Dear Collegian editor,
For the past several years, Blitz the Bearcat has informally gone by they/them pronouns. This was not a widely advertised aspect of Blitz’s identity. Rather, it was addressed predominantly by the former Willamette University student mascot coordinator as well as myself, the current mascot coordinator in response to people who referred to Blitz using masculine or feminine pronouns. Since Blitz became the mascot, it was precedent that Blitz was genderless and free from specific gender association.
When Blitz was adopted in 1999, the new mascot was specifically created with an absence of gender in mind. In order to continue this, they/them was later applied as a way to identify Blitz beyond the binary of gender. While at the time, having Blitz go by they/them pronouns seemed like an appropriate option, that is not the case.
After conducting a research investigation last semester regarding claims by students and faculty that Blitz’s pronouns were invalidating to people who use they/them pronouns, I have come to know how the pronouns of a mascot can affect students. Most importantly, Blitz is a mascot and not a person. There is a certain silliness and lack of seriousness when it comes to a mascot.
When Blitz uses they/them pronouns, the connotation of they/them becomes less serious as well. As such, Blitz using they/them pronouns invalidates the people who use these pronouns.
Beyond this, Blitz used they/them pronouns as a way to convey a general lack of gender. For many students who use they/them pronouns, these pronouns are more than a nonspecific way to refer to them. Rather, these pronouns can be specific expressions of gender beyond the binary. From this, there is a lack of authenticity in the way they/them was applied to Blitz.
Students were rightly offended by Blitz’s misuse of they/them pronouns. In this, it became very clear that Blitz could no longer be referred to using solely they/them pronouns.
With all of this in mind, it is my recommendation that Blitz be referred to using any pronouns or no pronouns at all. Blitz is simply a representation of Willamette in whatever form the individual wants Blitz to take. In no way will Blitz be offended by any pronouns someone uses. Blitz cannot be misgendered like a person can. So feel free to refer to Blitz using any pronoun you want next time you see or talk about our mascot. Although, also be sure to be kind because Blitz is being performed by a person who just wants to make your day better.