gender and sex

Lawrence Kirkendall Lawrence.Kirkendall at ZOO.UIB.NO
Fri Jun 2 23:40:31 CDT 1995

Margaret Bolick writes:
>     And finally my linguistic pet peeve is the indiscriminant use of
>gender to cover all differences, both biological and cultural, between
>males and females.  I suggest that those who are unclear about the
>distinctions between the terms sex and gender check the Modern Language
>Association's publication that discusses this:  "Language, Gender, and
>Professional Writing" by Francine W. Frank and Paula A. Treichler:
>gender generally refers to the cultural baggage that accompanies the
>biological fact of sex, of being female or male.  (End-of-soapbox

Sorry, the soapbox part went completely over my head:  did I say something
politically incorrect?  (It is not possible to keep up on PCness here in
Northern Europe...)  What is an example of said "cultural baggage"?

I and other ecologists commonly use "gender" to refer to the maleness or
femaleness of an individual animal or plant, or, as in the words of the
Concise Oxford English Dictionary, "(colloq.) one's sex" (sorry North
Americans, my Webster's is at home).  I am sure that this is as widespread
among biologists:  thus, "Given that an organism is going to reproduce
sexually at some point in its life cycle, the next question might be
whether male and female genders should be expressed by each organism,...,
or whether the genders should be expressed in separate individuals."  (Mary
J. Willson, Plant Reproductive Ecology, p.55). In a subchapter entitled
"Gender", Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan equate "gender" with "mating
type", and "determination of gender" with "sex determination" (Origins of
Sex", p. 197).  It may well be that social scientists have a different
tradition of usage here--otherwise, there is something I didn't understand,
perhaps due to the late hour.

from 22 June-18 Sept., I will be at  --->  klawrenc at

Lawrence R. Kirkendall                        FAX:   +47 55 31 44 64
Univ. Bergen Zoological Inst.                 VOICE: +47 55 21 23 42
Allegaten 41, N-5007 BERGEN Norway
EMAIL:  Lawrence.Kirkendall at

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