The Implications of “it”

Just to continue the discussion about gender pronouns (kinda):

Back when I was looking for evidence for my blog post about empathy, I stumbled across two sections.

“(Nikanj) had no same-sex children, and that was a real deprivation” (428).

And:

“(Dichaan) lay down again to comfort Nikanj and was not surprised to find that the ooloi needed comfort….It was to lose a year of Akin’s childhood. In its home with its large family all around, it felt alone and tired” (429).

When I read it, or, more accurately, reread it, I immediately thought Oh.

Awhile back when we started “Imago,” we discussed in class about Nikanj and how we didn’t really notice it was lonely. I, up until “Imago,” was absolutely not aware that Nikanj was lonely. I thought I missed it because it wasn’t really apparent in the text. Evidently it was, and evidently I was wrong.

It’s one thing to not realize someone’s feelings. It’s considerably much worse to realize it, not acknowledge it, and forget it. I wondered if there was a part of me that considered Nikanj emotionless. Reflecting on it now, I think it might trace back to the pronoun usage for the ooloi.

“It” is a pronoun I use (and I hear being used) almost exclusively to refer to non living things. I found it a bit interesting that the ooloi were termed “it.” The gender-neutral pronouns I’ve heard being used most often are “they,” “zir,” “sie,” etc. I’ve never really heard “it” being used.  I talked to an agender friend about this, and they told me they personally don’t like using “it” because: “‘It feels dehumanizing.’”

In this case, “dehumanizing” as being not alive and not feeling (not as in “not being human”; Nikanj after all isn’t human).

Perhaps it was because I was consistently consciously trying to refer to Nikanj as “it,” but I feel like I might have unknowingly associated it as “an it” rather than just “it.” “An it” as something not alive; something that can’t feel.

I don’t think I fully realized how powerful the associations I had with pronouns were before this. It seems I need to try harder to limit society’s influence on me.

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