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This Gender related article has been assessed as SIGNIFICANTLY PROBLEMATIC in one or more ways. See RationalWiki:Article rating for more information.

This article requires attention for the following reason(s):
  • Needs more sources, and sources need formatting

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Still lacking a clear definition[edit]

The page still lacks a clear definition of "gender"

Gender, on the other hand, refers more to the non-biological characteristics of "man" and "woman".[1] [2] These are often rooted in stereotypical identifiers, including things like "women are caregivers and gatherers", "men are protectors and hunters"; "women feel and are intuitive", "men think and work things out" (though sometimes biologically influenced characteristics such as strength and build are included). Some of these roles have been noted to be historically contingent[3] and differ depending on location, culture, and tradition.[4] though cultural universals are noted to exist.

Are "caregivers and gatherers", "protectors and hunters", "feelers and are intuitive", "thinkers and workers-out things" genders? McLaghing (talk) 14:19, 29 January 2018 (UTC)

Ah, I think these are closer to gender roles or gender expectations, which are attributed to the gender. You said previously that gender is a useful construct and that is probably because you think that there are certain expectations that come with "women" and "men" - and I would agree, that's useful. This is quite steroetypical, of course, but if I was asked if a man or a woman would be more likely to be a "brute", I'd probably pick the man. Is "brute" a gender? No, but in my example, it's more closely associated with men. And things like "caregivers and gatherers" vs "protectors and hunters" are even more exclusively attributed to a gender in, uh, mainstream western culture? That's why they can serve as identifiers for the gender. And identifiers are unidirectional, right? Within the stereotype, a man does not necessarily mean "protector and hunter", but if there is a "protector and hunter", people would assume it's a man (within the stereotype).
Do you think this should be worded differently to make it clearer?
RSamys (bla) 09:41, 30 January 2018 (UTC)
"You said previously that gender is a useful construct" <- I said that the definition of gender as "the sex a person identify with" is useful, because it brings information which are not given by sex and sexual orientation. However, I said also that "the sex a person identify with" is not the current definition of gender... Indeed mine was a criticism of the current vague and confusing concept of gender.
"Do you think this should be worded differently to make it clearer?" <- I think that a definition should make clear what gender is (a role? a list of attributes? a list of expectations? a list of stereotypes? ...) and what is not. Also, example of genders should be given.
Image if I define "bunder" as "non-biological characteristics of 'children' and 'elders', often rooted in stereotypical identifiers, including things like 'children are noisy', 'elders are wise'..." and then I speak of 'bunders' and 'bunder identify'... shouldn't anybody have the right to say: "What the hell are you talking about?" McLaghing (talk) 15:27, 30 January 2018 (UTC)
Ah, thanks for clearing these up for me.
I think I can see your point regarding the vague definition. How about we first split it up in the different contexts where it is used, like for example, "this is the use in Grammar", then "this is how gender is used synonymously with sex", "this is how it is used in classification", "this is how it is used in electronics", and finally "this is how it is used in a psychological and sociological context". (Highlighting the many different uses, especially the synonymous use with sex vs the non-biological construct, might be better to explain why there's confusion in the first place.) And for that, I wonder if maybe a mix of the Merriam Webster definition (2.b) and the Oxford English Dictionary definition (3.b) would be better suited in your opinion.
The way I see it, the reason for why it's not defined as "the sex a person identifies with" is that this is too narrow, other people also identify that person with a gender. Also, it's easier to make it non-binary and create a third gender as if there was a third sex (independently from intersex, of course), at least compared to the biological sex.
Lastly, let me address "bunder", this is a great aid, honestly. "Non-biological characteristics of 'children' and 'elders'" this is pretty clear to me, although maybe "children" vs "grownups" might be a better analogy. Just like a gender-woman, who is perceived as or identifies as "female-like"/"feminine" (regardless of sex), a bunder-child could be perceived as or self-identify as "child-like"/"infantile" or something like that (regardless of age). In our culture, this might not be practical. Anyway, just like a list of shorthands exist for sex (women have breasts, men have wide shoulders or something to that extent) and for gender (men are more aggressive, women have long hair), there could be "stereotypical identifiers" for bunder (children are noisy, elders wear wool pullovers). I have the feeling that, for you, the current definition doesn't separate the two concepts (non-biological characteristics, which is the main idea, and stereotypical identifiers/shorthands, which is a sub-phenomenom) enough, for one, and that the first part should be expanded upon, for another. Which is fine, in that case what do you think about separating those two more and adding some of the afore-mentioned definitions into the first part - and maybe explain what is meant by stereotypical identifiers? I would argue, however, that examples of gender are given throughout the article, like Berdache and fa’afafine, while the definition paragraph limits itself to the (probably more familiar) two genders "man" and "woman" (as opposed to "male" and "female"). We'll just have to keep in mind that it's probably better to keep it descriptivist, linguistically. =)
RSamys (bla) 11:03, 31 January 2018 (UTC)
"How about we first split it up in the different contexts where it is used(?)" <- Yes, that seems necessary.
"I wonder if maybe a mix of the Merriam Webster definition (2.b) and the Oxford English Dictionary definition (3.b) would be better suited in your opinion." <- The first.
"The way I see it, the reason for why it's not defined as 'the sex a person identifies with' is that this is too narrow, other people also identify that person with a gender." <- Well, my point was that a definition should be enough narrow to be useful.
"what do you think about separating those two more and adding some of the afore-mentioned definitions..." <- I agree with any change which make the definition more clear.
"I would argue, however, that examples of gender are given throughout the article, like Berdache and fa’afafine," <- It is true, but most of the page talks about gender many lines without having given a single example. My point is the examples should be given right after the definition. McLaghing (talk) 12:16, 31 January 2018 (UTC)

