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January 02, 2006

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Two thoughts spring to mind: I can't imagine what a 4 year-old would be doing answering an online survey in the first place, and for 4 year-olds at least, some of them actually may not know their sex.

Their brains would explode if someone told them about being intergendered.

"I can't imagine what a 4 year-old would be doing answering an online survey in the first place,"

Just because we didn't do it doesn't mean there aren't some 4-year-olds doing it today. It being a large internet, I'm quite comfortable saying that I'm sure the number who did so today, on planet earth, is significantly larger than the number of my fingers and toes.

"...for 4 year-olds at least, some of them actually may not know their sex."

Why should they be different from some 40-year-olds?

Although "gender" is a clearer term.

(I wanted to point to Raphael Carter's Andogyny RAQ, but it appears to be gone; however, I highly recommend the novel The Fortunate Fall, just because I mentioned Raphael, and it's a terrific, relatively little-known, novel.)

It's worth pointing out that the actual poll is not limited to ages 4-8. In fact, had "Concerned Women for America" known how to use the scroll bar at the side of the "Age" box, they would have seen that the list actually goes all the way up to "70+"

It's actually a little more confusion-inducing that the title of the poll greets you with "High, Barbie Girl" even if you select "I'm a Boy" from the gender list.

The iconic Barbie Doll has become another tool for promoting gender confusion among children.

Indeed. I loved playing with my neighbors' Barbies when I was a kid. I especially liked dressing her in GI Joe's clothes. (Sadly--very sadly--Barbie's clothes never fit Joe.)

for 4 year-olds at least, some of them actually may not know their sex.

I'm no expert on 4 yr olds, but at 3, my niece is pretty emphatic on the subject of her gender. Now whether she really knows what "girl" or "boy" signify is another question.

Carter's Androgyny FAQ is gone? How sad. I owe my knowledge of the word "arenotelicon" to that FAQ.

... and, since this looks like an open thread, let me just say that I'm looking forward to the eventual ObWi Brokeback Mountain thread (as soon as I get to see the movie).

Hm, I was mis-remembering my text book, as it turns out: it in fact tells me that most kids can accurately label themselves as boys or girls by 3 (shame on me, since I wrote an exam on the subject two weeks ago!). But on the other hand, many 3-5 year-olds don't understand that gender is a permanent attribute (permanent without complicated interventions).

Gary, I tend to use "sex" in the sense of outward appearance or biology, and "gender" to mean inherent identification as male or female - and I assume that's what you mean too? If so, I willingly concede that "gender" is clearer for 4 year-olds (and 40 year-olds, for that matter) - but I think that for a 2 year-old who hasn't quite grasped the difference between "male" and "female", "sex" is appropriate.

it in fact tells me that most kids can accurately label themselves as boys or girls by 3

I'm contemplating dressing all of my hypothetical toddlers in those gender-neutral triangular dresses you see in pre-1800s portraits and identifying them with gender only when they're old enough to pronounce their own names and say "no." Barbie Dolls, of course, will be verboten, so my hypothetical children's hypothetical responses to this online survey will be not just hypothetical but moot.

Careful, Jackmormon, that's probably what Hemingway's mother thought. As I recall she dressed Ernest and Marcelline in matching tunics and look what happened there.

FWIW, my niece is presently much more enamored of Dora the Explorer than Barbie (though Fairy Barbie is probably a close second). Not to worry--Dora will almost certainly attend Mills or Sarah Lawrence when she grows up and Fairy Barbie at least displays the will of a Jane Austen heroine.

Androgyny (F|R)AQ. (Google is your friend.) Now with Necker Cube goodness!

I want to complain that "gender" only describes grammatical categories (now thankfully almost obsolete in English), not anything biological. Words have gender, people have sex. But the language appears to have moved beyond me on this point. I can see the usefulness of a word to describe social roles ("gender") as distinguished from biological categories ("sex"). But I must rail against the use of "gender" as a synonym and bowdlerization of "sex". It's not clearer, it's different.

This is probably nothing more nefarious than sloppy, lazy programming by some low-level Visual Basic or ASP.net programmer (probably with a poor command of the English language). The tools he/she/it (to be totally inclusive) probably defaulted to a three choice response of Yes/No/I don't Know. He changed the text of Yes/No responses to "I am a girl" and "I am a boy" but neglected to hide the "I don't know" response (which would have involved marking a checkbox). You can tell the site is poorly programmed because the programmer should have linked the response to the boy/girl/don't know question to the "High, Barbie Girl" response so that it got the gender or lack thereof correct.

Also, if the spelling of the response ("High, Barbie Girl" is accurately reported), the website is apparently encouraging drug use among four to seven year olds.

It's arguable whether the language would be better if "gender" meant "sex (1)" thus leaving the word "sex" solely for the meaning "sex (3)" and "sex (4)". (I'm not really sure what the second meaning given is about.) Given that "sex" already has three primary meanings (and a fourth, as a euphemism for "genetalia"), overloading "gender" a little more can't contribute too much to ambiguity.

However, it's not arguable that "gender" is beginning to mean "sex (1)" that (Websters agrees), and that the change is more or less inevitable and irreversible at this point, in common usage. The old meanings will still be useful in gender studies, of course, where "gender (2a)" is completely avoided for the sake of clarity.

