather than assigned? I can point to plenty of scientific evidence that she was, including chromosomes for instance. Do you deny that? If so, you may well find that it is you who have more in common with the “flat earth” brigade than me.

          Best wishes,

          Rob

          • May

            I’d love to know how you are privvy to information about Jack’s chromosomes. I think you are the one experiencing a category error – for a long time, people reasonably thought that there were two types of humans and you could divide them up based on their genitalia, which was determined by whether they had 46XX or 46XY chromosomes. . We now have scientific evidence that this is not the case. For instance: http://www.who.int/genomics/gender/en/index1.html.

          • Rob Slane

            I am not “privy” to this information. But everything about Jack’s story suggests that she was born with and still possesses XX chromosomes. Firstly, the midwife clearly identified female sexual organs. The parents do not appear to have disputed this assessment. Secondly, Jack conceived and gave birth to a child a few years ago. Thirdly, Jack herself affirmed that that she is female at least as far as 2014. What information are you privy to that Jack has discovered since 2014 to contradict these irrefutable bits of evidence, other than her feelings?

            Here is some information for you from the American College of Pediatricians. They put this stuff out despite intense pressure and being labelled a Hate Group. That’s a big giveaway. If this were an argument between two groups disputing the science, rather than a sociological construct being foisted upon people, nobody would have labelled them that. Anyway here goes:

            Human sexuality is an objective biological binary trait: “XY” and “XX” are genetic markers of male and female, respectively – not genetic markers of a disorder. The norm for human design is to be conceived either male or female. Human sexuality is binary by design with the obvious purpose being the reproduction and flourishing of our species. This principle is self-evident. The exceedingly rare disorders of sex development (DSDs), including but not limited to testicular feminization and congenital adrenal hyperplasia, are all medically identifiable deviations from the sexual binary norm, and are rightly recognized as disorders of human design. Individuals with DSDs (also referred to as “intersex”) do not constitute a third sex.

            No one is born with a gender. Everyone is born with a biological sex. Gender (an awareness and sense of oneself as male or female) is a sociological and psychological concept; not an objective biological one. No one is born with an awareness of themselves as male or female; this awareness develops over time and, like all developmental processes, may be derailed by a child’s subjective perceptions, relationships, and adverse experiences from infancy forward. People who identify as “feeling like the opposite sex” or “somewhere in between” do not comprise a third sex. They remain biological men or biological women.

            A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking. When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such. These children suffer from gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria (GD), formerly listed as Gender Identity Disorder (GID), is a recognized mental disorder in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-V).5 The psychodynamic and social learning theories of GD/GID have never been disproved.

          • Under-the-weather

            Someone ‘assigning’ a sex at birth doesn’t suggest to me that it was obvious, and there are a small number of genetic disorders which result in conditions like ‘hermaphrodite; which result in a sex being ‘assigned’ at birth, which would have to be the case if both sets of ‘bits are present’ whether fully developed or not.

        • David

          Err .. you just proved Rob Slane’s argument for him !
          The “belief” that the world was flat was no more than uninformed opinion. It was not supported by objective knowledge based on quantifiable, repeatable observations.
          The fact is, that the world is almost a perfect sphere. This is a provable, demonstrable fact, using several different methods, all of which cross-correlate.
          Facts win over opinions, every time.
          Try gaining some genuine “education”, Mary, based on science and maths, as opposed to brainwashing.
          You’ve made a fool of yourself, as your comment was hilarious !

          • In fact, as i recall, the ancient Greeks did so, and informed people ever since knew that.

    • Simmo

      “LOTS of non-binary people around”

      Don’t you mean lots of mentally ill and/or moronic fashion victims around?

      • Under-the-weather

        No there are some non binary people around, it’s a medical condition (one form is for example hermaphrodite, but there are others, and which means someone at birth selected a ‘sex’ for the baby); which has been raised on here umpteen times but certain authors still choose to ignore.

    • Daniel

      ‘There are many things in the World that we don’t understand; that’s what makes it a fascinating and interesting place to live. If everyone was the same, it would be very boring.’ I cannot remember reading anywhere that Rob Slane desired everyone to be the same, are you really stating that every woman is the same as another? We do not have to create ‘gender identities’ in order to avoid being the same as the next person.

