Wherever there is a great number of amazingly important people doing incredibly ignominious jobs, there will be certain byproducts. Crowded specialty dessert cafes, burnings (books, chairs, etc., they are quite tame all things considered), pervasive vacation advertisements, and an overwhelming number of self-published poetry anthologies.
Since everyone in our arm of the galaxy enjoys relatively ignominious work, and everyone believes herself to be amazingly important, we have a lot of the above.
Just for the record, that “herself” may be credited to our “womankind” cycle this lunar year. Some time ago, when the plebs in office were even more in need of occupation than they are now, the-powers-that-be set them to work on the problem of how to make up for womankind’s long use of “mankind, man, and the general ‘he'”. The plebs mulled this over for a while, and then leapt at the suggestion of some lonely linguo-statistician as to how they should go about this project.
They began by approximating the number of times male-gendered language had been used to refer to the human species as a whole. Ever.
Armed with an estimate (based on a supposed date for the birth of the words in question, an integral for the human population since that date, and an estimate of the number of times per year the average human used male pronouns to refer to our species at large), they then thought about how reparation should be made.
Referring to the population of the Huniverse and average yearly use of the male pronouns at that time, they announced that if we all used “womankind, woman, and the general ‘she'” for x number of years we would have made up for our race’s original sin.
Laws were set and it became illegal to use anything but feminine pronouns in those cases when Philistines were wont to throw in a “mankind” for vagueness’ sake. But there was a small problem. People did not take to the change like flifspouts to water, and the use of general human pronouns fell drastically in the following decade before bouncing around like a confused quark – which it has done ever since. This rendered most of the plebs’ model obsolete and sent them running back to the linguo-statistician.
Who, no doubt, they saved from renewed boredom. There’s hardly anything left to explore in language when it comes to statistics.
Except that since the imposition of these laws humanity’s use of said pronouns has proved to be the most difficult phenomenon to chart in the history of statistics. This gave birth to a new cohort of linguo-statisticians and sustained them for nearly two centuries, the last hurrah of a doomed breed.
When it was finally no longer illegal to use anything but female pronouns, the plebs apologetically announced that we had “overshot the mark”. That is, in all their frantic attempts to keep up with speaking and writing conventions many fatal errors had “regrettably” occurred, and due to our elephantine population as compared to days of yore we had tipped the balance. So in human history males were then heavily discriminated against in the spoken and written word.
Thus we suffered under the reverse law for y number of years. Good old x and y, messing with the politically correct.
You can imagine how this continued. It proved impossible to break even on the gender score, and once the-powers-that-be got bored of occupying plebs and linguo-statisticians in this way they simply set down a schedule for us to rotate between male and female pronouns each Old Earth lunar year (which is the backward way we still count the ages, since many people have many fantastic ideas on how to improve the system but no one can agree).
Because even if statistics couldn’t tell us how to establish equality so we could move on to the idealized gender-neutral terms for which social scientists wept, it could tell us that if we alternated between x and y for the foreseeable, infinite future, things were practically equal.
And practically was good enough.
The x years are the even lunar years and the y are odd, so at least we can remember what the current rule is quite handily. It seems I care much more about this policy pudding than I thought, a mere “Just for the record” becoming an overstuffed monster, but after all “mankind” has a nicer ring to it.
© 2012, Elizabeth Cook