Tuesday, December 23, 2008

the royal we

This morning I interviewed an artist for an article in Bitch magazine. At the start of the conversation, she said, "I really liked what you did with Steinem." No clue what I did with Steinem, and, in fact, it wasn't until later that I put the words "Gloria" and "Steinem" together. But I do know that there are about 70,000 Janet Millers on the web, and at least one of them is a writer. So I said, "That must have been another Janet Miller."

But she insisted. Finally the confusion was cleared up when she said, "When I said 'you,' I meant 'Bitch magazine.' I was using the royal we." The absolute inappropriateness of associating me (I've written five small articles for them) with Bitch (they've been in business 12 years) made me laugh. It was kind of fun to wear that hat for a split second, though. I became dizzy with freedom and immediately tried to think of some way to outrageously misrepresent them. My amagdyla failed me, though -- no crackpot scheme triggers.

However, the concept of the "royal we" started to get interesting. When you hear it so wildly misapplied (like when you're given credit for something with which you had nothing to do), you start to see how it pervades everything. We, as in Americans. Californians. Berkeley-ians. We as women, we as feminists.

I was in San Francisco when the 49ers won the championship for the third year in a row. Everyone was on the streets, celebrating. It was incredibly fun, super silly. Just by virtue of being in San Francisco, we all got to take credit for the win. Nothing is more random than sports team association (at least to my uneducated mind; sports fans may differ) but no royal we is quite as much fun when your team is winning.

Anyway, just made me think of how many prejudices could be eradicated if we all refused to use royal we. That's hard, though. I, for one, could no longer be the first to walk on the moon.

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