The article begins with an explanatory quote from the W.H.O. But, should the W.H.O. be considered a dispositive authority? The subjects of sex and gender together constitute a new science. It may be that the term "gender" is used variously by our new gender scientists. This could be pointed out, i.e., that there is a lack of consensus at this time among gender scientists as to exact meaning of the root term defining their enterprise. On the other hand, if there is an exact scientific definition of gender, is it likely to be found in common dictionaries, which describe common usage?Ariel31459 (talk) 17:36, 31 January 2018 (UTC)

women are just as intelligent ... in virtually every sphere ..[edit]

The section modern ends with the statement:

Scientific evidence tends to indicate that women are just as intelligent, creative, and adept as men in virtually every sphere of life.

There and many people here more versed in gender issues that I so I'm reluctant to edit this article. But doesn't this (1) sound a bit patronizing, and (2) "virtually every sphere"? Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 16:21, 27 November 2019 (UTC)

I agree that we should hesitate before editing an article of which we know very little. The concept of intelligent activity is a mine field. The game of chess is an interesting example. Ability to play at a high level would appear to be dependent upon native talents. The youngest grand master, Sergey Karjakin, was 12 years old when he qualified. Grand masters in chess account for less than 1% of all rated players. The current world champion, Magnus Carlsen, won the title first in 2009 when he was 18. There are almost no female grand masters, and there has never been a female world champion. We just don't know why that is for certain, and it is asking for an unpleasant argument to speculate.Ariel31459 (talk) 19:07, 27 November 2019 (UTC)
I'm not convinced that there is not some cultural rather than biological explanation for your chess example, but lacking evidence I'm not in a position to debate it. But consider this wording:
Scientific evidence tends to indicate that men are just as intelligent, creative, and adept as women in virtually every sphere of life.
Presumably this would be equally valid. And just as, in my opinion, subtly sexist.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 21:25, 27 November 2019 (UTC)
Scientific evidence tends to indicate that women and men are equally intelligent, creative, and adept in virtually every sphere of life.? --Yisfidri (talk) 21:44, 27 November 2019 (UTC)
That would certainly sound fine to me.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 08:15, 28 November 2019 (UTC)
I think I'll go ahead and make this change.--Yisfidri (talk) 13:57, 30 November 2019 (UTC)
@Bob M I was not trying to convince you Bob. In fact I am uncertain as to whether standard IQ testing even can distinguish a good chess player from a bad one. But the idea that cultural influences could be at play is a tough one to deal with because practically any literate culture has chess players.Ariel31459 (talk) 22:38, 27 November 2019 (UTC)
I think that the whole concept if "IQ" as an indicator of some innate biological difference is bogus. As IQ goes up with education, it's evidently a largely a learned thing. Chess is obviously a learned skill. I would suggest that neither is a very clear indicator of some inherent biological difference as far as the general population is concerned.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 08:27, 28 November 2019 (UTC)

