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Gender markers - a good idea?

I was just posting a reply when I had to stop and wonder what pronoun to use for a chowhounder. This happens quite a bit, especially when the username doesn't give any indications.

I think it would be useful to have some kind of feature that tells you whether you should be saying "he" or "she".

Though it can change how one interacts with another (yes, in an ideal world, it shouldn't); I see this happening anyway when someone's assumed the gender of another poster (sometimes incorrectly, which raises interesting ponderments - but that's another topic).

If you had the option, would you indicate your gender so that others know how to address you, or would you prefer to keep them guessing? If the latter, I'm curious to know why? (Just because I'm in a pondering mood)

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  1. I am happy to type "s/he" and his/her when a poster's gender is unclear, on the rare occasions when it may be relevant. My first name, which is not a unisex name, is in my profile. So anyone for whom that is important can find out. Since anyone who wanted to misrepresent themselves could easily do so, I see no point in a gender designation.

    1 Reply
    1. re: greygarious

      I don't see any point in a gender designation either, but I'm always very surprised if anyone should respond to my obvious gender as "he".

      The actor/actress stuff doesn't make inherent sense to me here in Qu├ębec.

    2. I use s/he to refer to a poster of indeterminate gender (objective case suggestions welcome - all I've come with so far is him/her, which is inelegant).

      1. I'm fine with s/he and find it amusing when people get my gender wrong. There have been some very funny instances where gender confusion has raised it's head...

        Ultimately I'm focused on the information, the sharing and the bits of personality that comes across the 'net is just icing on the cake. The gender of the poster is not of much relevance to me in this type of forum.

        1. I can not see why this would be even remotely relevant.

          1. I prefer to "keep them guessing"...or, in reality, I don't think it's any of their concern. I like interacting with internet people as just usernames of mostly indeterminate gender, and hey - if you really really wanted your gender known, you'd have chosen a username that makes it plain.
            I tend to go with "they" when referring to people, or sometimes default to the masculine *shrug*

            1 Reply
            1. re: Nudibranch

              Perfect response from a simultaneous hermaphrodite. (Love it, and them, by the way.)

            2. I don't think it's important. My gender hasn't been a factor in anything I've posted.

              1. My gender becomes apparent in my posts -- but it has absolutely no bearing on the discussions whatsoever.

                While it's amusing to think about, the bottom line is that I'm here for the discussions about food and the usually good conversation (communication skills are considerably higher than on some other boards...) I truly don't care either way what gender someone is.

                1 Reply
                1. I should add that I'm not campaigning for a feature like this, it was just a "that could be useful" musing earlier today.

                  I'm finding the replies interesting, and a little bit surprising! I guess because while it is primarily a food site, there is also a social element that I think is quite significant.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: ursy_ten

                    By how does someone gender play into the "social element" you think is "so significant"? I am not seeing how knowing someones gender would impact my social musings, conversations or interactions.

                    1. re: foodieX2

                      Ok, an example: sometimes when someone's gender was misjudged, the assumptions made and the language used revealed that the answer might have been worded differently, if the poster had judged the gender correctly... and it was awkward, or - discordant...

                      In an ideal world, it wouldn't matter either way, but that's not the world we live in.

                      It is interesting - because in the face to face world, it does matter, a lot. I know some gender queer people. It makes some people very uncomfortable if they can't figure out someone's gender. Even complete strangers who have nothing to do with them, can get quite upset.

                      Anyway, I digress. Totally different situation, really - but you can extrapolate sometimes...

                      Really it just originated in wondering which pronoun to use. Not a big deal. I just wanted to explore it.

                      1. re: ursy_ten

                        As you can read below, I think you and I are generally considering the same fundamental issue - assumption. I do agree that "in the face to face" it matters to some folks too much and, frankly, I hate it.

                        As to extrapolation, it is the best part of the best threads a lot of the time.

                        As to the pronoun use, I have two thoughts. First, if the other 'hound has made their genitalia clear, go with it. Second, in time, I am of the mindset that "communications" like those we have here will eventually allow the English language to develop a gender neutral pronoun. For now, s/he seems to work, but I'd prefer something like "xe" and "xis". I mean no one uses "actress" anymore in Hollywood.

