4 ביוני, 2023

Gender & "It"

I find that I keep mentally writing and rewriting about the one thing that is, I think, valid about what I wrote initially in what became a long and contentious conversation on the iNaturalist forum. My comment became too long for a legitimate comment. I hope that writing it here will allow me to stop ruminating on it. Feel free not to read it.

Note: In the discussion below, I use “it,” “he,” or “she” as representing the related pronouns in its group, e.g. she, her, hers, herself.

Also, note that this post may disappoint you because it's about language, not gender itself. Running my own life is enough trouble; I'm not going to run yours. As far as I'm concerned, you can (and should) use whatever gender-related words feel right for you, help you make sense of yourself. (And by the way, do you have any idea how many genders exist among the bluegrasses? Well, neither do I any more; I've forgotten a lot of what I had to learn for that particular project. But a lot.)

The use of “it” to refer to a human being has a long history as an insult, dehumanizing the person referred to. (By “dehumanizing” I don’t mean simply identifying a person with, say, trees or eagles; I mean that the term has been used as an insult, as a way of denigrating the person, of treating that person as less than human.) “It” as been used, often quite casually, to dehumanize people across lines of race, ethnicity, caste, and gender, as well as in intensely abusive personal relationships. Read, for example the book "A Child Called "It" by Dave Pelzer. This use makes even well intentioned use of “it” for a person problematic.

So what should one do? What follow are my personal opinions, which you may well disagree with, as is your right. (And I'll think you are wrong, as is my right.)

Is it right for you to want to be referred to as “it”? Yes. (Grates on my ear -- sounds like putting yourself down -- but that my problem, not yours.)

Is it right for you to use “it” to refer to another person? Yes, assuming you are doing it because that’s the pronoun the person feels best fits that person’s gender. No, if you’re using it in the more traditional sense, to classify the person with the tables and doorstops.

Is it right for me to us “it” to refer to another person? No. For me, using “it” in this context carries the baggage explained above, and I’m not going to do it. I can tie my sentences in knots to avoid using a third-person pronoun. I can refer to the person by name or as “this person” far more often than qualifies as good writing. In fact, I’ve done these things. But I will not use “it” in this context.

Can “it” be rehabilitated, as my lesbian friends have reclaimed “dyke”? Yes, maybe. The obliviousness many of you express to the negative connotations of using “it” for referring to a human suggests that the process may be well under way. It may succeed. I hope so.

My motivation for hoping so may not appeal to you greatly, but I think you won’t be too annoyed, either. Several decades ago, I had to learn at least the rudiments of a language that had only one third-person singular pronoun. It served the purposes served in English by he, she, and it. The light dawned. As I young feminist, I truly wished English had such a pronoun. Why? Because in order to talk about anyone in English, the very first thing you have to know about that person is gender, as if that is the most important thing about the person. Of course, gender is important! But in some contexts, especially professional ones, it is way down on the list of things that matter. So I want "it" to be available to replace the gendered third-person pronouns.

And what about those newly coined third-person singular pronouns? Good idea. Better than rehabilitating “it,” even. However, I think they have as much chance of general acceptance as Esperanto (google it), another good idea about language. I may be wrong.

By the way, I greatly dislike the use of the plural “they” as a gender-free third-person singular pronoun, but so far it’s the front-runner. Nobody's listening to me. Sigh.

To sum up, if you want to be referred to as “it,” that’s your right. In the shared enterprise that is language, if I consider “it” to have such bad connotations that it should not be used that way, I have the right not to use it for you. In that case, however, I should treat your expressed preference as a flag warning me away from using the obvious alternatives, “he” or “she.”

Posted on 04 ביוני, 2023 16:12 by sedgequeen sedgequeen | 4 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

31 במאי, 2023

Too much a botanist

"Stranded Tuber Rescued" cried the headline on the first page of the newspaper. I wondered, what species? How did it become stranded and what does that mean for a tuber? Why was it rescued; is it rare? Turns out the tuber was a man riding an innertube down a river. Aargh!

