Gender neutrality

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A purple circle is a symbol for gender neutrality, derived from the two gender symbols and colours mixed together and without the distinguishing cross or arrow used in the gender symbols. ♂ ♀

Gender neutrality (adjective form: gender-neutral), also known as gender-neutralism or the gender neutrality movement, describes the idea that policies, language, and other social institutions should avoid distinguishing roles according to people's sex or gender, in order to avoid discrimination arising from the impression that there are social roles for which one gender is more suited than the other.

In policy[edit]

Proponents of gender neutrality may support public policies designed to eliminate gender distinctions, such as favouring same-sex marriage on the belief that society should not limit the roles of husband or wife based on gender.[citation needed] Other views may include support of gender-neutral bathrooms, with public restrooms being available without distinguishing the gender of the person using them. It has been observed that gender neutrality in the law has changed the nature of custody disputes, making it more likely that men will be awarded custody of their children in the event of a divorce.[1]

The legal definition of gender has been a controversial topic particularly to transgender people; in some countries in order to be legally defined as a new sex people must first undergo sterilisation.[2]

Biological grey areas in gender[edit]

An issue related to gender neutrality is the grey areas that exist in gender. Trying to legally define the boundaries of gender has proven a difficult issue with the existence of people who identify or who are identified by others as intersex, third gender, transgender and more generally genderqueer.

Gender blindness[edit]

Main article: Gender-blind

Someone who identifies as gender blind takes the perspective of gender neutrality in every day life. Similar to pansexuality where the person is not necessarily totally gender blind but in their sexual preference they make no distinction between the gender of their sexual partners.

Gender-neutral language[edit]

Gender-neutral language, gender-inclusive language, inclusive language or gender neutrality is a form of linguistic prescriptivism that aims to eliminate (or neutralize) reference to gender in terms that describe people. This can involve discouragement of the use of gender-specific job titles, such as policeman/policewoman, fireman, stewardess, and, arguably, chairman, in favor of corresponding gender-neutral terms such as police officer, firefighter, flight attendant and chairperson (or chair). Other gender-specific terms, such as actor and actress, may be replaced by the originally male term (actor used for either gender).

The pronoun he may be replaced with he or she, s/he, or they when the gender of the person referred to is unknown. Some also advocate for a gender-neutral pronoun to be used even when the sex of a person is known, in an effort to remove the alleged subconscious effects of language in reinforcing gender and gender stereotypes. In addition, those who do not identify as either female or male may use a gender-neutral pronoun to refer to themselves or have others refer to them.

"Gender-neutral language" should not be confused with "genderless language", which refers to a language that does not have grammatical gender.

Relationship to feminism and masculism[edit]

Gender neutrality emphasises the equal treatment of men and women legally with no discrimination whatsoever. This goal is shared with both feminists and masculists. However, in gender neutralism, the emphasis is on transcending the perspective of gender altogether rather than focusing on the rights of specific genders.

Relationship to transhumanism[edit]

Main article: Postgenderism

Gender neutrality or "gender transcendence" is part of the transhumanist concept of postgenderism.

Advocates of postgenderism argue that the presence of gender roles, social stratification, and cogno-physical disparities and differences are generally to the detriment of individuals and society. Given the radical potential for advanced assistive reproductive options, postgenderists believe that sex for reproductive purposes will either become obsolete, or that all post-gendered humans will have the ability, if they so choose, to both carry a pregnancy to term and father a child, which, postgenderists believe, would have the effect of eliminating the need for definite genders in such a society.[3]

In marketing[edit]

Marketing is often focused on targeting specific demographics and creates products focused on specific genders. Public views on gender-specific marketing have gained media attention in recent years, for example a protest against a bic pen "Bic for her" that was targeted towards women by the posting of thousands of fake reviews of the pen mocking its female-specific advertising.[4]

In the marketing of children's toys, gender-specific marketing has been very prevalent, however popularity of making toy advertising gender neutral has been increasing such as ads showing boys playing with baby dolls (a toy that has commonly been marketed towards girls only in the past).[5]

In education[edit]

Some schools focus on promoting gender neutrality within the classroom. Teachers may be asked to refer to students without the use of gender pronouns, referring to them by their first names only or using gender-neutral pronouns such as the Swedish hen. Other attempts to encourage gender neutrality in schools have involved:

  • not separating toys in gender-specific areas
  • not having gender-specific sports in physical education lessons[6]
  • allowing for gender-neutral prom and homecoming attendance and courts to accommodate same-sex-coupled and transgender participants
  • designating gender-neutral bathrooms and on-campus housing[7]
  • establishing gender-neutral and co-ed fraternal student organizations

In 2005, University of California, Riverside became the first public university campus in the US to offer a gender-neutral housing option.[8] A February 2014 Washington Post article noted that nearly 150 US schools have gender-neutral housing programs.[7]


In 2006 the National Student Genderblind Campaign[9] was created as a collaborative grassroots organization intended to educate college students, administrators, and others throughout the United States. The NSGC advocates for the implementation of gender-inclusive dorm room and bathroom options.

