I don’t think I’ll ever meet a huper in my lifetime.
It sounded like such a good idea almost 20 years ago: a completely gender-neutral word combining the non-male parts of “human” and “person.” Hu-per.
We would quote spokeshupers, get traffic tickets from policehupers, laugh at musicals about Spiderhupers, receive explicit tweets from congresshupers.
Because in 1994, when a Chicago area reader sent a letter to a local newspaper suggesting huper as an alternative pronoun to erase the sex bias inherent in our language, we believed ourselves to be on the precipice of a gender-blind society, one where all people would be judged by the content of their character, and not the content of their underpants. Right?
Sorry, but I think huper took off as quickly as another attempt at androgyny introduced the same year — Calvin Klein’s unisex “ck one” cologne. Back then, except for the washroom on “Ally McBeal,” we were definitely not ready to be hupers.
A couple in Canada caused a maelstrom last month when they refused to reveal the gender of their child, Storm. And a Swedish preschool was accused of confusing children last week after it spoke of its no-gender policy, in which children aren’t boys or girls, only “friends.”
Closer to home, George Washington University will have gender-neutral housing this fall, and U.S. passports are offering gender-neutral options for the “mother” and “father” sections of a child’s document.
We’re having these conversations again not out of moral idealism, but out of necessity, as same-sex marriage and parenting finally gain the legal backing they should’ve had years ago.
But then I think about the way gender looked at the Fourth of July parade in my neighborhood Monday, and the way my boys curdled like the Wicked Witch of the West at the sight of a princess brigade marching in front of a band.
The girls were glittery and mostly pink. But they were making some people see red.
Every year on our neighborhood e-mail list, some feminists wonder why we have to sanction this princessification of girls and propose abolishing the Princess Patrol, while other feminists insist on empowering their girls to display as much pink power as they want to.
“Ridiculous” is what Karen Geating calls all these verbal fireworks.
She let both of her daughters dress up in lovely confections to walk among the Princess Patrol.
“I was raised almost like a boy. I grew up in Puerto Rico, with three brothers, and all we had were boy toys around the house. My father said, ‘No dolls, no dresses,’ ” Geating told me.
“And you know what? I really wanted that when I was little,” she told me as Siena, 5, and Tsehay, 3, plopped their taffeta and tulle-covered rumps on the ground in a very unprincessly fashion and began rooting around in their candy bags.
“This is how they chose to be. Why should I tell them they can’t do this?” Geating asked.
It isn’t unusual for the anti-princess mom of one year to march along with the child who insists on displaying Princess Pride the next year. And the year after that? They might miss the parade altogether because of a baseball game.
I remember when a West Coast friend of mine pointedly banned gender-specific colors for her baby girl. So I sent lots of green onesies and orange rompers. Until last year, when she told me — exasperation evident — that all her daughter wants is pink. “Even her milk has to be pink.”
And what’s wrong with that? After all, having a girl child today means that not only do you get to watch her play princess and go on tiny diva spa dates that you never had as a kid, but you also know that your female child is more likely to graduate from college, earn an advanced degree and perhaps even become the primary breadwinner of her household. Girls are more likely to stay with their elderly parents, too.
And that makes me totally perplexed by the result of a Gallup Poll released last week about gender preference by parents.
In 1941, when parents were asked which gender they would chose, if they had only one child, the majority said male. And I get that. Men had far more opportunities available to them. Women, after all, had only been able to vote for 21 years, and the path to college was all about the M.R.S. degree.
But 70 years later, when the folks at Gallup asked the same question, they got even more male-centric results.
In 1941 it was 38 percent. Today it is 40 percent.
Huh? I know, totally weird, right? Y chromosomes, looks like you’re still tops in this country.
And that is an important and possibly frightening development when you look at the rest of the world, where gender selection by abortion is an active practice. And here in America, we’re not far from scientifically being able to choose the gender of your baby before conception.
The enduring preference for male offspring was documented in a book about gender preference, “Unnatural Selection,” by Mara Hvistendahl. She warns of an imbalance blooming across Asia, an unnaturally high population of males that will soon be lonely and surrounded by too much testosterone.
And I would hate to imagine what kind of world we’d have with those socially engineered odds.
There would be some pretty powerful princesses.
And still, not a huper in sight.
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