When Stephanie West Allen sent over a news item about the Berkeley City Council, I had no idea what to expect. Something about giving sanctuary to immigrants? Maybe caring for the homeless, whether by housing or feeding them, or even providing someplace to defecate that didn’t require the unhoused to step over used needles? Nope. Steph took me by surprise.
Berkeley City Council votes to rename “manholes” to gender neutral “maintenanceholes” to reflect “awareness of transgender and gender-nonconforming identities” recognizing “the importance of non-binary gender inclusivity.”
So, who wants to go down?https://t.co/ageenvjQl5
— Scott Greenfield (@ScottGreenfield) July 17, 2019
The heartwarming rationale for this significant change in hole terminology makes it clear that this change wasn’t just about “manholes,” but about recognizing how hurtful and destructive they must be to gender-nonconforming manhole users.
A twit in response made a good point, even if wrapped in some assumptions that are ridiculously unlikely.
Serious question. Who cares? In what way does it have any effect on your life at all? Is it dumb? Sure. But it took a couple minutes, and made the city marginally more inclusive in its language, so how does this harm you in any way that you took time out of your day to mock it?
Nothing a city council does takes “a couple of minutes,” and it took maybe 12 seconds out of my day to twit about it, which I can afford, thank you very much. But the “serious question” isn’t a bad question at all:
Who cares? In what way does it have any effect on your life at all?
These are the questions asked whenever a change is made, whether it’s a change that “made the city marginally more inclusive in its language,” accomplished absolutely nothing beyond empty virtue signaling or created a significant problem for the vast majority of residents to accommodate the demands of a very small minority for some “dumb” reason.
Somebody had to care, other than me (for wasting those 12 seconds of my life) the city council, for whatever time and money (yes, there is always money involved in any government enterprise, as the nice folks who make your life better need to get paid too). What about my interlocutor (who may well have spent more than 12 second objecting, and then coming up with individualized ad hominems for each replier)?
A lot of people cared. Not so much about the silly renaming of manholes, which might have given Ed Norton pause, but doesn’t tend to rank high on most people’s causes célèbre. Rather, it’s because it was just so trivial, so utterly meaningless in anyone’s life, and yet meaningful enough for the Berkeley City Council to take it up.
The decision itself, whether they vote to call them manholes, frontholes, maintenance holes or bananas, is unlikely to make a difference in anyone’s life. Unless, that is, their new name will be enforced at the end of a gun, with police officers sworn to act upon hearing someone utter the epithet “manhole” and taking the miscreant down.
But then, if it makes no difference in anyone’s life, then why do it? Because there are people who believe their time well spent going through 40-year-old college yearbooks, dictionaries, blog posts and twits in search of impure words and phrases. And they take such vicious joy in finding something they can point at and scream “Witch! WITCH! BURN THE WITCH!!!”
Perhaps the more significant point isn’t that anyone gives a damn what manholes are called, particularly since they’re going to be called manholes regardless of what the Berkeley City Council says, even if it means that a transgender person will cry xerself to sleep at night due to the trauma of knowing that somewhere, someone is saying “manhole.”
The more significant point is that as much as no reasonable person wants to live in a plutocracy run by a vulgar, amoral ignormus, they similarly don’t want to live in an idiocracy run by the sort of people who feel something as manifestly silly as the word “manhole” needs changing. Thank you for asking.
H/T Keith Kaplan (go to @ 3:25 if you’re in a rush)