The Non-Gendered Osama Bin Laden

The following is just the beginnings of working through how the binary system of gender is systematized and made invisible and normative through the use/choice not to use particular coded words-

The New York Times headline for the killing of Osama Bin Laden is “Bin Laden is Dead” – and the decision to not use “Mr” as an honorific in front of his name came from New York Times editors “Jill” and “Bill” – the internal memo has been posted all over the web, but does not explain why this decision was made.

This reminds me first of all of Ben Harper’s song “Excuse me Mister” where he sings “I’m taking the Mr. from out in front of your name, cause it’s a Mr. like you that puts the rest of us to shame”

The idea behind this song is to say that a certain person does not deserve to be titled, since he has done so much wrong-  he becomes an embarrassment to the male gender.

Embarrassment- due to possibly resembling the offender – so the obvious thing to do is to distance the self from the offender.

One could make the argument that the reason for not using “mr” is that since the word is an honorific, and he committed atrocities, he should not be honored or respected.

But, honorifics like Mr. Mrs. Miss, Ms. are, in and of themselves, gendered,   (Ones like Dr. or Professor are not gendered, but they are specific titles for particular roles) and therefore reinforce the idea that only those who are binary gendered should be honored or respected.

So what ends up happening then, is the removal of gender from Osama Bin Laden in order to dehumanize him further, which I also saw on Facebook:

 

 

 

 

 

I’m totally cool with burying it at sea, but it would’ve been better to first cremate it, put the remains in a giant toilet, let as many people as possible take care of business, then FLUSH out to sea.

The removal of ‘Mr’ extends to the pronoun – from Osama Bin Laden as ‘he’ to ‘it’ – by removing a gendered pronoun,  Osama Bin Laden becomes removed from notions of humanity and ‘respect’ – and at the same time marks gender  – by taking away Osama Bin Laden’s gender, they reinforce conceptions of binary gender as the only gender normative, and the only ones deserving of respect.

The de-gendering of Osama Bin Laden becomes the ultimate insult.

Has anyone else seen similar de-gendering?