A video came up in my TicTok feed recently that pinged some things for me. The message isn't hate-filled or even entirely incorrect, but it felt like it was missing some critical pieces. And without those considerations, its message is deeply problematic. It's basically 8 minutes of one person's philosophical musings on why it doesn't matter what pronouns other people use to talk about them. What they didn't articulate, but which is a critical distinction: it doesn't matter to them because they are sufficiently disconnected from the consequences of those labels.
The video first points out that gendering of pronouns occurs only with third-person pronouns. The first person pronouns of I and me are universal and genderless, just like the second person pronoun of you. They ask why they should care what pronoun someone uses when talking about them to another (third) person whey they are not around. It's like they have never noticed when anyone has referred to them in the third person while they were also present. Or they have never noticed they sometimes have to read something written about them in the third person.
The video creator is un-bothered because their True Self has no identity; we're just making all this identity stuff up. Yes. Exactly. Identities are a societal construct. But when you are handed an identity by society or the people around you, you then also live-out the consequences of being assigned that identity. It doesn't matter if you reject that label or all labels. The outcome is the same: your experience in society is directly impacted by the labels you are assigned. If that label sucks, then you have to push against it somehow. One way to do that is by shedding that crappy identity and fill the space with something else that doesn't make you want to die inside. In modern society most of us seldom get the chance to just exist.
All measurements of objects exist only relative to other objects. People are not objects, but the video's reference to Einstein's theory of relativity kind of works in a similar way. As I exist in the world, I simply am. I am just me. But I don't live in a formless, solitary vacuum, so I eventually interact with the physical space and with other people. Interaction with physical spaces is how I learn things like I am too short to reach certain products on certain shelves in the grocery store. Interaction with other people is how I learn things like I am shorter than some people and taller than others. Over time, I learn what any of that means for me relative to anyone else.
So even though, as the video creator says, when a person attacks you they are not attacking the real you, they are only attacking who they think you are, and therefore "only if you identify with what they are attacking will you suffer," that doesn't solve the problem of being attacked. This would be a fine resolution if we were all on equal footing in society. If no one had any kind of power over me to affect my day to day living experience in any way, then it wouldn't matter what anyone else thought about or called me. But because the made-up labels come with real consequences, that makes the labels matter. The video creator's answer to this is if rejecting labels means you don't fit into society, then fuck society.
Wouldn't that be nice if we could all just extract ourselves from society? It's fine to detach yourself from the world if you have the skills and resources to do that. But that is not actually a solution to the problems that come from interacting with society or other people. All that does is insulate you from the problem. A lot of people don't have that option. And a lot of the people most affected by the ills of society are the least-resourced people, which makes them the least likely to be able to just escape. Which means the people who have the ability to just leave are the ones who should be investing their time, energy, and resources in making a better society that nobody has to insulate themself from.
It feels important to say clearly that I don't think this person's understanding or explanation needs to be perfect. It doesn't even need to perfectly consider all the things I think it should include. They are in-process just like the rest of us, and as they say at the end of their video, "this is their process." So that's great. Carry on with your process. And also, it's important to me to point out the places where the application of this viewpoint is problematic. Philosophy is interesting and theorizing is important, but I am ultimately interested in outcomes, not just ideas.
It reminds me of the times I've been bowling at a place with electronic screens and automatic scoring. You throw your ball down the lane and knock over however many pins you knock over. If you're highly skilled at bowling, you knock them all down and it's someone else's turn. If you're like me, you hit some number of pins (or none) and a variety of pins remain standing. That's when the computer flashes a tip up on the screen. It shows a diagram of the remaining pins with an arrow for where you need to send your next ball in order to knock all the remaining pins down. I always imagine the screen is saying "just do this!" As if it were just that simple.
And it is. All that is needed is a ball thrown at that one simple angle. But if I had the skills necessary to take the screen's advice, I probably wouldn't need the screen to tell me what to do. Which means it's not actually that simple. It's complicated, just like dealing with other humans and existing in the world that isn't built for every body. You can't say something is not a problem just because you have never experienced that particular problem. And you can't just leave and call that a solution. But you can help change the system so when you or anyone else struggles within it, the means exist to fix the issue.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.