Why Conservatives Are Vowing To Boycott Jeopardy Over Pronouns: Opinion

The problem that conservatives have is not with pronouns, it is with the idea that they have to respect and include people who may be different from them.

On the Feb. 26 episode of the popular TV game show Jeopardy, part of the program’s “Tournament Of Champions” competition, contestant Chris Pannulo selected a $600 clue within the category of “Speech! Parts of Speech!” The words Xem, Xyrs, and Xemself appeared on screen, to which Pannulo correctly replied, “What are pronouns?”

Host Ken Jennings replied affirmatively, “Those are pronouns, neopronouns.”

This innocuous clue and response caused conservative viewers to collectively lose their minds and threaten to boycott the show, ostensibly over the view that the show was endorsing “mental illness.” In reality, the game show was just using an example of a practice of inclusion that has become more prevalent but is far from a new invention.

The list of pronouns has been consistently expanding since the concept was introduced in the 1970s, and according to the UC Davis LGBTQIA Resource Center, pronouns are “integral to who we are, and we share pronouns because we want to avoid assuming someone’s pronouns based on factors like appearance. By sharing our own pronouns routinely, we encourage others to do the same and demonstrate that we understand the importance of sharing pronouns.”

Mary Emily O’Hara, a communications officer for GLAAD, told NPR in 2021 that using someone’s pronouns properly indicates that you respect them as a human being. 

“Pronouns are basically how we identify ourselves apart from our name. It’s how someone refers to you in conversation,” O’Hara said. “And when you’re speaking to people, it’s a really simple way to affirm their identity. So, for example, using the correct pronouns for trans and nonbinary youth is a way to let them know that you see them, you affirm them, you accept them, and to let them know that they’re loved during a time when they’re really being targeted by so many discriminatory anti-trans state laws and policies.”

The problem that the loud and vocal conservatives have is not with pronouns. It is with the idea that they have to respect and include people who may be different from them. For them, the use of pronouns signals an erasure of their core belief that there are only two sexes, a concept which science has not quite agreed with.

In 2015, Scientific American argued that reducing sex down to male and female is too simple to accommodate the spectrum that makes up genetic and biological sex. 

According to a 2022 poll conducted by Pew Research, most Republicans (66%) claim that society has gone too far protecting trans and nonbinary people, while a minority of Republicans (14%) believe that using a person’s pronouns as they say the pronouns should be used is important to them.

Republicans are also more likely to believe that a person’s gender is determined by the sex they are assigned at birth. The poll also notes that 70% of Republicans believe that views on gender identity are changing too rapidly for their tastes.

When asked why, several respondents indicated their religious beliefs or a belief in an agenda pushed by the media. They also cited a desire to protect children, which has been a popular argument pushed by Republicans such as Florida Gov. Ron Desantis.

One respondent said of gender identity, “People now believe everyone should just forget about their birth identity and just go along with what they think they are. God made us all for a reason, and if He intended us to pick our gender, then there would be no reason to be born with specific male or female parts.”

Another responded to concerns about the media, saying, “News media, social media, and entertainment media companies are trying to change, and it seems they have been succeeding in changing public opinion on this issue for many people.”

Another person criticized schools, echoing the concerns of DeSantis, “It’s being pushed on society and especially on younger children, confusing them all the more. This is not something that should be taught in schools.”

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