A mistake by my editor got me in trouble. It showed me how dependent I am on them.
by Erika Granath
In Sweden we have the gender neutral pronomen “hen”. I argued strongly for having such pronomen in every language in one of my writing classes, as I was new at my college in the U.S.
This was right before the last Swedish election in 2014 and only a couple of days after that The New York Times, distributed at my school, wrote a piece about the Swedish party Feministic Initiative’s progress where they mentioned the word “hen”.
I had just joined the school paper and got the story about the school’s mascot. The identity of the person behind the mascot mask was secret. For those of you who have not been to the U.S. nor seen any American college movie, the school mascot is an almost sacred character at most American colleges. I believe my school did not want to reveal the identity of the person who acted as the mascot in order to keep the mascot somewhat a legend, and as I got to meet the girl who dressed as the blue and green bobcat named Thunder I promised to keep her name to myself. She told me about sweaty dance shows and this one time when she almost fainted wearing the warm furry suite during a extra sunny summer day. I wrote the story.
A couple of days later in class my professor held up the recently published school paper with my story on the cover.
“Is this your protest against us not having the same politically correct word as you Swedes?” he asked.
“The mascot was called she at some places of the printed version and he in others.”
I soon understood why he asked. The mascot, which I had been referring to as she in my text, was called she at some places of the printed version and he in others.
My professor took me aside after class and said: “Incorrect writing in an article for the entertainment section is the wrong way to show your personal opinions.”
I said the mixed pronomens were not my work. As I later spoke to my editor I got some answers. To reveal as little as possible about the person behind the mask my editor had decided in last minute to change every she to he in the text, since the mascot as such was a he. However in the deadline stress my editor had only changed about half of the she…
Later my professor and I laughed about this. He admitted that he did not like the idea of a word like “hen” and said he therefore had jumped to conclusions when I was arguing for it and then wrote an article with mixed pronomens only days later.
In summary I realized how dependent I am on my editor doing his/her (yes I think it would be good with a “hen” in English too) job correctly. And I realized that sometimes my writing might end up in the spotlight for the most surprising reason. However as my byline is connected to it I have to be prepared to take responsibility.
About the author: Erika Granath works as a freelance journalist in Stockholm, Sweden, mainly writing about media related subjects, the Swedish startup scene and human rights. She also works part time as art director for a Swedish designer and have a bachelor’s degree from Georgia College & State University, the U.S., where she was a double major studying journalism and art.
Linkedin profile: Erika Granath
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