Pronouns matter more than anything

When a major bank happily loses accounts to uphold a pernicious ideology, you know it’s the end of the world.

A harbinger of that apocalyptic catastrophe was provided by Halifax, one of Britain’s biggest banks. The company posted the picture on the left, accompanied by the slogan ‘Pronouns matter’.

Since the badge identifying ‘Gemma’ seems to be pinned to the lapel of a man’s jacket, pronouns she/her/hers probably do matter in this case. They save customers the trouble of deciding whether the clerk they are talking to is a man, a woman or a proud member of one of the other 70-odd known sexes.

Halifax explained that the new labelling was designed to avoid ‘accidental misgendering’. This concern for people’s feelings is commendable. After all, if a conspicuously male clerk named Gemma is addressed with a masculine personal pronoun, he/she/it may go into an irreversible psychiatric tailspin, with suicide looming large.

Alas, Halifax customers lack similar sensitivity to things that really matter in life. More than 10,000 instantly complained about the bank’s “antics with pronouns”. A conflict between principle and business was brewing, but the bank stood its ground.

Halifax’s social media manager belied the common image of bankers as people who’d sell their daughters into slavery for a small amount. “If you disagree with our values,” he/she/it countered, “you’re welcome to close your account.”

Hundreds of Halifax customers have already taken the bank up on that kind offer by closing their accounts, cancelling their credit cards and discontinuing their insurance policies. But hey, as the great adman Bill Bernbach once said, “A principle isn’t a principle until it has cost you money.”

Much as I despise the principle involved, I find the bank’s steadfastness strangely appealing. But then I’m neither its customer nor, more to the point, one of its shareholders.

You know, shareholders? The kind of people to whom publicly held corporations owe fiduciary duty? If hundreds of absconders turn into thousands, those investors are bound to see their holdings rapidly heading in the direction of brown wrapping paper.

Will they then share Halifax’s commitment to wokery über alles? Somehow I doubt that, but I may well be mistaken. It’s quite possible that the rot has already set so deep that the whole society is tottering.

If you are still struggling with the definition of totalitarianism, this is it. Totalitarianism isn’t about mass executions, torture cellars and concentration camps. All these are symptoms that may or may not show.

The essence of totalitarianism is a dominant ideology so pervasive and bossy that it rides roughshod over everything else: morality, common sense, sanity or, in this case, money.

Contrary to what a character in a popular film said, greed isn’t good. But it’s better than this.

2 thoughts on “Pronouns matter more than anything”

  1. I suppose now I have to fly to England, hail a taxi to the nearest Halifax branch, ask for Gemma, and say, “Good morning, him. I’d like to open an account, they.”

    I have had a bank account as long as I can remember (let’s agree on 6 years old) and even spoke via phone with a teller this morning when I was called for approval of a check drafted against my account. In all those 52 years, I do not think I once have called a teller by name, nor have I called one him, her, he, or she. Using a pronoun in the person’s presence is rude, or so I was taught. When I speak to you I use your name. I would be quite likely to say, “Good morning, Alexander” if I happened to run into the author, or my third son. I cannot imagine saying, “Good morning, him.” This is surely tyrannical, because the person offended by my use of the wrong pronoun wil not be there to hear it directly. I am quite likely to refer to either of the two Alexanders noted above as “him”, but he won’t be around to hear it. They want to control my language when they are not even part of the conversation. Tyranncal. Which is why Jordan Peterson put up such a public fight over this issue in Toronto, beginning in 2016.

    By the way, I have nothing against Gemmas, in general. I had an Aunt Gemma. She was a wonderful, loving person.

  2. “They want to control my language when they are not even part of the conversation. Tyranncal. ”

    Mess with the body and your behavior bad enough but the totalitarian wants not so much to control the body as to control the mind. And done in part through language.

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