orm: marius contemplates lettuces intently (HMM: lettuce idleness)
Boss Tiger ([personal profile] orm) wrote2010-11-21 01:13 am
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My family has a pet tortoise. She's somewhere in the region of sixty years old, and when we acquired her when I was about three or four her name was Dougal. A perusal of reference books on tortoise keeping led us to the assumption that this tortoise was in fact female, so her name was changed to Tabitha (I was big on alliteration when I was small) and we referred to her with female pronouns.

BUT! In the last couple of years my dad apparently discovered that Tabby the Tortoise's physical characteristics suggested, in fact, a male tortoise. He refers to the tortoise as "he" now and has decided that her name instead should be "Tabsly". None of the rest of us can really be bothered.

I was uneasy with myself for a moment there. I mean, I don't like being referred to as female when I am in fact male. But here is the thing: Tabby might be biologically male, but she does not have a gender identity because she is a tortoise. She is not sapient. She doesn't give a shit what pronouns we use to refer to her any more than, for example, a boat does. Our decision to refer to her as a she is kind of the equivalent of a kid assigning gender and personality to a stuffed toy animal. It's for our benefit and not hers.

My dad's decision that the tortoise ought to be a "he" is based entirely on discomfort with the idea of using female pronouns to refer to something that is biologically male.

... Hmm.

So now I am kind of wondering, is assigning pets pronouns based on their physical sex really okay? Obviously the pet cannot be bothered by it because, as mentioned previously, it does not have a gender identity, but surely perpetuating the idea that genitals = gender is a bad thing


all my future pets are going to be "it", I think

or possibly various different pronouns depending on my mood

Also, I drew some Les Trollserables because of stupid

None of these make a terrific amount of sense characterisationwise but let's face it this is exclusively for the sake of lulz. I mean, a production of Les Mis where Valjean was played like Terezi would be basically horrifying in the best possible way, imo
I think one can get away with Karkat as Enjolras if it is musical Enjolras, anyway – providing that after Sollux Pontmercy interrupts his tirade about revolution with crap about his love life, instead of shutting him down he just shouts relationship advice at him.
(also I like Sollux a lot more if I imagine him as being more like Marius, for all the no sense at all that it makes.)

[personal profile] merryprankster 2010-11-21 02:12 am (UTC)(link)
i think it would be more unsettling if your dad had been upset that the turtle had been behaving like a female this whole time. i mean the fact that he was so uncomfortable is unsettling but yeah.

I don't think however it's wrong to refer to pets as he or she based on their physical sex? if i wasn't of the opinion that "it" is impersonal and rather rude i might feel differently and be okay with referring to people or animals as such but, like you said, pets don't even care. whether they have or don't have gender identities is up in the air, but they don't understand the way we assign gender roles with our pronouns and so aren't bothered by it.

I MEAN OVERALL I DO AGREE that he/she has connotations that we shouldn't assign to living things without their consent but there isn't really an alternative for living things that... can't give any consent at all. i mean "it" works for lots of people. just not for me.

I mean all of this is really all such a problem because somehow human beings decided that gender and sexuality couldn't be a fluid thing but hrrgh.

i can't remember what i was trying to say with this.

i'm sorry i pretty much just drooled on the keyboard.

[personal profile] merryprankster 2010-11-21 02:34 am (UTC)(link)
i guess because there are so many accepted differences between humans and every other living thing in the world i would expect that somewhere down the line (though far far down the line judging by where we are now) it would also be accepted that all things that aren't human are referred to by their physical sex because they cannot communicate their gender identities to us. humans can and eventually i think people will finally respect that.

or perhaps we will be able to communicate with them to a point where we will be able to find those things out. (actually i would be really interested in how my male cat feels about it seeing as i call him "princess" and "drama queen" all the time)

IT'S REALLY TOUGH but the fact is it's just different. animals have fluid gender identities (as far as I'm concerned) but they don't feel the need to project them in a way we understand because it's not a big deal to them so we just use their sex as an indicator for what pronouns we should use.
lienne: An anime character making a gesture of correction. (emotion: pedantic)

[personal profile] lienne 2010-11-21 12:00 pm (UTC)(link)
just to make this even more complicated, I heard that there are in fact transgender animals—animals who display the behaviour patterns of the sex not dictated by their genitals