The need for sex categories

I just read this interesting comment:

It is impossible to discriminate on the basis of sex if you can’t tell what sex a person is. In one famous psychology experiment, doctors would hand an infant to an unsuspecting volunteer in a room where they could be observed, and leave for a few minutes. The infants had white diapers and no indication of whether they were male or female. Most of the volunteers were unable to interact with the infants, and in their need to know if the infant was male or female, so that they could say either, “What a big strong boy you are,” or “What a pretty little girl you are,” tried to peek under the diapers (link here).

If people don’t even know how to interact with babies without knowing their sex, no wonder socialization is so strong! No wonder we are so trapped in our sex/gender roles that we can’t even imagine a world where we are more than just “men” or “women.”  No wonder so many genital mutilations are done on babies that are born intersex: it is too much of a threat to have people out there who do not fit the TWO categories we have created.



One thought on “The need for sex categories

  1. I like to know the sex of a baby so I can use appropriate pronouns. It’s different in your example above since “you” is unisex and I could easily say directly to the child handed to me, “Aren’t you a cutie pie?”

    But when a parent in a store, for instance, is holding her child, I want to say correctly “aw, he’s so cute” or “aw, she’s so tiny.” “It” just seem too weird and I don’t always think of “your baby’s so cute” which would work.

    But I understand the point of your post and it is very interesting to consider!

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