Posted on 31 במאי, 2023 14:03 by sedgequeen sedgequeen | 7 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

30 באפריל, 2023

Help ID my California plants?

I've been traveling with family and photographing a lot of California plants. I don't know them well. I'm especially embarrassed by not knowing the five or so species of oak (Quercus) that I've posted. If you can help ID any o these plants, I'd really appreciate the help.

Also, I haven't had time to do identifications or respond to tags, and won't for the next few days. I'm sorry about that.

-- Barbara (sedgequeen)

Posted on 30 באפריל, 2023 17:32 by sedgequeen sedgequeen | 0 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

12 באפריל, 2023

Bamboo Identification in Oregon and Washington (preliminary)

So far, we have found five wild and quasi-wild bamboo in Oregon and Washington. They are Arrow Bamboo (Pseudosasa japonica), Broad-leaf Bamboo (Sasa palmata), and members of the genus Phyllostachys. Obviously, we will be very interested to see observations of additional species in our area.

Phyllostachys species have a groove or flat surface extending up the stem from one node to the next. The leaf sheaths low on the stems fall of early. They typically have 2 branches per node on the main stem. Pseudosasa japonica and Sasa palmata lack that groove and have persistent leaf sheaths. I think both have just one branch per node; I'm sure Ps. japonica does. Pseudosasa is a taller, sturdier species with small, narrow leaves (to 2 inches, 5 cm, wide). Sasa palmata is shorter and more slender and has broader leaves (to 3.5 inches, 9 cm, wide).

Although the name Common Bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris) is commonly applied to Oregon and Washington observations, it is not common and probably not escaping (if present) in these states.

Note: We're at the very beginning of the learning curve for bamboo identification. We're improving, but so far we have just enough knowledge to be dangerous, so take any ID's we make with a grain of salt.

[Edited April 16. We are learning.]

Posted on 12 באפריל, 2023 15:19 by sedgequeen sedgequeen | 0 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

Bamboo in Oregon and Washington

My colleagues and I are trying to figure out which bamboo species are growing wild or quasi-wild in Oregon and Washington, and to map where they grow. Would you please help us by posting appropriate bamboo sightings in these two states?

We are most interested in wild bamboo that are spreading down waterways or were plants spread accidentally by human activities (earth moving, dumping yard waste). We also want to know about quasi-wild bamboo forming long-abandoned stands that have spread within their site (e.g. in abandoned home sites). We have some interest in plants that have spread from cultivation less extensively (e.g. into an adjacent road ditch or under a sidewalk), but we are not interested in clones that have spread a little in a garden or into adjacent property.

What to photo? (1) The whole plant. (2) The main stems, showing stem color, persisting leaf sheaths (if present), tops of those leaf sheaths, and color or structures at nodes. (Node = the thickened ring where leaves or branches originate.) A photo with your hand or some other standard can help tell how wide the main stems are. In one species here, the lowest few stem internodes (places between nodes) are very short, much shorter than most internodes; photo that if you notice it. (3) The number of branches that grow from one node on the main stem. (4) Leaf shape. (5) The bases of leaf blades, where there may be conspicuous hairs. Their presence or absence can be a useful clue for identification. (6) The rhizomes (horizontal stems) if visible, but no need to dig for them. (7) If you find new shoots growing up this year, photo the sheaths and those projections, vestigial leaf blades, that grow at the sheath tip.

Comments can help. Estimate plant height, if possible. (Or show a person standing near the bamboo, for scale.) Bamboo stems may be absolutely smooth, as if enameled, or may be minutely scabrous (rough). If rough, they may feel rough when running your hand up or down the stem or only one way. Please describe. Are the leaves green or glaucous (blue-green or gray-green) on the upper and/or lower surface?