im sure the intelligence of women compared to men is an answer to groups claiming someone natural advantage or disadvantage justifies some discriminatory practice. women cant do maths because algebra causes them to miscarry and is a leading cause of lesbianism. thaqt kinda nonsense. land girls in the world wars, doing farming, working in factories, rosie the rivetter and all that stuff, doing the mens work just as good as the men, means not getting the vote on the grounds women are feeble minded or they should be paid less than the men becasue they cant do as much is nonsense. there is little physically or mentally women are significantly at a disadvantage to men. where there is disparity between men and women in a particular field, its going to be systemic problem, social and cultural stuff, or overt discrimination. using innate superiority of men or women is an excuse to not look at or ignore what might be going on, or simply to dismiss all criticism AMassiveGay (talk) 18:56, 30 September 2021 (UTC)

and why am replying to two year old posts? AMassiveGay (talk) 18:58, 30 September 2021 (UTC)

Gender vs. Personality[edit]

I think you people need to know "gender" and "personality" are different things.

Just because you are an effeminate man doesn't mean you are actually a woman, you are a man with an effeminate personality. RockyRob97 (talk) 07:45, 28 June 2021 (UTC)

Although they're not synonyms, I think they are somewhat similar concepts. Gender is socially constructed as much as one's own personality is socially constructed. (Profile) - (Spoke!) 10:59, 4 October 2021 (UTC)

A cool video to sheer up the mood[edit]

Notes for a rebuttal of essentialism[edit]


What follows is meant to serve as an outline based on my limited knowledge of gender. I am not currently interested in this area, and as a result, I cannot be bothered to spend time and energy reading detailed sources. What I will provide, however, is a general outline of a rebuttal of essentialism and, in particular, bio-essentialism.

My Notes[edit]

  1. Proposals have been made in branding to replace ‘women’ and ‘men’, with nonessentialist terms such as ‘persons’ or ‘people’, such that ‘people who have ovaries’ or ‘people that have testes’.
  2. Essentialism := the belief that objects have a set of attributes that are necessary to their identity. Bio-essentialism is an instance.
  3. Essentialism can be traced back to Aristotle. Aristotle believed in an essence-accident distinction e.g. he believed that ‘it is essential for man to be rational’; but ‘accidental to be bipedal’.
  4. Aristotle’s essence-accident distinction corresponds to the modern distinctions between: connotation-denotation, intension-extension, or meaning and reference.
  5. Bio-essentialists claim, for instance, that ‘only women have uteruses’, which is an instance of #2 ‘to be a woman it is necessary that a given object has such and such attributes [e.g. they must have a uterus]. N.b. These types of statements have the obvious benefit of being easily falsified.
  6. Both the singular terms—‘man’ and ‘woman’—, and the plural terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ are largely social constructs, which have existed as long as they have for practical reasons. Using the generic ‘men’ or ‘women’ terms in marketing, for instance, as opposed to the longer ‘people who have testes’ or ‘people who have ovaries’ (to name the more simple scientifically-accurate paraphrases), confers obvious practical advantages for marketing. Indeed, the terms ‘man’, ‘men’, ‘woman’, and ‘women’, are useful as façons de parler—the danger arises when people misunderstand these convenient expressions by way of use-mention confusions and the reification fallacy.
  7. ‘Women’ or ‘Woman’ are mentalistic social-constructs, they will go the way of other folk concepts
  8. Necessity is a viciously circular.
  9. Identity is quantitative not qualitative. It is signified by this sign ‘=’.
  10. All that is required for identity: extensionality, Euclid’s law, the indiscernibility of identicals, the law of identity.
  11. Properties/attributes—putative second-order entities, (‘being a woman’, ‘being a man’, ‘being a …’ etc.) — are unintelligible and needn’t be reified; classes shall suffice.
  12. Our best science shows that Bio-essentialism is false tout court.
  13. Even the terms ‘person’ and ‘people’ can be dispensed with in favour of the predicate ‘is a homo sapien’.
  14. We can then construct a sentence: ‘There is some x such that (it is a homo sapien and it has ovaries)’, which in turn can be represented more perspicuously as ‘There is some x such that (x is a homo sapien . x has ovaries)’; and finally, this sentence can be represented even more perspicuously as ‘∃x (Hx . Ox)’, where ‘H’ is a predicate denoting the class of humans, and ‘O’ is a predicate denoting the class of humans that have ovaries.
  15. However, to fully explicate this sentence we need to move to class theory. The original sentence is predicating something of a specific subclass of humans viz. humans that have ovaries.
  16. Thus, ‘∃y∃x (({yεY|O}) .⊆X {xεX|H})’
  17. (#16) can be interpreted as there is some class y for some class x such that (y is a member of a class Y—if and only if— it satisfies ‘has ovaries’) and the class y is a subclass of the class of Homo sapiens.


