The Undeniable Ruth Rotating Header Image

gender bias

End Gender-Based Socialization & Segregation

We can all pee in the same bathroom.

With the recent wave of anti-LGBT laws considered and passed in the U.S., and people losing their minds about which bathroom people should use, I’ve been thinking about the concept of gender. Besides the fact that sperm and egg are needed for reproduction and biological, hormonal, and chromosomal differences between the various sexes (there are more than two you know), why is gender even an issue? Why do we have social differences, segregation, or even gender identity in any aspect of life?

Why can’t we just be people?

Is this a boy or a girl? Who cares? Let the kid be happy. Hop, Skip and a Jump. by peasap from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Is this a boy or a girl? Who cares? Let the kid be happy.
Hop, Skip and a Jump. by peasap from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Look at babies. If a baby is wearing clothes, I can’t tell what type of genitals it has – and I don’t care. All babies have the same basic needs: food, shelter, care, and love. The only difference I can think of between the sexes, is the location of their urethra because some brands of diapers have extra absorbent sections based on that. Beyond that, there’s no difference between a male and a female baby. I’m going to carry it around like a football until it cries, and then it goes back to the parent.

It’s amazing to see how kids are socialized differently based on gender at such a young age. Looking back, I wonder why schools make students line up by gender. Why segregate when we can integrate.

Speaking of segregation, prepubescent kids have the same body shape. Why do we have different sections for boys’ and girls’ clothing? Just have a children’s section and let them wear whatever they want regardless of color or style. There’s nothing wrong with a boy wearing a dress or a girl wearing a Spiderman costume. Ditto for toys. I’m so glad Hasbro adopted gender-neutral marketing for its easy-bake oven because a little boy who loved to bake was too embarrassed to play with a “girl” toy.

I’m pleased to see that some people are more progressive and accepting. My friend’s sons go to dance class and for the performance, each child got to pick their costume – pants or a dress. One boy opted for the pants, the other picked the dress – and he was so cute!

And does anyone else think it’s weird that was have different size charts for men’s and women’s shoes? There are gender-neutral shoes – like my Converse Chuck Taylors – and apparently stores have to re-label the boxes to help customers avoid confusion. It’s strange that my foot is a size 8.5 but if I had a penis, it would be a size 7. I have no issue shopping in the men’s section for any garment or accessory if that’s where the store put the product I want.

To circle back to the “bathroom issue” (as long as you wash your hands, I don’t care which bathroom you use), I think every public place should have gender neutral bathrooms with water closets for stalls. Each stall has walls that extend from ceiling to floor and regular lockable doors. Liberty Market restaurant has this arrangement and they have one of the coolest bathrooms in the U.S.

Gender-neutral bathrooms will eliminate problems related to helping a loved one in the restroom, men’s room without changing tables, and long lines for the ladies’ room while there’s no wait for the men’s. We’ll also reinforce the notion that boys and girls, men and women, are equal.

Reflections on Gender Bias

Shoe Shopping by Jerine Lay

Recently, I was contacted by a law student at Arizona State University. She and her friends noticed that all the winners of the Oplinger Closing Argument Competition since at least 2005 have all been tall, thin/muscular, white males. She asked me to share my thoughts on this phenomenon.

To be fair, I must disclose that the majority of people who participate in this competition are men, so based on pure numbers, it’s more likely that a man will win. It raised a red flag for me when I heard that all the judges in the finals for this year’s competition were white men.  It made me wonder if the judges picked the best performer or if they were biased towards individuals who looked and sounded like them.

There is a general bias towards tall white men in our society. NPR reports that women make 77 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts and obese women make 12% less than thinner women. The shoe lift industry is thriving because taller people generally hold higher status jobs and are assumed to be more intelligent.

I have to be mindful of my own bias. If you look at my professional rolodex, the majority of my contacts are men. In my defense, I generally lean towards people who are leaders, low-drama, sci-fi geeks, and improv performers. This leads to having a lot more men in my sandbox than women. But, when it comes to picking a professional where gender is irrelevant, like a dentist or an accountant, I need to make sure don’t automatically pick a man.

In thinking about gender bias, I was reminded of a trial I watched during my summer with the Army JAG. The prosecuting attorney was a woman who was maybe 5 feet tall and 110 pounds. The defense attorney, Eric Mayer, towered over her at 6+ feet tall with broad shoulders, a chiseled jaw, and a stance that oozed confidence. I was completely intimidated by him. Both attorneys put on good cases and the defendant was ultimately convicted, but if you didn’t hear the case and only saw a snapshot of the courtroom, most people would suspect that the defense was going to win.

As professional speakers, men have an advantage. It’s easier for them to command a room because they generally take up more space and have deeper voices. They are socialized to be more assertive than women.  Conversely, women are socialized to be nice. They take up less space, especially when they’re teetering on heels, and their professional appearance requires them to be attractive, but not too pretty or sexy.  They generally use more qualifying statements and smile at inappropriate times.

Some women face an uphill battle when they want to establish themselves as professionals. Women have to be more mindful of how they talk compared to men. Everyone has an upper and lower voice. Most men speak in their lower voice; women have a tendency to speak in their upper voice. This makes them sounds more child-like and less professional. Women who up-talk are worse. If you up-talk, I will tune you out because the sound of your voice annoys me.

And women need to figure out how their boobs factor into their professional appearance. Big boobs can get you free drinks, but they can be a hindrance to moving up the corporate ladder as many people associate bigger breasts with lower intelligence or being less professionally focused. I’m very grateful I pass the pencil test.

Unfortunately, gender bias will not go away overnight, and I encourage everyone – men and women – to confront it when it occurs. According to my source, a judge at the Oplinger competition told one of the women that she was “too aggressive for a female.” Another female competitor reported that a judge told her that he docked points because she didn’t wear a skirt. I hope both those women told those judges to fuck off.

Enhanced by Zemanta