Pronoun Trouble

A resource guide at Bard College encourages students, faculty, staff, and visitors, to avoid using “gender binary” language.

The Pronoun FAQ, found on the school’s Office for Gender Equity resource webpage, encourages community members to “avoid using gender binary language such as ‘ladies and gentlemen,’ ‘boys and girls.’” Instead, they are urged to use “‘everybody,’ ‘folks,’ or, ‘all people.”

“If I ask someone their pronouns once, is that enough?”

The guide also states that simply asking another person about gender identity once is insufficient.

“If I ask someone their pronouns once, is that enough?” the guide asks. “No, the best practice is to ask regularly because gender identity is not always fixed and static, and some people may change their pronouns.”

The top of the Pronoun FAQ states that the document is meant “to help community members educate themselves so that we can grow and evolve as a community,” and lists a few common pronouns, including gender-neutral alternatives such as “ze,” “zim,” “zir,” “zirs,” and “zirself.”

The pronoun guide also seeks to educate readers on questions such as, “What are gendered pronouns?” and “what are non-gendered or non-binary pronouns?”

In a section dedicated to “Suggestions for Faculty,” the guide concedes that “[i]n large classes, faculty may be unable to learn every student’s name and pronouns.”

“In these scenarios, the most inclusive practice would be to simply avoid referring to students with gendered pronouns,” the guide says. “For example, if a faculty member wants to acknowledge something that a student has said, the instructor may refer to the person using ‘they’ (‘as they said…’) or by gesturing to the student and using ‘you’ (‘as you said…’).”

The guide also suggests that faculty not call on students by gender, and replace words such as “man” with “person.”

“[I]nstead of calling on ‘the man by the window’ to ask or answer a question, an instructor can call on ‘the person in the blue t-shirt by the window,’” the guide explains.

Campus Reform reached out to Bard College for comment, did not receive a response in time for publication.