Why does my grocery store ask my gender on their discount card application? Are they planning to send me oodles of feminine hygiene coupons? Does the designation “female” somehow skew my food shopping to such an extent that the local store manager needs to account for me in his weekly orders?
I grew up in the era before feminism became a dirty word. I don’t mind if you hold the door open for me when entering or exiting a building. I’ll do the same for you. I also have trans* friends. It adds up to my noticing how often and unnecessarily I’m asked my gender, typically along the binary of “male” or “female.” I’ve filled out the rare form that adds “transgender” to the mix, which I find a lame attempt at inclusiveness.
(Dude, trans*people don’t refer to their gender as “transgender.” They’re male or female, just like anybody else.)
I’m tired of proclaiming myself male or female just to get a Rite Aid store discount keyfob.
Why, in the 21st century, are we still focused on gender? And why is knowing another person’s gender considered important? I think it’s a cop-out; a shortcut to better allow us to categorize people. If that’s even a little bit true, we really haven’t come a long way, baby.
Or have we become so used to giving out private information for marketing research purposes that we don’t even ask why anymore? What does it say about modern American society that we’re still being tucked into gender boxes? Deep down, do we still believe the gender stereotypes? Does Safeway figure that a “male” wouldn’t use the Kotex coupon? What if he’s a single dad with three teenage daughters? Bet he’d appreciate that coupon then. But that backstory doesn’t fit into a neat little box. It would require more effort to uncover.
And then there are the gender-specific products, the ones that don’t make any functional sense. Deodorant, shampoo, hair gel. The men’s deodorant comes in dark, “masculine” colored packaging; the women’s in pastels with taglines like, “Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.” What does that mean? It’s “men’s” deodorant with “women’s” fragrance? I buy whatever works to keep me from stinking. It happens to be in a dark package. Am I less female for that?
When kid #1 was born in 1992, diapers were sold in “boy” designs and “girl” designs. By design, I mean they were supposedly engineered for best absorption depending on genitalia. This was what passed for science in diapering. By 2000, when kid #3 was born, diapers were supposedly engineered by time of day and age of infant. Not a huge scientific leap, if you ask me. I couldn’t use a nighttime diaper during the day if I ran out of daytime diapers? And age of infant is less important than weight when it comes to a diaper that fits well enough to stop leaks without chafing.
Stereotypes. Women like flowery-fragranced deodorant, while men want a product that works. It’s insulting. And stupid.
I’ve been skipping the gender question on forms for a long while, although I’m tempted to check the “male” box just to see what happens. What do you think? Do you notice how often you’re asked your gender? Is it just me?