Gender or Sex?
Labels disable - as the saying goes. But some words or labels have specific meanings that for some reason we refuse to use.
As a scientist I cringe when I hear of information or ideas spreading through a school “by diffusion" or even worse “by osmosis" and don’t get me started on “our department/school has grown organically" - aaarrrgghh!!!
However as we wait for the analysis of examination results, I am typing this with the annual sense of dread over the inevitable graphs that we are going have forced down our throats. Not the graphs (however much Excel-fu is needed to make sense of them) - no, the choice of segmentation category of data. Specifically grouping data in to Male and Female, boy and girl categories.
Boy / Girl & Male / Female
Sex is the biological (genetic) difference between XX (female) and XY (male) - regardless of outward appearance, sexual orientation or psychological self identification. It is a scientific fact - you are either Male or Female (Ok, there are some exceptions, X, XXY and XYY - but they are rare genetic conditions).
Gender is a construct including sex that takes into account physical, biological, mental and behavioural characteristics. The individual can self identify a gender.
Hence, we can have gender reassignment surgery - not a sex change. A sex change would require our genetic make up to be altered.
I’m not being a pedant - this matters.
In GCSE / A-level science, writing gender when you mean sex would not be credit worthy. Ditto Psychology, sociology.
But it seems that the word gender has become a synonym for the word the sex
But yet we happily talk about sexism, being sexist. Odd that we don't accuse people of being genderist
Back to school data.
At this time of year, we start to hear about the gender differential in school data. Really? Or do we mean sex differential?
Did those learners grouped as female - get a choice in the matter (gender) or have they been grouped like this since they started school, based on their birth certificate (sex)?
Call to action
Do you have a gender differential or a sex differential in your data?