Some wild stands have Bamboo Mites, genus Stigmaeopsis, (e.g. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/152900504 ). These don't matter to our project, but they can give you a second observation at the site, if you want. Be careful not to spread the mites to cultivated bamboo stands.

Posted on 12 באפריל, 2023 15:17 by sedgequeen sedgequeen | תצפית 1 | 0 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

30 בנובמבר, 2022

On Identifying Queen Anne's Lace (= Wild Carrot = Daucus carota)

iNaturalist has over 14,000 "needs ID" observations of Daucus in North America, although we have only two Daucus species and one (D. carota) is abundant and usually easily identified. Please help get more of these identified!

Here are some things I learned when working on this.

A. Daucus carota has an array of tiny white flowers, the ones on the outer edges a little enlarged. Lots of other plants have the same pattern, so this by itself isn't enough for identification.

B. Daucus carota often has a dark purple flower in the very center. If present, this allows identification! (in North America) Its absence means nothing, though. Example: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/143044211

C. The bracts at the base of the flower cluster (compound umbel) in Daucus carota are moderately long and have 3 to 7 slender lobes. Example: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/142548223 This is unusual in North American members of the Carrot Family, so if the plant looks good otherwise, this will tip me over to identifying it as D. carota.

D. The nest-like structure formed as the seeds mature is distinctive -- the easiest way to identify Daucus carota! Example: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/143284547 Late in the fall, the outer branches may spread out again. CAUTION: Visnaga daucoides, introduced to California and the Gulf Coast has slender nest-like fruiting heads, but each has a whole tangle of many, many bracts at the base and the seeds have very short bristles. CAUTION: In the native annual Daucus pusillus the fruiting structure is similar but flatter, more cup-like, and very dense, with shorter bracts with short lobes.

E. Daucus carota stems are coarsely hairy. That's not enough to identify one, but it it's smooth, it's not D. carota.

F. In the Carrot Family, leaves are often useful for identification. Unfortunately, Daucus carota leaves look a lot like those of some other species, including the weed Scandix pecten-veneris. (On the other hand, leaves that look like D. carota leaves and are posted as D. carota leaves usually are D. carota leaves . . . . )

Similar species:

The Texas endemic Daucosma laciniata has pinnately divided bracts and bractlets like Daucus carota. It differs in having much less divided leaves and glabrous fruits, and its inflorescences don't form a nest-like structure in fruit.

Daucus pusillus is smaller, lacks the purple center flower, and has more divided bracts that usually have blunt tips and are usually longer than the cluster of flowers or fruits. It grows on both coasts. It also grows along the Gulf Coast and north to at least Oklahoma.

Visnaga daucoides (= Ammi visnaga), introduced to California and the Gulf Coast has slender nest-like fruiting heads, but each has a whole tangle of many, many bracts at the base and the seeds have very short bristles.

Posted on 30 בנובמבר, 2022 19:39 by sedgequeen sedgequeen | 8 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

26 באוגוסט, 2022

Tall Oatgrass (Arrhenatherum elatius) -- not quite discouraging.

The good news: The North American "Research Grade" observations of Arrhenatherum elatius were nearly all correct! (Or too distant to identify with certainty -- oh, well). The bad news: There were almost three times as many "Needs ID" observations of this species, and at least half of them were clearly not A. elatius while many of the rest were not really identifiable to species. So the filter of needing two agreeing ID's to reach "Research Grade" is working (good news!).

Arrhenatherum elatius is an almost generic grass, so misidentifications were not unexpected. The breadth of misidentification did exceed my expectations, though. (Four different Lolium perenne observations??) The misidentifications didn't have a unifying theme, as did those of Phleum pratense.

