[LMB] Gendered English

pouncer at aol.com pouncer at aol.com
Thu Sep 26 19:07:46 BST 2019


Lorelei Kaena warns: 
 
>I always find it frustrating, in discussions like this, 
>that people overlook that gender is not, biologically, binary. 
 
I, myself, get irritated with poorly constructed quantitative
relationships. In discussions like this, of course. 
 
>Intersex modalities are as common as natural red hair, 
>roughly 1-2% of the population <snip>  it counts those 
>with androgen insensitivity and multiple gender chromosomes, 
>all generally ‘invisible to the public’ intersex conditions. 
 
So I'm bothered by the comparison of red hair, which is visible, 
normal, and considered by many aesthetically desirable, to
"invisble" chromosomal defects, abnormalities, and
aberrational karyotypes. (My apologies to those who find
medical terms offensive. ) 
 
Intersexual phenotypes (the visible parts) are of many sorts 
but a plurality, (last I checked) was a condition of 
ambiguous genitalia diagnosed as "Kleinfelter's Syndrome"
which DOES occasionally express the more usual and invisible
XXY chromosomal condition. The incidence at birth is much lower
than 2% -- more like 0.1 %.  And KS is about the MOST common
of intersex conditions, and is MOST commonly treated by giving
the afflicted chromosomial males more testosterone to help 
them present as more "manly" -- not by removing or inverting 
genitalia to pretend a Y chromosome is not present. 
 
It's always a risk that messages get garbled in transmission.
So I suspect it likely that the statistic regarding
infertile men (2-3% of male patients seeking help with infertility 
are discovered to have XXY conditions) gets mistaken, particular
by journalists in US newspapers,  for a statistic about patients 
generally.( I have very little respect for journalists. I've been one. )
 
It's also a danger that the existence of intermediate 
conditions gets rhetorically introduced as evidence against
the existence of absolute conditions.  For example, there
are at least three kinds of well-defined "twilight" times,
civil, astronomical, and nautical. These apply to the amount of 
light assumed available for (say, a driver's) visibility, 
or how to take latitudinal sightings, or when to photograph
stars. In any case the existence of twenty minutes or so,
on average, of twilight out of an average 11.8 hours of daylight,
and another 11.8 of darkness (0.125% hours per calendar day) 
does not, in my opinion, justify any claim of "darkness" and 
"light" being arbitrarily binary. Nor are binary ideas of "day" 
and "night"  based wholly on obsolete interpretations of God's 
work schedule as described in Genesis. Binary descriptions of 
objectively observable statistical  distributions exist for 
utilitarian reasons. 

That rant deliveried,  I tend to agree that's it unfair that
some roles, like Doctor and Teacher embed hidden social
constructions and limits like "male" and "female". Respectively.
 It's also a problem that by eliminating some role descriptions, like
Actor vs Actress, we eliminate slots for the players.  So
the Oscar for "Best Actor" might put Meryl Streep up against
Clint Eastwood -- both Actor in "Bridges of Madison County",
 right?  Only five nominations rather than 10.  At present
we assign gender slots to differently sexed competitors for
utilitarian reasons -- and risk unforeseeable consequences
by abolishing such slotting.  
 


More information about the Lois-Bujold mailing list