This is a little riff on “Watch Your Language,” the strategy we published yesterday for working across difference.
We say so much about ourselves by the pronouns we use. Who, for example, is “we”? “We” generally means or implies “people like us.” Our assumptions about the ways “we” are “like us” are hidden in the pronoun.
“We” hides a world of difference. Because every “we” includes a “they,” people who are not “us.” Our very language constructs a world in which some people are part of our group, some are not. Insiders and outsiders.
Usually, when we say “we,” we mean a commonality along some, but not necessarily all, of the dimensions on the Dis/Advantage Profile. For example, the “we” in this article assumes a commonality with people who read English well.
Because Kate and barbara who are writing this blog have such similar Dis/Advantage Profiles, we risk using “we” unconsciously to mean other white, 60ish, lesbian professionals born in Canada, etc. When we say “we,” it is not immediately clear whether we are speaking from the “we” of shared privilege, or the “we” of shared oppression.
Who else do we think is in the “we”?
“We” can be condescending and demeaning. “We are going to have our medicine now, aren’t we?”
Watch out for “they.” “They” are the other. “They” are people not-like-us. But in what way are “they” not like us?
Check out Tobi Hill-Meyer’s post on language for naming trans people.