Does Gender Neutrality Mean Women & Girls Lose?


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How does gender neutrality differ from gender tolerance, and what does that mean in a culture of androcentrism, where male is often seen as the default? Simone de Beauvoir, the writer, and philosopher said “humanity is male, and man defines women, not in herself, but as relative to him. She is not regarded as an autonomous being. He is the subject. He is the absolute, she is the other.”

Don’t think so? It is everywhere, even in your everyday shopping experiences. Ever notice when you’re shopping that there are “razors” (the default, found in the men’s aisle) then “women’s razors” (usually pink, found in the women’s aisle)? Or how the blue t-ball set in the toy section is the “t-ball set” while the purple t-ball set is titled the “girls t-ball set”? “He is the absolute, she is the other.”

Our history of androcentrism is well entrenched. If we say men, that also means women, but if we say women, we do not mean men. When we hear all men are created equal, that means people (both men AND women). But if we hear all women are created equal, that means women only. Only one is seen as the default. The other is not. Men means everyone. People. Women…means women.

What happens if we incorrectly believe that gender neutrality is the same as gender equality? In this episode we talk about gender neutrality, gender tolerance, and gender norms and the potential unintended consequences of gender neutrality when we don’t also consider gender tolerance in terms of devaluing traits considered feminine.

Caroline Criado-Perez notes in her book Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men that much of our recorded human history is one giant data gap whereby the lives of men have been taken to represent the lives of humans overall. If gender neutrality represents the absence of gender, does that really mean it will represent men and the male experience (the male default)? If we emphasize gender neutrality instead of gender tolerance will femininity and all who express it lose? This is a timely conversation we need to be having to ensure that unintended male bias that attempts to pass itself off as gender neutral does not sneak into our efforts to create a more gender equitable world.

#genderequity #gendertolerance #genderneutrality #androcentrism #


Guest: Industrial Designer Erica Golub

Criado-Perez, C. (2019). Invisible women: Data bias in a world designed for men. Chicago

New California law will force retailers to have ‘gender neutral’ toy sections

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