sex, not gender

To: "'Merrilyn Serong'" <>, <>
Subject: sex, not gender
From: "Stephen Ambrose" <>
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2013 20:25:07 +1100
Below is an email that I sent privately to Philip late this afternoon.  In
light of Merrilyn's latest contribution to the discussion, I thought it was
appropriate to share it on Birding-aus. It supports the argument that
Merrilyn has put forward.



With respect, I think you are the one that is missing the point.

The term "gender" came into effect in the English language in the 1700s when
it was introduced by patriarchal Christians (after the completion of the
King James' version of the Bible) to define the roles of men and women in
human society. The theory postulated in the link to the paper that I posted
to Birding-aus earlier today is that women in the Middle Ages were becoming
more powerful and outspoken. So the male-dominated Christian church
hierarchy defined gender roles for men (masculinity) and women (femininity),
according to their interpretation of the St James Bible. "Gender" is a
derivation of the word "genesis", a word first used by Aristotle in Ancient
Greece to describe the origin of life or a living being. Use of the term
"gender" by the Christian Church of the Middle Ages promoted the concept
that God created woman to obey (be subservient to) man. Hence, according to
the Christian Church, a woman must behave a certain way towards a man, and a
man must behave a certain way towards a woman. These gender rules are
religious/cultural rules, not due to differences in anatomy, physiology or
biological behaviour that define the "sex" of a species.

As a biologist and an atheist, I also object to Christian values or terms
being applied to science. Even if I was religious (Christian or another
faith), there is no role for religion in biological studies.


Dr Stephen Ambrose
Ryde, NSW

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of Merrilyn
Sent: Tuesday, 22 January 2013 5:56 PM
Subject: sex, not gender

Hi Philip,
The characteristics that you mention in your second paragraph and the 
start of the third are physical, sexual, biological features. This goes 
for  humans as well as the other animals. You describe sexual 
differences, not gender differences. Bulls are male (not masculine) and 
cows are female (not feminine). The term 'gender' in this context is not 

On 22/01/2013 2:45 PM, Philip Veerman wrote:
> I will have another go. Of course as a biologist, I would always use the
> word sex, not gender, in the context that Denise did. However I thought
> response that this was wrong, to be harsh and unnecessary. It is a
> reasonable use and I believe not wrong.
> The main point is: where do you draw the dividing line. If humans have
> gender characteristics, surely the identical gender characteristics are
> shown in gorillas and chimpanzees, then what about monkeys, that are
> the same, then indeed most mammals. Who would deny that a bull is
> and a cow is feminine? Why not birds, indeed many insects and anything
> you would care to consider, such as the parts of plants that are different
> between male and females, all these have fundamentally the same masculine
> and feminine characteristics. Those are words about gender. These
> characteristics are dictated as a consequence of the difference in size,
> number and motility between eggs and sperm, or pollen and ova in plants.
> they are expressed in a myriad of ways, according to the lifestyle of the
> species but all come back to the same start point. Of course there is the
> peripheral complication of reversed sexual dimorphism in goshawks.
> So yes normally we would us the word sex in that context. However these
> gender characteristics occur throughout most living things and at their
> fundamentals, they are remarkably consistent. Therefore I see nothing
> with referring to them as gender things, even though it is a minor use and
> horribly confused with the complications of grammar use, such as that a
> is of the female gender and a car is male, or by gender defined genus (and
> family?) names or the female gender of a tropical cyclone. I even recall
> that in one other language, the word for vagina is male gender but I have
> forgotten the details. That just shows how silly this all is. Or the
> complication of prudishness against using the word sex, (though I'm not
> how important that is). Even though that gets messy, such as: "when did
> last have sex"? Well of course I have it right now (meaning I am still
> male).
> It is not unusual for words to have various meanings, even the opposite of
> what they should mean. Consider the word "temper": "He has a temper"
> mean he is a calm and actually temperate but it is used for the opposite.
> And don't get me started on "decimate", now often used as though it means
> devastate, instead of the trivial act of killing 10% of a population.
> Philip
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