Move over JK Rowling! There’s a new wealthy, straight, white, cisgender writer launching an unprovoked assault on LGBTQ people. This time it’s none other than Joyce Carol Oates.
The 83-year-old is currently blocking people left and right on Twitter after she made inflammatory remarks attacking nonbinary people for absolutely no reason, saying “they/them” pronouns are confusing and language is supposed to be about seeking clarity and blah, blah, blah.
Yesterday, Oates tweeted: “”they” will not become a part of general usage, not for political reasons but because there would be no pronoun to distinguish between a singular subject (“they”) & a plural subject (“they”). language seeks to communicate w/ clarity, not to obfuscate; that is its purpose.
"they" will not become a part of general usage, not for political reasons but because there would be no pronoun to distinguish between a singular subject ("they") & a plural subject ("they"). language seeks to communicate w/ clarity, not to obfuscate; that is its purpose. https://t.co/uRhYJKP0LB
— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) October 6, 2021
For the record: Oates is wrong here, both about the rules of the English language and in her sentiment about “they/them” pronouns. For a professional writer who also claims to be a liberal, she really should know better.
A backlash almost immediately ensued, and pretty soon, Oates found herself trending on Twitter for all the wrong reasons.
Here are just a few of the responses…
We’ve been using it for a very long time. It’s already in general usage.
— Matthew Breen (@matbreen) October 6, 2021
Wait til you hear about “you.” It’ll blow your fucking mind.
— Brielle Claremont (@BrielleClaremo1) October 6, 2021
“I had to call my doctor about my chronic inability to understand that the singular they has been in use in English since the 1300s.”
“Oh, what did they say?”
— Racheline Maltese (@racheline_m) October 6, 2021
“what did she write again- oh” pic.twitter.com/boyhEbZ1m8
— Julinofooly (@julinofooly) October 6, 2021
And yet there is “you”
— Byron Sebastian (@sebastian_byron) October 6, 2021
I really hate to say it, but you are wrong on this one. Had a talk about this over dinner. I am trying to get better about this. It is hard after decades of using “he” or “she”. Don’t stay stuck in the past.
— Ron Waxman 🏳️🌈 (@RonWaxman) October 6, 2021
Talk about missing the plot.
— The Hoarse Whisperer (@TheRealHoarse) October 6, 2021
How do you feel about the singular “we”? As in, “we are not amused!”
— Charlie BRAIN WORMS Stross (@cstross) October 6, 2021
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Pre-dates singular you https://t.co/QdcitWKS4m
— 🌈Dr. Frizzle (@Swilua) October 6, 2021
Given that Chaucer was using singular ‘they’ in The Canterbury Tales, I feel like you’re around 600 years too late here. You’re also wrong.
— Luther (@LPatenge) October 6, 2021
Oates later tried to walk back the tweet several times, claiming she’s happy to use “they/them” pronouns when talking to non-binary people, and she was just trying to spark an “academic” discussion, and language evolves, and maybe this is all just generational, and blah, blah, blah.
Now, she could’ve left it at that and the whole thing probably would’ve blown over by this time tomorrow. But for whatever reason, she then decided to retweet someone defending her initial tweet, calling “they/them” pronouns “impracticable” and implying that nonbinary people are just seeking attention.
(& Twitter itself a small percent of the "real" world–as we often forget.) https://t.co/hVZS5RWIoR
— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) October 6, 2021
Now, people are pissed again. Here’s what they’re saying…
Good morning to everyone except Joyce Carol Oates. Honestly, fuck Joyce Carol Oates.
Everyone else, have a good day. Love you.
— Charlie Knight [they/them] (@CKnightWrites) October 6, 2021
Who let Joyce Carol Oates on Twitter…
— Dr. Jarret Ruminski ? ? (@TheDevilHistory) October 6, 2021
JK Rowling: "The trans are coming for our kids and bathrooms!"
Joyce Carol Oates: "'They' will never be a person. He/She. That's all you get."
Anne Rice: "I'm going to make my main character's mom nonbinary and openly talk about how I question my own gender. Since the 80's."??
— Sincerely, Your Murder Husband (@je_somerton) October 6, 2021
Joyce carol oates really woke up today like "I've got it! No one's heard what I have to say on THIS topic before!"
— Lia (@bbanimalstories) October 6, 2021
“I’m bored and I have 215,000 followers so let me shit on a marginalized group of people who are discriminated against everyday.”
— Joyce Carol Oates
— Fifty Shades of Whey (@davenewworld_2) October 6, 2021
Just Joyce Carol Oates on the "asshole about autistic people to asshole about pronouns" pipeline pic.twitter.com/06TzFBE8rK
— Widget Schadenford ???? ??? (@schadenford) October 6, 2021
I've never actually read Joyce Carol Oates writing but her hilariously unaware boomer twitter makes me want to.
— flargo ? (@sorkincel) October 6, 2021
Obviously I’m biased on the grounds that I use they/them pronouns and have never read her work, but Joyce Carol Oates seems like a real dumbass
— Steve Thueson (@Steve_Thueson) October 6, 2021
Joyce Carol Oates is a perfect example of why “don’t meet your heroes” now extends to “also maybe don’t follow your heroes on Twitter”
— Max Booth III (@GiveMeYourTeeth) October 6, 2021
My opinion on they pronouns is why does anyone in 2021 give a shit what Joyce Carol Oates thinks about anything
— Happy Leth Day 2U (@kateleth) October 6, 2021
Graham Gremore is the Features Editor and a Staff Writer at Queerty. Follow him on Twitter @grahamgremore.