Another common problem that leads to essentialism is the tendency to project properties onto objects that are merely artefacts of our computational practices. For instance, when we use algorithmic procedures to evaluate an algebraic expression e.g. ‘(x+y)×z’ we use the following algorithm x+z first, then multiply by y; however, whilst this algorithm is suitable for helping us understand the properties e.g. (commutativity or associativity) of quantities involved in a simple algebraic expression, its simple order-based format is inadequate for capturing the real properties that a physical system has.

For example, Fourier and his school demonstrated whilst analysing the behaviour of certain physical objects e.g. vibrating dustbin caps that: (a) we cannot prima facie assume that certain properties hold of a physical system, we must prove that they hold viz. we should not, from the outset, assume that intuitive mathematical properties e.g. connectedness or smoothness—that were the result of simpler algorithms—continue to hold for an infinite series as it tends towards its limit. Furthermore, if we want to increase our accuracy, we should use a function over a small, precise Real-valued interval (if we want to divine the real properties of a physical system—the smaller the interval the better), (b) as evidenced by Fourier’s discovery of the “Saw tooth function”, when algorithms take limits ‘δ’ (viz. of infinite series) as their input they behave in ways that are incompatible with simplistic order-based algorithms viz. the very notion of ‘first, then second’ (as we saw as a method of computing simpler, algebraic expressions) breaks down, exhibiting properties that violate intuitive mathematical properties such as ‘connectedness’. All of the above serves as a caution to those who are quick to project certain predicates (viz. project them as properties) onto certain physical systems; who are quick to mistake the practical necessity of certain computational methods—and the properties they involve—for genuine features of nature.

Essentialism, is just the whoozy, a priori, projection of linguistic artefacts onto objects; we can speak humans “being rational” or “being female” without presupposing that the ways we happen to speak about objects imply that said objects must have “such and such properties” in order to be that object; the ways we speak about objects, about people, change over time—they don’t imply that archaic linguistic-happenstance has any bearing on nature, nor do they affirm that armchair fancy overrides the continuing progress of science.

Post scriptum: I owe the majority of my discussion here, i.e. concerning the projection of incorrect properties onto physical systems and on the challenges Fourier and his school faced to Mark Wilson , in particular to his book Wandering Significance (cf. “The fight from intension”). Although my comments here may seem largely orthogonal to the topic of essentialism, I still hope that I’ve illuminated the connections between both topics, and perhaps, provided the correct diagnostics to the underlying problems of essentialism. LeucippusSapere aude 20:30, 24 October 2021 (UTC)


  • Too much on the idea that gender and sex are different. Thats not true.
  • Has left leaning bias

Needs overhaul Jah (talk) 00:44, 29 October 2021 (UTC)

Please educate us on how the years required to even begin to understand the complex intricacies of biological expressions of sex and interactions and interplay with the sociological contexts is just a form of "left-leaning bias". --It's-a me, Lgm sigpic.png LeftyGreenMario!(Mod) 02:08, 29 October 2021 (UTC)