When the AP Stylebook officially adopted "they" as a singular pronoun last month, our office rejoiced. We were excited that such an influential style guide was finally recognizing a pronoun commonly used within gender non-conforming communities.
But not everyone shared our excitement. Some commenters on the tweets following the AP Stylebook's announcement replayed the same, tired arguments people generally use against gender inclusive pronouns like "they," mainly that they're confusing and grammatically incorrect.
So, for all of the naysayers out there, Wifey — a video channel from TRANSPARENT creator Jill Soloway and gurl.com founder Rebecca Odes — created a video explaining why all of those arguments just don't hold up.
Amanda Montell, who hosts a series called The Dirty Word on the channel, opens the video pretending to be someone who doesn't like that people use "they" as a singular pronoun for gender non-conforming people or when they're unsure of someone's gender identity.
She works through each argument throughout the video, building up each "problem" with saying "they" instead of "he/she," and then tearing it down.
"I've been hearing more and more about this gender-neutral pronouns business, and even though it's never affected my life in any way whatsoever, I just have to be honest: I don't like it," she says.
Her tongue-in-cheek video continues to bring up possibly the most common argument against gender inclusive pronouns.
"First of all, using the word 'they' to refer to one person is just grammatically incorrect," she says. But, like many of the people who use this argument, this is the first time she's ever been this concerned about grammar.
“I mean, I’ve literally never cared about grammar ever in my life up until this very moment," she says. "But all of a sudden I'm very concerned with prescriptive subject-verb agreement."
Throughout the video she also breaks down the idea that language shouldn't be a changing, growing thing (after all, haven't we adopted slang words like "twerk" and "fleek" in the last few years?) and that using "they" is too confusing (hint: you still say "they are" when talking about one person).
After putting every argument on blast, Montell points to the real problem with refusing to use "they" for someone who specifically identifies with that pronoun: it's disrespectful and means that you're refusing to recognize that person's identity.
"Like, I get that by refusing to use someone's correct pronouns it makes them feel really disrespected and unsafe or whatever ... but as I said it's just so inconvenient to accept someone for who they are, ya know?" she says.
Of course, the final joke is that in using a phrase commonly used even by those people who make these arguments and mean them, she's already using "they" as a singular pronoun.
A man who is supposedly filming the video mentions to Montell — while she is still in character — that saying "accept someone for who they are" is using "they" instead of "he or she," to which Montell says, "Oh ... well, huh," and looks back to the camera, clearly confused.
Her final reaction, as well as the jokes she throws in throughout the video, make Montell's point painfully obvious: these arguments are ridiculous and they don't hold up when you think about how changing something as simple as saying "they" instead of "he" or "she" can make the gender non-conforming people you're talking about feel respected and seen.