Old man yells at cloud

NPR’s “All Things Considered” ran a program on young people who challenge common forms of gender identification.  Here’s a snippet:

ADLER: But some students are going further. At one college that Joy Ladin visited, things were so fluid you could make up a different pronoun for a different event.

LADIN: So you can be she/her at one event and then you go to lunch and you say, OK, now I am he/him. And then one charming young woman told me, oh, yes, today, I’m just using made up pronouns.

Fascinating stuff, of course.  This lead to the usual letters and such, among them was this one:

CORNISH: Amy [Redacted] North Carolina, disagrees with that last line. She writes: How about abused and neglected children? They certainly do not have the luxury of sitting at Oberlin College defining themselves as tractors or determining what gender pronoun they’re going to use at any given moment. Lawton goes on: While I believe that these people have the right to choose whatever pronoun they’d like to refer to themselves, by no means are they the most marginalized members of society. Finally, it seems like there are more pressing issues to address around here than rewriting the gender binary.

This is really terrible criticism.  Not to defend NPR, but a search for the exact string “Child Abuse” produced 400 results on the NPR web page.

Now here’s the question.  I imagine NPR had lots of choice here in selecting among the responses to their story.  Did they have to pick such a cranky and ill-informed one?  It seems like they have an obligation to select strong (that is, relevant and cogently argued) responses.  Here’s another question: is it fair to the cranky letter writer to publish his/her silly letter?  Seems not.

2 thoughts on “Old man yells at cloud”

  1. I can’t speak for the policies of that particular show, but a common reason given for sharing reactions of… dubious quality… is that they represent a significant percentage of the feedback received. That is, if you’re reading or publishing three letters, and thirty to forty percent of the feedback raised a particular complaint, then you choose a representative letter for publication.

    I’ve also seen newspaper columnists pick the low hanging fruit from their feedback – the rudest. most illogical feedback – and use it to lament how irrational the “other side” is, or how mean their critics are, etc.

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