      ‘Jack’ may declare whatsoever she wants that does not make it true. ‘Identity’ as some form of subjective form of being is a fantastical post-modernist construction. Identify means to objectively recognize a thing for what it is. If you mistake a birch for an elder then you have misidentified it. When applied to the human person in the psychological sense the meaning remains the same whilst assuming a subtler force; if you do not identify as a member of your own sex then you suffer from a dissociative disorder. You need help and healing for overcoming such a disorder; simply claiming to be a member of the opposite sex is a form of intense eco-centric gnosticism, ‘sexual re-assignment’ on the over hand is a form of Marxist revolution against the body. Both are utterly destructive to the whole human person.

      ‘Non-binary’ when applied to the human race as a whole is simply incorrect as the human race is objectively binary as it is divided into male and female. When applied to a single person, in the context of gender, it is a ridiculous truism, no one in this sense is binary as this would require them to be both male and female.

      • TheRightToArmBears

        Nature deals with male and female.
        On the appearance of any aberration Mother Nature says “Oh dear. How sad. Never mind.

    • I don’t think that anyone is claiming we are all the same. But one can very reasonably conclude that the vast majority of people in the world are either male or female; same goes for the animal world. This isn’t about to change on account of higher visibility given to a minuscule proportion of the population.

      • TheRightToArmBears

        You’re going to set the vegans and animal rights bunch off now with their concerns to recognise the need for gay rights for mules and seahorses.
        Naturally government should make funds available for this to be carried out on a professional and caring (i.e. only LBGNT persons to be involved) basis.

    • mudlark2

      I think we understand only too well and most of us are bored to tears by this obsession with sexuality and gender. To go on about it so much smacks of desperation.

  • Monty™© MCMLXXII

    Who cares if Jack identifies as man/woman from the planet Zog, what has it got to do with you Rob Slane. Utter trite! Seriously get a life, your own life!

    • Rob Slane

      Because:

      a) Some of us still believe that objective truth is important
      b) This agenda is being foisted upon us whether we like it or not and
      c) Some of us care enough about our fellow humans (don’t care much for Zoggians though) to point out that what they are doing is denying the reality about who they are and that this cannot be anything other than detrimental to them.

      And yes, I have rather a good life thanks.

      • Chris Raistrick

        You are being forced to change gender? Poor sod.

  • Kevin Turvey

    I would have expected that the story of a single mother who created a career for herself by blogging on the subject of feeding your family on a very tight budget would have been an inspiration to Conservative Woman.

    Isn’t the thought of someone dragging themselves up by their bootstraps to become a success through sheer hard work enough to send your average Conservative Woman dizzy with elation?

    Instead we have some small minded fool who is only interested which words Jack uses to describe themself (right click on word and “add to dictionary” and you are in the 21st Century). You’ll never rid yourselves or the Nasty Party label at this rate.

    • Colkitto03

      Interesting. As the working classes leave Labour and align with the Conservatives and UKIP? How is the nasty party narrative working out?

  • Gary

    Never heard of Jack Monroe, all because you don’t have a telly? A best selling author, newspaper journalist, regularly canvassed for opinion, should you be a blogger mate, you don’t seem that well informed, but then apparently you HAVE heard of Katie Hopkins?

    • Terry Mushroom

      I’ve learnt not to believe everything I read in newspapers or see on the TV. So when I first heard of Jack Monroe, she struck me as just another gobby attention seeker. The fact that she’s being given money for her views to fill column inches and air time is just more evidence of how silly life can be.

  • William

    All these different names for the same person and how she/he/they/themselves identity seems like a bizarre take on Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First” bit.

  • Coniston

    I recently went to a ‘faith’ meeting. At the end we were given a questionnaire to fill in. We were asked various questions about the meeting, our age groups, etc. Then we were asked whether we were male, female or ‘non-binary’. Fortunately we were not asked to which of the 59(?) transgender categories we assigned ourselves. I did not fill in the questionnaire.