"I'm contemplating dressing all of my hypothetical toddlers in those gender-neutral triangular dresses..."

To really make this work you'd have to give them gender neutral names, like say "Lee" or maybe "Chris". (Both of those are more common in boys, but I can't think of any better ones.)

I want to complain that "gender" only describes grammatical categories (now thankfully almost obsolete in English), not anything biological.

Actually, "gender" has a long history in English describing biological categories in general, (recall the great love "the general gender" has for Hamlet) as well as sexual categories, specifically. Thomas Usk's use of the word in Testament of Love ca. 1387 ("No mo genders been there but masculine, and femynyne, all the remnaunte been no genders but of grace, in facultie of grammer.") is the first one noted by the OED, but several more are given. What has changed in the last 40 years or so is the notion of gender as some kind of social role or quality beyond the biological, but the word has always had a broader shade of meanings than merely grammatical.

I suspect you are also going to claim that tinky winky, bert, ernie and mr. rogers are not openly promoting a male homosexual lifestyle?

Did you know on the lesbian front some women are actually going around wearing pants and trying to mens work? And they actually have diaper changing stations in men's bathrooms? Which could encourage child molestation!

It's awful and you don't care! The homosexual mafia put flouride in your water and softened your mind! Your vital fluids are polluted! Come to Jesus!

"(Google is your friend.)"

I imagine Raphael may be irritated at seeing it called a "FAQ," thus defeating one of the main points, but distinct thanks for the pointer. (Retitling it a "FAQ," when it used to have a rant about how this is not a FAQ seems a quite direct slap in Raphael's face, as well as being remarkably stupid.)

It's also pretty nasty that whoever put it there didn't even bother to acknowledge the name of the author, although they do give a defunct link to the original site, which, of course, will do just about nothing to clarify to anyone that the work was authored quite specifically and individually by Raphael, unless they already know that.

Still, good to have it at all.

Although, thinking about it, it's quite likely my memory is playing tricks on me, or it's just as likely that this is a somewhat different, revised, document, but I seem to recall Raphael's work being fairly different -- a chatty Q&A, not a glossary at all.

I can't be at all sure, but I'm at least ~65% sure, having paused, that this is the case, and this is not quite the document I was thinking of. It does seem to be somewhat based on the earlier work.

I could be wrong. It's been a few years since I last looked, or was chatty with Raphael, ddb, Pamela, Elise, Mike, etc., and I've completely lost touch with them, as with so many folks from my active sf community days.

Oh, well, I could always drop Raphael an e-mail and ask, and also ask DDB what happened to the doc, although it's clear that he had a server melt-down last year, which must have been awful, given all the housemates, lovers, and friends' pages he noble hosts.

I can see why they didn't want to phrase the options as "I am a boy"/"I am a girl"/"I don't want to answer this question."

Suggest that third option to a group of preschoolers, and large numbers of them will take it (even if it hadn't occured to them before.) But there are probably legal problems with requiring kids to give personal information.

Trying to raise a child without it knowing its biological sex is pretty much pointless (it'll work out it fairly soon). Doing this will also worry/alienate 90% of those you meet mainly because there's no neutral pronoun to use, other than 'it'.)

The important thing with your hypothetical toddlers is what I'm trying to do with my real toddler. Teach them not to care about their gender, i.e. whether they're behaving in a boyish/girly way. Indeed try and avoid implying that girls/boys should behave differently. My 3 year old gets both dolls and construction sets and I try not to worry when the dresses she likes to wear get muddy from her rushing around.

Incidentally, if 4-8 year olds are anything like my 3 year old, the number of choices offered on the Barbie website just aren't enough. She knows she's a girl, but depending on her mood, would prefer the options of ticking:

I'm a frog
I'm a fairy
I'm Barney the Purple Dinosaur
I'm a dog
etc

My ultra-cute niece, in the midst of potty-training, has been known to cheerfully refer to herself as a "soggy pink fairy". Thankfully, there doesn't appear to be a box for that...

The poll is in Flash, not .asp. There are no easy "pull down menu systems" for building the site. Everything is hand-coded in C# and Actionscript.

The poll and the poll answers are pulled from a database. The size of the field was too small to contain the normal text (I don't want to say), so an alternative was chosen because in fact some small children may not understand the actual gender question (as debated above ). The field has now been updated and the size expanded. Since most users are girls and it is a site for girls, there really is no reason to go to the extra trouble to make the poll greeting change out depending on the gender chosen.
Also, the text has NEVER been "High, Barbie Girl" is has always been "Hi, Barbie Girl".


>>>>>
This is probably nothing more nefarious than sloppy, lazy programming by some low-level Visual Basic or ASP.net programmer (probably with a poor command of the English language). The tools he/she/it (to be totally inclusive) probably defaulted to a three choice response of Yes/No/I don't Know. He changed the text of Yes/No responses to "I am a girl" and "I am a boy" but neglected to hide the "I don't know" response (which would have involved marking a checkbox). You can tell the site is poorly programmed because the programmer should have linked the response to the boy/girl/don't know question to the "High, Barbie Girl" response so that it got the gender or lack thereof correct.

Also, if the spelling of the response ("High, Barbie Girl" is accurately reported), the website is apparently encouraging drug use among four to seven year olds.
>>>>

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