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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Why is everyone so obsessed with knowing everyone else's gender?

52 replies

SpringchickenGoldBrass · 26/05/2011 00:10

The only circumstances when I think someone else really needs to know your gender is if they want to have sex with you or give you medical treatment. I do think this is a feminist issue because it seems to me that the insistence of people on knowing one's gender when it really isn't relevant is a matter of treating men and women differently when it's not justifiable to do so.
Why is my gender relevant when I want to book a travel ticket/buy a book on Amazon/join a web forum or (in the most recent case that's annoyed me) ask for advice on a friend's MH issue?

OP posts:
ChaosTrulyReignd · 26/05/2011 00:14

I'm not very good at this SGB, but I think it's probably due to the herd mentality and being conditioned to comply with society's expectations.

Knowledge of sex seems to be obligatory from the moment one leaves the womb.

And yes, it is completely extraneous to need to know my gender for such trivialities as supermaket cards, buying cinema tickets and booking a car in for service.

ChaosTrulyReignd · 26/05/2011 00:15

And I'm now wondering if your's was a bit of a rhetorical question.


MillyR · 26/05/2011 00:42

There are a few other situations where people need to know your gender. For equal opportunities monitoring, for security reasons (such as on your passport), and for situations where you would be getting home visits and the person visiting has to be the same gender as the client.

madwomanintheattic · 26/05/2011 00:53

sgb, i thought this was a response to the newest 'raising a genderless child' thread. Grin

interesting in that context though, considering the vast majority of mn appears to think that the parents are bonkers.

re supermarket cards - it's so they can send you money off vouchers for toiletries and nappies Hmm, and for car service, it's so they know if they have to do a proper job, or can bung on a few extras because you're a woman and wouldn't know if it was necessary/ they were fleecing you or not.

i may go gender-free myself.

cinema tickets... you've got me there.

SpringchickenGoldBrass · 26/05/2011 01:05

It's partly inspired by the 'raising genderless children' which is touched on in Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender, my new favourite book. ANd partly it is sheer annoyance at the number of times I am asked for my gender when I can't see how it's the other person's business. Eg booking a train ticket/buying a DVD.

OP posts:
madwomanintheattic · 26/05/2011 01:14

it's just become so commonplace for everything to be divided along gendered lines. even when there is no logical reason at all. it isn't as though you get a different shaped seat for being a woman.

i blame stats. it is essential for someone (who, i have no idea) to know how many men and how many women buy train tickets.

i'm only half joking. they probably don't even do that. it's because whichever dickhead it programmer developed the ticketing software put in a sex field which can't be over-ridden.

it is surely enough to have made enough people say 'y'know what, i refuse to tell you what sex my child is. it matters not.'

i'm thrilled that there are people who are challenging this nonsense, i really am.

i'm tempted to move to toronto and be their new best friend. just to see if there really can be a brave new dawn.

madwomanintheattic · 26/05/2011 01:16

thumbwitch · 26/05/2011 01:18

It's marketing, innit. They want to know how many women/men do stuff, buy stuff etc. so they can target their marketing appropriately.

"Ooo, 75% of off-peak tickets to X are bought by women - let's do an ad suggesting they go to X for shopping or to go for a day spa!"
That kind of thing.

madwomanintheattic · 26/05/2011 01:21

kind of the same thing with supermarket cards then. moslty it was all introduced for marketing, i agree. it's just so blardy hideous.

i loathe marketing.

if i want to go to x for a day spa i will. i won't do it because they put up a poster at the train station suggesting it. [grr]

i am an advertisers nightmare, i think.

stats bring me out in hives.

that said, of course, advertising does work

but it's the social manipulation of it all that creeps me out.

madwomanintheattic · 26/05/2011 01:23

the fact that 75% of off-peak tickets are bought by women pisses me off as well. (whatever the real stat)

i want it to be equal, dammit! i don't want to be marketed to increase inequality further!


CheerfulYank · 26/05/2011 01:34

I do think the no-gender baby thing is ridiculous, but I don't know otherwise. Maybe because it's a good way of dividing people in half? Like in school, "boys over here, girls over there" usually results in a half and half split.

madwomanintheattic · 26/05/2011 01:38

not in any of my dc's classes Grin it's always massively skewed one way or t'other. once ds was one of 4 boys in a class of 30! even the teachers apologised. Grin

why do you need to divide people in half? (unless at school, in an 'i need two equal groups' activity...)

