Monday, December 11, 2006

The genderlessness of who we really are

Someone called Aart Hilal left a comment on this post about the Paolo Coelho book and I went to her site ... the summary and essence of which is "dreams come true."

I particularly liked this post. Very powerful.

Every Warrior of the Light has felt afraid of going into battle.
Every Warrior of the Light has, at some time in the past, lied or betrayed someone.
Every Warrior of the Light has trodden a path that was not his.
Every Warrior of the Light has suffered for the most trivial of reasons.
Every Warrior of the Light has, at least once, believed he was not a Warrior of the Light.
Every Warrior of the Light has failed in his spiritual duties.
Every Warrior of the Light has said 'yes' when he wanted to say 'no.'
Every Warrior of the Light has hurt someone he loved.
That is why he is a Warrior of the Light,
Because he has been through all this and yet has never lost hope of being better than he is.

Warrior of the Light
Paulo Coelho


Only thing ... I know 'his' and 'he' are supposed to be seen as including females as well (as with 'mankind'), but sometimes it jars me and seems presumptuous. I don't think P.C. meant to be sexist. It would perhaps have been poetically cumbersome to say things like "Every Warrior of the Light has trodden a path that was not his or hers" ... or "That is why he or she is a Warrior of the Light."

I've noticed that some non fiction books use either 'he' or 'she' in addressing readers, as though they assume their readers are all female or all male. Some even switch between addressing 'he' and 'she' for reasons that are not clear to me. The last book I remember noticing that in was "The Four Agreements", which I did not read, but skimmed through. If I remember correctly, the writer used the female. When things like this happen I ask the question: What if a man is reading this?

The book may be talking about relationships, for example. It might say: "When your lover or partner is xxxx, it means he is feeling yyyy ..." A 'straight woman' or a 'gay man' reading the book will identify and feel he is speaking to them, but what about a 'straight man'? Maybe I'm being picky, but it often stands out to me when I come across things like that. Why are some generic-topic books written to 'the male' and some to 'the female' when the topic is applicable to both?

Maybe one day when there is true equality and understanding, there will be the inclusion of one word that means he and she/his and hers/him and her ... one pronoun that embraces the 'human' regardless of gender ... one pronoun for the spirit ... for times when that is necessary, as in the above P.C. poem.


Blogger Elspeth said...

P.S. (Q and A from the Paulo C. wesbite which I was just browsing through):

Many of your books are narrated from a feminine perspective. How does a male author like you manages to portray so faithfully women?

When I write I am first and foremost interested in trying to solve something with myself. I need to understand myself and through literature I found the best way to do that. I am my characters and they are manifestations of my soul. If I manage then to write from a feminine perspective that’s because I let my feminine side express itself freely.

7:14 AM  
Anonymous The TriniGourmet said...

he could easily use 'one' 'they' 'theirs' .... we already have the pronouns...

7:34 AM  
Blogger Kiki said...

I just realized I've read two Coelho books. I went out last night, stopped in my local indie bookstore. They had six or so works by Coelho, but not the one I was there to buy. Your post today grabs me and shakes me. I love the term "warrior" because it reminds me I have a myself and to the world. I can't give up. I have a gift to share and to give myself.

I went and signed up for PC's newsletter. Thank you SO much for steering me in that direction this morning.

Butterfly effect, indeed. K

7:39 AM  
Blogger Kiki said...

PS. I use s/he at times. But him/her becomes cumbersome. Mostly I try to mix it up. Persian uses "Ou" and it is genderless. K

7:40 AM  
Blogger Elspeth said...

Kiki, I use s/he as well, but you're right: him/her is cumbersome. Trinigourmet, that's true about one/they/theirs. I thought about that after I had written the post.

8:19 AM  

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