Friday, February 3, 2012

Whatever Happened to "People"?

So, I have something like 5 drafts of different posts, but I'm being a huge perfectionist about them. Sometimes I go through phases where everything I try to blog about sounds "weird" to me. Maybe some of you other bloggers can relate. Anyway, I'll try to get over that and post something anyway. As you know, nothing warms my heart like a detailed inquiry into the words and phrases that many people take for granted. "Falling in love", "relationships", and "just friends", for instance.

So here is a brief observation...a trend, if you will, that I've noticed since I've gotten involved with Occupy. Whenever folks want to be taken more seriously, they cease to be "people" and become either "families" or "men and women". For instance, I never hear about "keeping people in their homes", but always "keeping families in their homes". I don't hear about "union workers", but "union men and women". It seems as though social justice movements feel that folks will be more emotionally affected by "families". Why? Is it because everyone has warm feelings towards their family? (no). Or is it because families involve innocent children? (Aren't children also included in "people"?) The truth is, while everyone is part of some family, a lot of people live alone, or with people to whom they're not related. They also face foreclosure.

And of course, not everyone is a man or a woman. According to the Asexual Awareness Week census, a sizable number of asexuals have a gender identity that's somewhere outside the binary. While "men and women" has a more oratorical feel, I don't think it has any advantages over "people". So, I say, bring back "people" and include more of us, even genderqueer orphans.

Now, this might sound totally inconsequential, but little language changes DO have an impact on the public consciousness. Just ask Frank Luntz, who freaks me out and impresses me at the same time.


milcah said...

hey. i'm into word play too. i'm also from the bay area. maybe we can be friends? i don't know any other asexuals around here, and, really, sometimes i feel like half the asexuals wouldn't like me because of how playful i can be with wordplay.

here are some examples of my writing, if you are interested:

hope you have a nice day.

Ily said...

Hey Milcah, I'm not sure why liking wordplay would disqualify a lot of asexuals from liking you. We do have local meetups:

if you ever want to come and meet a bunch of asexuals. We're friendly!

Jessica said...

I'm guessing that "people" is too vague. It doesn't leave much of an image in certain situations.

Trying to rectify that would be an interesting proposition. Certain words having a different meaning in different contexts, it's possible that "people" could grow to have a deeper, more nuanced, more specific meaning immediately upon being heard in contexts like you cited, but it would probably take a pretty big paradigm shift to do it.

Says I.

jesse.anne.o said...

Thanks for commenting on my blog and leading me over here, Ily.

It's always so strange to me that movements that hope to be unifying fall into these things so quickly. It's nice when we can see some progress in these areas instead of status quo or regression.

I was chuffed because the new Time Out NY singles issue put in a new icon for who the single person is seeking - it now reads either man, woman or queer. Is it perfect? No. But it's *some* progress and at least people are thinking about how to be more inclusive vs just typically binary.

Ily said...

@Jessica: I'm glad that you used the word "image", because it's true, "family" gives more of a mental image than just "people", even though I'm guessing that no two people would have the same image.

@Jesse.anne.o: Thanks for stopping by! Hmm, it's cool that they have "queer" option, since it can be really tough to do online-dating type things when genderqueer. I hope other sites will follow suite!

Adrain_on_society said...

Thanks for this, as a transgendered man I like to be included! Yes, for me as a writer, the problem is that overuse of "people" stinks of repetition. But for politicians and spin doctors, it's just manipulation; there really is a trend towards more sympathy for those that talk about families. I guess "people" is a little impersonal?