Even the revolution needs good grammar

In 2007, I volunteered to be an editor for the Queeruption zine. I had friends involved in the organizing and friends attending, and while it wasn’t my scene, I wanted to support the mission of building community and empowering queer activism.

The zine was, well, a classic zine: handmade and rough around the edges. The contributors had a range of educational backgrounds, native languages, and writing skills. A friend at the time laughed at me for “editing” a document like this — wasn’t editing anathema to the radical, punk, anarchistic aesthetic/ethic?

In response, I quipped, “Hey, even the revolution needs good grammar.” I wanted to help make sure that their messages were intelligible, both within the community and outside of it. The New Yorker has an interesting piece this week that sums it up well:

“Repugnant as it may be, the simple answer is that we need to learn prescriptive English because that’s the way the people in power communicate. As far as daily survival is concerned, it doesn’t matter whether the origins of this linguistic power structure are racist, classist, or élitist, or whether they’re based on the whims of dead white males. This is how the system works right now, today, and in order to best get the attention of those in power, to begin to effect change, we must be able to use their dialect. We must know their rules.”

In other words: “Even the revolution needs good grammar.”

Read the whole New Yorker article

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