The New Criterion.
“the real prize in the pronoun wars is not correct grammar but the display of power and exertion of control.”
The pronoun wars have been raging around us for at least five or six years now. Like so many toxic developments, this sickness was incubated in the university. We began to take notice when the celebrated Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson fell afoul of the pronoun police at his own institution. He became a public pariah and was almost ejected from the school, but was in effect rescued by the extraordinary success of his self-help book Twelve Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.
The malady quickly spread, however. Back in 2018, we had occasion to note how the pronoun wars had infected Williams College, always a reliable litmus paper for academic fatuousness, and since then the practice of people “declaring” their pronouns and making up ever more extravagant alternatives for the usual vocables (he, his, she, hers, etc.) has spread far and wide. A couple years ago, the metastasis looked complete, with employees at many businesses—especially “soft” ones like publishing and anything to do with the arts, media, or education—routinely including their “preferred” pronouns in the signature block of their correspondence. The nadir came when the Biden administration added a menu of pronoun choices to the White House website and announced that government employees would be encouraged to pick their own pronouns. Earlier this autumn, the State Department issued an enthusiastic tweet about a glorious new holiday: “International Pronouns Day.”
So it was really only business as usual to discover that Columbia University has issued an instructional video called “Why Pronouns Matter.” It is very brief, but also very, if unintentionally, funny. In some accompanying text, the magi at Columbia inform their readers that “Asking for and using correct pronouns is a way to respect those around you.”