CheerfulYank · 26/05/2011 01:47

That's the only reason I could think of, the school thing :)

Himalaya · 26/05/2011 02:04

I think it's human nature. It's one of things we notice about people. It's hard not to notice.

In the science museum in Barcelona there is a little exhibit which shows something like eight dots moving on a screen which corespondent to points on the body of person walking. You can choose male or female and different moods (angry, sad etc..) and the weird thing is from the eight dots you can't help reading off whether the 'person' is supposed to be male or female and how they are feeling.

As for why do computers ask you - do you mean Mr/Mrs/Ms or actually asking M or F? The first one I thought was just to match up to what it says on your credit card..... You could always become a Dr or a Revd Grin

dittany · 26/05/2011 08:47

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dittany · 26/05/2011 08:49

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GrimmaTheNome · 26/05/2011 09:04

It occurs to me that if someone giving me medical treatment needs to ask my gender, I'd be worried Grin

Vital to know in parmaceutical trials .... oh but they're nearly all done on young men Hmm

Nah, its mostly just for marketing.

However... I do find I'd rather know someones gender on a forum such as MN. I wouldn't care at all on some technical discussion type thing, but some of what is discussed here well, it can feel a bit odd when you assume you're talking with a woman (that being the majority here) and it turns out to be a bloke.

BelleCurve · 26/05/2011 09:16

I also think the "equality monitoring" thing is a bit of a red-herring. I refuse to answer on ethnic origin (as I don't think this is valid categorisation) and am still waiting for a knock on the door regarding my wrongly completed census.

If we weren't considered different then they wouldn't need to monitor it, would they?

Plus I really don't think that "they" need to know my sexuality and religion in order to collect some furniture.

Maybe I shall now refuse to answer to gender questions as well, but I foresee more confused conversations with library assistants, who will just sigh and tick the box anyway despite my protestations.

Primalscream · 26/05/2011 09:19

It's for marketing purposes

TrillianAstra · 26/05/2011 09:22

When companies ask it is definitely for marketing purposes, because when it comes to buying stuff men and women do tend to cluster around different behaviour types.

I am quite pleased with my forward-thinkingness in doing a PhD so whenever gender is not explicitly asked for, but my title would give it away, I can write 'Dr' and flummox them. :)

TrillianAstra · 26/05/2011 09:27

I am also pleased at my use of the word 'flummox'.

Primalscream · 26/05/2011 09:37

Regarding the census - it's important for the government to have information such as ethnic origin as it helps local authorities plan the type of services everyone needs. It's not just a case of 'being nosy' - we need to know for the benefit of everyone.

AMumInScotland · 26/05/2011 09:39

I agree it's largely because people put fields in which they haven't thought of a use for yet, but think they might want later. But it's not necessarily the programmer's fault - I've had some "interesting" discussions at work with managers wanting to add all sorts of compulsory fields to forms and databases in case they want to do some statistics on them later, despite the fact that we do not need the information to carry out the requested actions, and shouldn't really be asking for and storing loads of additional stuff under the Data Protection Act. But I get the feeling its only us programmers who have even heard of the data protection act or had a think about how it applies to what we do.

On my systems we usually put an optional field for title, as quite a lot of our customers care about it and want to be addressed as Dr/Prof/Revd etc, but not one for gender as it is irrelevant.

GrimmaTheNome · 26/05/2011 09:39

Oh, I know.

I work from home for a company in which most of the people I work with have PhDs, and there's a lot of names which aren't obviously gendered (many aren't English). I've happily gone for years not knowing whether some of them are male or female ... its just slightly flummoxing when you get to a point in a conversation or email where it would be natural to use a personal pronoun and can't Grin

GrimmaTheNome · 26/05/2011 09:42

it's important for the government to have information such as ethnic origin as it helps local authorities plan the type of services everyone needs

why do services differ according to ethnic origin?

I can see that its important to know about language, to plan translation services and what languages to publish information in, but what difference does ethnic origin make if the person speaks good English?

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