Because I lean toward goofy (The state of being, not the Disney character) I like to read the small print in television ads. Believe it or not, they can be entertaining and thought provoking.
For instance, that commercial where a guy drives an SUV up a long set of stairs. As the SUV reaches the top of the stairs, the fine print on the screen reads, “Professional driver. Do not attempt.”
How does one go about becoming a professional drive-an-SUV-up-a-set-of-stairs guy (or gal)?
Is there a college program? Is there a union? Do you have to prove you can do it before you do it, or do they just choose some dude off the street? Or is the guy who drove the SUV up those stairs the guy who was just standing there when the director of the commercial pointed his or her finger?
Moreover, do you really need to be warned not to do such a thing?
The answer, of course is, “Yes, they really do, because should some moron, dufus or fool decide to try it, and the inevitable crippling or mortal crash occur, the warning indemnifies the producers of the commercial and the car manufacturer from litigation (In other words, so the producers and manufacturers can’t be sued because some moron, dufus or fool did a moron, dufus or fool thing).
So, it’s established, I like to read the fine print on commercials. Only I was beginning to get bored with the same old commercial fine print, when along came a pharmaceutical commercial for a drug that helps prevent AIDS. There at the bottom of the screen, for everyone who was of a mind to read such things (me), was the following: “This drug has not been tested on individuals who were assigned female at birth.”
“Individuals who were assigned female at birth.”
In plain English, that’s, “female.” Or “girl” or “woman.”
But we live in a world where plain language all too often offends. Yes, you read that right. There are people out there who would be most offended if that fine print had read, “This substance has not been tested on women.”
That’s because there’s more than one gender. (And please bear in mind I’m not here to argue either side of that most contentious contention. I’m here to just mention it, and maybe make fun of it… and probably offend someone. Or probably a lot of someones.)
The long and short is I don’t know all there is to know about this, and I don’t really want to know, because to an old Baby Boomer like me, it borders on the icky. But near as I can tell, there are people who were assigned male at birth, who identify as female, and vice versa. Furthermore, there are people who don’t identify with either gender, choosing to play the entire field, as it were. And a simple Google search will show there are more genders than that. And even furthermore, people these days can be horribly picky when it comes to pronouns. So be careful when you decide to refer to someone as, “sir” or “ma’am” because the ma’am may identify as a sir or the sir may identify as a ma’am, or they may identify in another manner entirely, and messing up your pronouns could open a can of worms (Worms, ironically, being either both genders, and/or able to change genders depending on circumstance, but I digress) so choose your pronouns carefully.
But I fear I may have exceeded my quota of offending overly-sensitive people today, so let me just apologize if I caused you the unimaginable grief of hurting your feelings, and move on. But remember, innocent ignorance is not the same as hatred or fear.
(Warning: The preceding was performed by a trained, skillful (?) practitioner of the craft of writing. Do not attempt.)
(Also, it wasn’t tested on people who were assigned male or female at birth.) (Or worms.)
Craig Carter is an Ontario resident and can be reached in care of The Argus Observer, 1160 S.W. Fourth St., Ontario, OR 97914. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of the Argus Observer.