No, I’d never heard of her before either but then why would some gammon like me have heard of a cutting edge dance music maker? Some popular beat combo no doubt.
There is, however, a line in the story of her passing which grates:
Sophie’s team said that pronouns should not be used when describing the artist.
No, that’s not how it works.
This whole thing about personal pronouns is, as I’ve mentioned before, starting off on the wrong foot. It betrays a deep ignorance both of how language works and also freedom.
To start with, these declarations of which personal pronouns people use. Xir, she, he, they, whatever has come into lively little minds. The declarations are all entirely wrong on linguistic grounds. For no one does use any of those. Everyone uses “I” and “me”. That is how an English speaker refers to the one who is doing the speaking, the self.
The request about pronouns is in fact a request that other people use the desired ones to refer to that person doing the desiring. Which is where we intersect with freedom and liberty. This is that old negative and positive rights difference. Insisting that someone else perform in a particular manner is demanding a positive right – whether it’s pay for my education or use a particular word. Demanding positive rights is a breach of that freedom and liberty of other people not to give a damn.
We do agree, generally, that there are times when such positive rights can be demanded – it coincides with that swinging fist and nose existence example of Mill’s. Demanding that infectious you don’t go out and spread typhoid among the general public like Mary is indeed a restriction upon the freedom of another and yet we’re all fine with that.
Demanding we use a particular word doesn’t quite reach that standard of proof.
And that’s what’s wrong with that announcement from Sophie’s team. To request that pronouns not be used is just fine. We can all of us request any damn thing we want. Many of us will be polite enough to accede to many such requests. We do tend to substitute “interesting character that one” for the believed and obvious “crazed loon” when discussing Jezza for example. Just because making fun of confused and elderly gentlemen is something we reserve for election time.
But to go from request to demand – I read that “should not” as being “must not” and the caterwauling upon Twitter over the issue would seem to support that interpretation – is that step too far.
We get to decide what we call you.
You get to decide what you’d like to be called and maybe we’ll be polite and maybe we won’t. But in this clash of rights and liberties it’s our one to be anywhere from unobservant to hateful that wins, not your to determine our language.
You prefer certain pronouns? How nice. You demand them? Fuck off.