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That’s a great question actually. From what I know, biological evolution somehow shapes human into two sexual classifications that lead to the division of subsistence, which creates social identity and people just extrapolate from there. Now with the rising egalitarianism in workfield and findings of various sex spectra, they at least need an update aren’t they?
I don’t think so. I think that we have to be aware of the limitations of boxing everyone into a “male” and “female” category, and we need to be accepting of those who don’t fit in those categories. We need to understand that many of the social scripts that we have built around those boxed categories are net negatives, and work to get rid of them.
I see that some people want to get rid of the “male” and “female” concept altogether because of the negatives, but those concepts do reflect objective biological principles even if they are not enough to capture all of the complexity of biological gender. They can be practically useful to many of us who do fit those boxed categories, and I am sure that there is a path forward were we can create an inclusive society without having to deny the concept of gender altogether.
So, I think the implementation of the concepts are outdated, but in my opinion they need more of an update and refinement rather than being fully phased out.
I work in healthcare. I’m a data scientist. I get requests all the time where people ask for gender of their patients. Problem is, we don’t capture gender. Or at least, we don’t capture gender for most. We have a field for sex, which is filled in for nearly all patients. Gender is filled in on a separate form which many people are not trained on and thus only present for <5% of our patients.
When I let physicians know that we only have sex available, they inevitably still ask for it. I typically press them as to why- what clinical purpose do you need this for? Their responses vary wildly. Many realize when questioned that they are simply collecting it to collect it - it doesn’t have a real clinical purpose. In some cases, incidences of certain disease states are tied to gender in literature, and knowing that someone is more likely to have a specific disease is something that can be clinically relevant. For these people I provide the information, but I have a short talk with them first. I let them know that the recorded sex often doesn’t tell them what they actually want. There are many individuals with a variety of disorders which can affect what hormones are present in their body, what sex characteristics developed, or how at risk they are for particular disorders. In addition, many trans (and in some cases cis) people may have an inaccurate chart - I have heard plenty of stories of trans men with beards being asked about their prostate by a PCP and trans women asked about concerns related to child birth. While rarer, I have heard the same from some cis people who are androgynous. In most cases a parts inventory is more useful (or in some cases, an understanding of circulating hormones), albeit much like gender, is something we don’t often collect.
Of course not. It is a very very useful concept here and today. Even when applied to humans. But the problem is how those words are used way even in fields and discussion where they are not only not useful, but even harmful.
These concepts, like any scientific concept, is taught to us with heavy heavy simplification when we are young. It seems simple, most people think it is simply two groups, and with a very easy criteria to discriminate them. But it is complicated, and only mostly useful in biology.
I would make a (not so good) analogy with hot and cold. Is it outdated ? No. Is it useful ? Yes. Does it define completely what it is talking about ? No, pressure, colors are other characteristic. There are adjacent concept that get confused like heat and hotness, but are scientifically very different. There are things where talking about hot or cold is irrelevant (is a distance “hot” ?).
Of course, the main limit of this analogy is that the battle around the usage of “biological sex” is very political. Transphobes put many humans in grave danger (and not only explicitly trans persons). They are very close to the essentialism used by racists and fascists. And they try to manipulated science to make it says what it doesn’t, also just like them.
What does male and female tell us?
In everyday life, not much to be honest. Gender is the useful information in society. Male and female are useful in biology, and therefore in medicine. They are useful broad category that should be use as such. Broad tendencies that have many exception and complex interactions. But are nonetheless pertinent to understand how our body works and how to treat some diseases.
But of course 99% of every uses fall outside of what is pertinent, and it should become a technical scientific term only.
As I explained in another comment, in human medicine it is much less useful than knowing what parts a human has and what lab results can tell us about the relevant hormones and other biomarkers of interest. Most people interact with medicine on a personal level, and because of such having more detailed conversations with your doctor(s) will often result in better care.
With that being said, used as a broad term to describe broad effects such as when classifying data at the population level, it can be a useful and quick piece of information to collect. If you’re trying to determine compliance with social determinants of health, it may be faster to collect sex (or gender) than it is to ask people to create a catalog of the important body parts or to ask other broad questions such as “are you disabled” to understand systems better.
It’s an interesting concept, to have a term which is most useful at a certain level of abstraction and less useful the less people you’re referring to with it. We’ve got a decent amount of these in our lexicons and yet I see people drawing false inferences all the time. It’s almost as in if we aren’t having conversations about how broad terms like race, gender, employment status, etc. can be useful when dealing with population level statistics for the purpose of understanding systems, but not particularly useful on an individual basis when trying to determine information about a individual or a small group of them.
I think I agree with you. I would go as far as saying this is true for everything, not only for science. I think we need to have categories to be able to grasp complex problem. And almost all of the time, those categories are arbitrary and only useful at specific scales and in specific context. It is the only way to think about large scale problems, just because we cannot handle every individual information in too large quantities.
Those categories are always “wrong” in some sense, but can be “useful” to understand our world. And I agree with you, at individual level, in our society, for sure sex at an individual level is not only useless but harmful.
Sorry, I recognize my position was unclear and could be taken for quite essentialist. Hope this clarify my position.
In most parts of the world, it tells us which bathroom to go into. If that’s something that’s sexist or needs to change, sure I won’t debate you on that, but I’ll definitely tell you that your priorities are whack.
Is that all it tells us? Seems a bit of a reach to compare to the usefulness of hot/cold which can inform how/what clothes we should wear to be comfortable or avoid heat stroke or hypothermia, whether an environment can support human life, whether we can get injured from touching an object, what precautions we should be taking when interacting with a hot/cold object, whether a chemical reaction might occur, and many other higher stakes questions than where someone should go to the bathroom.
No. But male and female as the only possible options is an outdated concept. Both socially and biologically, there is a spectrum.
Male and female are still the only options, when viewing it as probabilistic distributions with overlap regarding having features of their typical representatives
So… You do realize human identity and sexuality are not quantum systems right?
You realize that there are probabilistic distributions outside quantum systems?
Is Biology an outdated concept?
What are their concepts?
My kids get divided into two lines before they walk into school with their teachers, a boys line and a girls line. The reason for this is pretty innocuous - most classes are at least close to 50/50 boys/girls, two lines are easier to deal with than one, and it gives most people a fast way to sort themselves into two groups. But then that separation continues through the day- boys and girls stay in the groups that were formed at the beginning of the day when they go to recess, to lunch, when they pick playmates and group partners for gym and for class assignments. So, something that wasn’t intended to create a social structure helps to do so, and perpetuates and exacerbates the clues they already get from broader Western capitalist society that boys are over here doing boy things and girls are over there doing girl things. Setting aside the minority for whom just deciding which line they belong in is a trauma, why would we do this to any of our kids? We made a stupid division for a lazy reason, and now we’ve created an artificial division in society.
This is a distinct problem
A distinct problem that demonstrates a wider one. That is, divisions that are made between male and female that may seem small and harmless to begin with can grow over time, particularly as people navigate systems and institutions that are already in place.
What exactly are you asking? Are you asking about gender roles, gender or biological sex? Because I would say that it depends heavily on what you’re asking.