In July 2012 Gopi Shankar, a Gender activist and a student from The American College in Madurai coined the regional terms for genderqueer,genderneutral people in Tamil, Gopi said apart from male and female, there are more than 20 types of genders, such as transwoman, transmen, androgynous, pangender, trigender,, etc., and ancient India refers it as Trithiya prakirthi. Gopi Shankar organized Asia's first Genderblind, Genderneutral, Genderqueer pride parade in Madurai. "[10][11][12]

Twin sisters Emma Moore and Abi Moore[13] founded a campaign, Pinkstinks, in London in May 2008[14] to raise awareness of the damage caused by gender stereotyping of children.[15][16] Pinkstinks claims that the marketing of gender-specific products to young children encourages girls to limit their ambitions later in life.[14][17]

Gender-neutral lawsuit[edit]

In February 2014, a former catering worker Valeria Jones sued their employer Bon Appetit Management Co. in Oregon for US$518,000 after co-workers repeatedly referred to Jones as female. Jones identified as "not a female or a male and that the term was unwelcome."[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Regina Graycar, Jenny Morgan, The Hidden Gender of Law (2002), p. 260.
  2. ^ —By Nicole Pasulka. "17 European Countries Force Transgender Sterilization (Map)". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2013-12-29. 
  3. ^ Dvorsky, George (2008). "Postgenderism: Beyond the Gender Binary". Retrieved 2008-04-13. 
  4. ^ "BIC ridiculed over 'comfortable' pink pens for women". Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-12-29. 
  5. ^ Sally Peck, The Telegraph (2012-11-28). "Gender-Bending Toys R Us Ads From Sweden". Business Insider. Retrieved 2013-12-29. 
  6. ^ Prince, Charlene (2012-04-12). "Can Kids Be Raised in a Gender-neutral Society? Sweden Thinks So". Team Mom - Yahoo Shine. Retrieved 2013-12-29. 
  7. ^ a b Svitek, Patrick (February 16, 2014). "George Mason University to offer gender-neutral housing in fall 2014". The WashingtonPost. Retrieved October 23, 2014. 
  8. ^ "LGBT Resource Center UC Riverside Named Among 100 Best for LGBT Students" (Press release). University of California, Riverside. August 11, 2006. Retrieved February 3, 2008. 
  9. ^ "The National Student Genderblind Campaign «". 2011-01-17. Retrieved 2013-12-29. 
  10. ^ V Mayilvaganan (July 30, 2012). Gender pride march takes Madurai by storm.
  11. ^ "Madurai student pens book on gender variants". The Times of India. 2013-06-04. Retrieved 2013-06-16. 
  12. ^ "Cities / Madurai : Madurai comes out of the closet". The Hindu. 2012-07-30. Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  13. ^ Susanna Rustin (20 April 2012). "Pinkstinks campaign calls for end to sale of makeup toys to under eights". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 13 April 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Katy Guest (18 December 2011). "Girls will be girls: The battle for our children's hearts and minds this Christmas". The Independent (London). Retrieved 13 April 2013. 
  15. ^ Susanna Rustin (21 April 2012). "Why girls aren't pretty in pink". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 13 April 2013. 
  16. ^ Harry Wallop (30 November 2009). "Pink toys 'damaging' for girls". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 13 April 2013. 
  17. ^ Rosa Prince (7 December 2009). "Labour MP: ban shops from selling ‘sexist’ pink toys to little girls". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 13 April 2013. 
  18. ^ Green, Aimee (7 February 2014). "Gender-neutral employee sues for $518,000; suit says employee wrongly referred to as woman". The Oregonian (Oregon Live). Retrieved 11 February 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bojarska, Katarzyna (2012). "Responding to lexical stimuli with gender associations: A Cognitive–Cultural Model". Journal of Language and Social Psychology. doi:10.1177/0261927X12463008.