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She, He, Him, Hers (and Okra)

BN Heard Contributing Writer

Is it ok to use she, he, him, hers, or do I use something else? I never know. It seems there are new rules on what to use and when to use them. The last thing I want to do is offend anyone, and I mean that sincerely. There have been articles in the newspaper and I get emails from time to time which try to explain how to use all of these and what to say, as to not offend anyone.

Loving both men’s and women’s college basketball, I keep up with the scores, standings and rankings. My “favorite” teams are never very good or win championships, but I still love watching them play and keeping up with how they are doing in their conferences.

The other day, I was looking through the women’s college basketball standings in each conference after going through the men’s standings. The confusion on the she, he, him, and hers got worse. It was actually quite interesting.

A lot of teams use the term “Lady” in front of their normal mascot name, like “Lady Tigers,” “Lady Pirates” and “Lady Raiders.” All of those sound kind of scary – I don’t want to run into a lady pirate or raider, and certainly not a lady tiger protecting her territory or children.

There were some that more fun in my opinion. Oklahoma State calls their lady’s teams, the “Cowgirls,” rather than the Cowboys. The University of Hawaii uses “Rainbow Wahine,” rather than Rainbow Warriors. “Wahine” can mean a Polynesian (especially Hawaiian) woman, or a young woman – especially a surfer. Pretty cool mascot/name in my opinion.

Western Kentucky calls themselves the “Lady Toppers,” rather the Hilltoppers. Norfolk State uses “Spartanettes,” rather than Spartans. In a similar approach, Florida A&M uses “Rattlerettes” and Mississippi Valley State, “Devilettes.” Stephen F. Austin in Texas chooses to call their lady’s teams the “Ladyjacks,” rather than the Lumberjacks.

In the middle of all this research, I found some just plain strange mascots out in California. Go figure. The University of California, Irvine are the “Anteaters,” featuring “Peter the Anteater” as the official mascot cheerleader. “Sammy the Slug,” holds a similar position for the University of California Santa Cruz “Banana Slugs.” I don’t even want to look up what a banana slug is or if it is male, female or gender neutral.

My favorite? Central Arkansas, whose men’s teams are simply known as the “Bears,” uses “Sugar Bears” for their Lady’s teams.

If Delta State in Mississippi would go ahead and make “Fighting Okra” their official mascot (it’s unofficial) rather than “Statesmen/Lady Statesmen,” that would definitely be my favorite.

As a matter of fact, the name “Okra” is actually given to more girls than boys, so they say on the wide world web of stuff you can (or can’t) trust. So, just maybe, it is a pretty good choice for a mascot. What makes it even better? Okra, is “self-pollinating,” meaning it produces flowers that contain both male and female parts and are fertilized by their own pollen. This means they do not require wind or insects to pollinate properly.

Perfect mascot.

Anyway, I think I am even more confused. If you want to debate which mascots are ok and which are not, you also have to debate using the masculine or feminine form or whether it could be considered male or female to start with. I don’t think I’m going down that road. There was a study of some sort that noted two-thirds of “mascots” used in industry as spokespersons or branding are male, which is not fair to the 51% female majority. Again, I am simply stating the numbers.

I’ll be honest with you – if you want to call me “Sugar Bear,” I’d bet I’d come running.

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