I Write Letters

Dear NeilMed Sinus Rinse System (NMSRS):

I love your product. I have been using it faithfully since 2007, when I saw an allergist who made the suggestion. Your product has made my summer hay fever a thing of the past. I encourage everyone I know who has difficulties with allergies to use the NMSRS. I love everything about your product except for your wasteful packaging.

I am writing to you today about a box of refill packets I recently purchased. Now, I am not an ardent environmentalist. I am also not one to really notice excess packaging. I recently opened a new box of packets for my NMSRS and was astounded to see what was inside. Safely holding my 100 packets of chemicals was a solid blue plastic tray. Now, I really don’t see why this is necessary given that the packets are sealed (and lined with plastic inside) and they are in a heavy, plasticized box.

What was truly astounding was all the promotional material included in this box. Why on earth do you need to send a multi-page booklet in both official languages telling people who have already bought your product to buy it? Once can pretty much assume that if I have not only bought a bottle and I am buying refill packages, I believe in your product. Then, to add insult to injury, there are 2 heavy paper plasticized cards with more information about your product and encouraging people to buy the refill packets rather than substituting with salt and baking soda. Really, you people are preaching to the choir! If I have already purchased your refill packets what makes you think I need to be told why to purchase them?

So, here is a thought. Spend your money on trying to attract new customers rather than pissing off the ones you have with this wasteful practice.


From the Swamp

Pronoun use

I have blogged a few times about the use of language and how it affects and shapes society. No where is this more important than the use of gendered pronouns. Now, I am all for non-gender pronouns but society does not seem to be embracing the use of zie and hir. I really hate it when writers try to avoid the use of gendered pronouns by using plural forms. These uses are not grammatically correct and leave the reader (or listener) confused as far as I am concerned.

The default, not surprisingly, is usally to use the male form. Most things you read (particularly non-fiction) where gender is not important to the material the male pronoun is generally used. Some writers try and say he/she or s/he or him/her etc but most do not. This has important consequences. The constant use of the male pronoun marginalizes women and renders them invisible. I can only imagine what medical text books are like. It is not surprising that the use of male pronouns wound render women and their different medical needs and realities invisible. Most medications are not routinely tested on women who have very different chemical and hormonal makeups. In the same way that children are not ‘little adults’ women are not men.

I am currently reading an amazing book: “In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction” by Dr. Gabor Mate. He is a doctor in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver which has one of the highest rates of drug addiction, HIV and Hepatitis C infection in Canada. The stories are compelling and sad and Dr. Mate provides a very interesting and instructive view of addiction – including his own. What is unique about his writing is his use of pronouns. The first part of the book is specific stories of patients he has treated and he uses appropriate gendered pronouns. In the parts of the book that are instructive, in which he explains the pysiology of addiction, he alternates male and female pronouns. I was completely struck by this feature of his writing. At first I wondered why it seemed that he was only using the female pronoun when in fact men are also drug addicts. Everytime I saw a female pronoun in these pages it jumped out at me. So then I went out of my way to notice if he used male pronouns. It seems that he uses both equally.

I think it is sad that we are so used to male pronouns that the use of the female, in equal parts, is so noticeable that one wonders if the author is using male pronouns at all. It speaks to how pervasive the male gaze is even with women and feminists. My hope is that more authors will choose to use both male and female pronouns equally.