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An update on the Ada Initiative

An update on the Ada Initiative

Posted Jan 16, 2012 15:39 UTC (Mon) by nybble41 (subscriber, #55106)
In reply to: An update on the Ada Initiative by blujay
Parent article: An update on the Ada Initiative

> Whether a person is male or female depends on exactly one thing: their chromosomes.

That is (mostly) true, but "male" and "female" are sexes, not genders. One's gender is more correctly referred to as "masculine" or "feminine", and while there is a general correlation, the two categories do not always correspond. One's sex is a biological concept, but gender is a social/cultural phenomenon. Quite a few things which do not have a biological sex--and perhaps are not even biological in origin--are still considered either masculine or feminine. Just look at languages like French and Spanish, where all nouns are assigned a specific gender. Even in English there are a few cases like that; ships are always treated as feminine, for example.


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An update on the Ada Initiative

Posted Jan 17, 2012 10:33 UTC (Tue) by dgm (subscriber, #49227) [Link]

That's mudding the discussion, which is not about abstract nouns but real people. In this case, gender and sex are synonyms.

An update on the Ada Initiative

Posted Jan 17, 2012 16:40 UTC (Tue) by nybble41 (subscriber, #55106) [Link]

> In this case, gender and sex are synonyms.

No, they're not. Even when speaking of people, there are feminine males and masculine females--people who are biologically male, but express more than the average/expected degree of feminine gender traits, and visa-versa.

Of course, it's generally not an all-or-nothing proposition, but rather a continuum. Most people display at least some gender traits contrary to their sex, while in a few rare cases sex and gender are completely at odds with each other.

"Male" and "female" are biological traits (though even at this level not all cases are perfectly clear-cut). "Masculine" and "feminine" are derived classifications based on physiological traits, behaviors, psychology, and perhaps other factors. There is a strong correlation, to be sure, but they are far from being synonyms.

An update on the Ada Initiative

Posted Jan 17, 2012 18:45 UTC (Tue) by dgm (subscriber, #49227) [Link]

Absurd. Gender _is_ all or nothing. There's no such gender as "30% masculine". Same for sex, salve _exceptionally_ rare cases.

Masculine and feminine are adjectives, while male and female are usually nouns. And that's all.

An update on the Ada Initiative

Posted Jan 17, 2012 20:00 UTC (Tue) by giraffedata (subscriber, #1954) [Link]

Masculine and feminine are adjectives, while male and female are usually nouns. And that's all.

Male and female are primarily adjectives. I believe it is a recent invention to use them as nouns; we used to say "man" and "woman" where we say "male" and "female" now. I even heard once that calling a man a male is special to American English.

I never heard a distinction between gender and sex before now, but I like it. There are two things to discuss and two words; it makes sense to use one for each. The history and common usage also matter of course; I don't know much about that.

There is a world of difference between masculine and male. I've never heard of a masculine connector or a feminine hamster.


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