Dear Feminist Scientists: How do you speak truth to gender binaries on questionnaires?
As part of our ongoing “Dear feminist scientists and science-y feminists” series, we have a new question to answer!
Ashley Symons writes
My department’s general consent forms still ask participants’ ‘gender’ and then provide a binary male/female option. Is it being nit-picky that this bothers me? If you were a Masters student (and therefore had absolutely no authority), what would you do in this case?
So, the first thing I’d do is recommend is our “Can a Questionnaire be Feminist” post. But this questioner already gets some of those points, namely that offering only a binary option doesn’t map onto the world, which includes people of non-binary genders/sexes. I’d also reiterate that ‘male/female’ isn’t recommended in guidelines for human research because it describes aspects of people and not whole people – and I would add that it suggests a focus on biological (sex) factors over identity or social ones (gender or gender/sex). Moreover, other scholars have pointed out that putting the ‘male’ before ‘female’ puts, um, men first. So why not mix it up? But back to the question! Which has a few parts
- Is it being nitpicky to be bothered by a department structuring their questionnaires to include a male/female binary?
- How might this student address this structure given that their position is structured to have low/no-authority?
Those are some good questions. What does the community think? Feminist scientists? Science-y feminists? If you’re junior, what might you do? If you’re in a more-power position, what might you advise? What might work with you?