Here's a list of names I found on North American "Needs ID" Arrhenatherum elatius observations today:

Anthoxanthum odoratum
Avena sativa
Bromus inermis
Bromus sp. (weedy annual; B. japonicus?)
Dactylis glomerata (in early bud)
Danthonia sp.
Festuca sp.
Leymus mollis
Lolium/Festuca/Schedonorus arundinaca (many, many observations)
Lolium perenne (at least 4!)
Phalaris arundinacea
Poa pratensis
Triticeae (at least 2 species)
and something lily-like, with wide, soft leaves

Posted on 26 באוגוסט, 2022 01:42 by sedgequeen sedgequeen | 0 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

16 ביולי, 2022

Letters to a Pre-Scientist program

I strongly recommend the Letters to a Pre-Scientist (LPS) program. It connects 5th to 8th graders in certain poor U.S. schools (poor as judged by the percent of students who get free lunch) with college students and professionals in various fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The student and his/her STEM pen pal exchange letters four times over the school year. The kids are really interested in this process, which is unlike anything else they do.

The program needs more STEM folks this year because it's expanding. I hope you will look into this and participate and/or share the information with others who may be interested. Registration to be a pen pal is now open!

Can you correspond in a language other than English? LPS tries to match students whose first language isn't English with STEM people who can use the same language.

A couple of notes: All students in the class participate, from the top to the bottom in scholarship. You can specify if you only want to correspond with the brightest, but remember that each student needs a pen-pal. Also, LPS tries to have more STEM people than students, so students can pick someone whose field sounds interesting. Therefore, each year some people don't get picked. But maybe next year! It's worth hanging around.

Here's information and a link from one of the LPS organizers:

Great news -- STEM professionals can register now to be pen pals during the 2022-2023 school year! 🎉

Letters to a Pre-Scientist connects students with real scientists through eight snail mail letters to demystify STEM careers, humanize STEM professionals, and empower all students to see themselves as future STEM professionals.

This will be our biggest year yet: we will match over 3,000 scientists with student pre-scientist pen pals! We're seeking passionate STEM professionals ready to broaden student's awareness of the possibilities that STEM has to offer.

With gratitude,

Program Manager, Pre-Scientist, Inc.

P.S. Share the pen pal registration link with other STEM professionals you know!

Posted on 16 ביולי, 2022 04:06 by sedgequeen sedgequeen | 2 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

9 במאי, 2022


I'm very slow to identify observations and respond to tags right now. I apologize. I'm currently very, very busy with an iNaturalist project plus another project plus spring. This will improve about June 12. Until then, all I can do is apologize.

Posted on 09 במאי, 2022 17:00 by sedgequeen sedgequeen | 2 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

27 בפברואר, 2022

An Ambitous Rat, Foiled

A female Bufflead took off running across the water. In the middle of the inlet she stopped and looked back ( https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/106387592 ). I couldn't see what was disturbing her, though a big of wood was floating in the water -- no, swimming! Swimming energetically toward her. What could it be? A pair of Mallards swam closer to investigate. If this mammal was trying to catch the Bufflehead, it ought to be an otter, but the amount of brown mammal visible above the water's surface was only about big enough for an otter's head. Size and the rapidly churning legs so close to the front end also ruled out nutria, muskrat, and beaver. Could this possibly be a rat? I think so! ( https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/106387593 )

While the Bufflehead kept a careful distance, the Mallards closed in on this intriguing object. They didn't actually touch it, but they kept close, especially the female Mallard. The rat gave up on the Bufflehead and turned back toward shore. The Mallards convoyed with it. The rat pulled out on a rock and groomed. It was kind of cute, actually, with big ears. (It's tail was longer than its head plus body, but never visible in its entirety except in brief glimpses I couldn't photo.) The rat jumped toward land, landing a bit short, and ran off into cover. What?? The perplexed female Mallard walked onto the land. She stood looking around for a long time. ( https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/106387594 ) Finally she gave up and joined her drake in the water.

This occurred in Waldport, in the part of the bay visible at the junction of Mill Street and Highway 34.

Posted on 27 בפברואר, 2022 00:32 by sedgequeen sedgequeen | 2 תגובות | הוספת תגובה