                        1. re: MGZ

                          A third thought on pronouns, that I failed to note, is when in doubt, just use the other 'hounds name or some abbreviation of it. For example, "I think the OP has spawned an interesting conversation. I may have different opinions than ursy does, but it's not a bad topic to discuss."

                          1. re: MGZ

                            I did a curiousity google and came up with this: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_...

                            Sweden introduces new gender neutral pronoun - that was in April 2012. I wonder how it's going, whether it's being used much.

                          2. re: ursy_ten

                            I understand what you mean. I do not think it is relevant, and I don't care what gender people are. As well, I am sure I have incorrectly applied the wrong gender while replying to a poster and do hope I did not offend. One might say that my gender is clear by my user name, but I stole this user name from my husband. He used to use it on another site. His name is Justin (I am obviously Paula) and I bet people on that site thought he was a she. So, you never know.

                            Anyway, I was reading a thread the other day that got a little heated. One of the commenters went off on another commenter, asking why one would assume that she was a he. That was pretty irrelevent to the discussion and seemed like just a tiff-oriented thing to write, because who cares if someone accidentally refers to you by the wrong gender - on an internet board.

                            1. re: Justpaula

                              Yes, it's interesting how offended some people can get.

                              I guess (part of) my original thoughts were along the lines of: if we could eliminate that aspect and just get on with talking about food, that might be useful.

                          3. re: foodieX2

                            Just on Chowhound or are you like that in the real world also?

                        2. I too find it interesting when people guess my gender wrong, it's amazing how it does shade my replies differently to some. I vote to leave it that way, just for the novelty of it.

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: coll

                            Yeah, I didn't mean for it end up sounding like a feature request :)

                            It *is* interesting. For those I see on the boards regularly, I develop a "voice" in my head (my overactive imagination just does it automatically). It's easier to do that for those whose gender is known. It would be a fascinating experiment to pool peoples impressions of each other and see how accurate they are.

                            I used to read Greygarious as male, but I see above that I was wrong. It will be interesting to see how the "voice" changes in my head in future.

                            1. re: ursy_ten

                              "It *is* interesting. For those I see on the boards regularly, I develop a "voice" in my head (my overactive imagination just does it automatically). It's easier to do that for those whose gender is known, and it's easier to get a "feel" for a person if their gender is known, I think. It would be a fascinating experiment to pool peoples impressions of each other and see how accurate they are."

                              I have been a long time proponent of finding other 'hounds' "voices", as well as tryin' to communicate in mine. I just don't think that knowing someones sex is important to that.

                              1. re: MGZ

                                I guess it isn't really, after all - the topic is food. It's just an ingrained thing, a large part of how many of us relate to each other. I see it all the time, everywhere...

                              2. re: ursy_ten

                                Well, my stars and fiddle-dee-dee! ;-D You are not the first to mistake me for male. If it makes you feel better, I *am* somewhat feared in certain social and work circles. Mom was a feminist before Gloria Steinem was born!

                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    Funny... you are one of the two I guessed incorrectly in my post below; the other was scargod, who I learned has a lovely wife.

                                    1. re: greygarious

                                      By way of preface, I will disclose that I am a six foot tall, one hundred and eighty-five pound guy. I paid for college on the gridiron and have clothes from those days that still fit me. I shave once, maybe twice a week and live pretty much in jeans, tee shirts, and baseball caps (very few of which I have paid for - my approach to clothing is "ifit's free I'll wear it").

                                      A coupla years ago, our friend, Passadumkeg, refered to me as a lady. Quite honestly, I thought it was funny as sh*t, and oddly flattering. It meant that what I had been posting over the years transcended gender roles and therefore had increased value. To me, that's the way it should be.

                                      1. re: MGZ

                                        Funny. Scargod, one I guessed incorrectly, and Passa are good friends - they drove a Miata from the Southwest to Maine.

                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          Two hard core male foodies fit into a Miata together? What a visual:)

                                        2. re: MGZ

                                          "Quite honestly, I thought it was funny as sh*t, and oddly flattering. It meant that what I had been posting over the years transcended gender roles and therefore had increased value. To me, that's the way it should be."

                                          Exactly! I think you get a purer response in this type of format. No one is coloring their post with underlying preconceptions based on gender, race, ethnicity, etc.

                                          I have had a handful of unpleasant exchanges over the years. One it was very clear the poster thought I was male and responded extremely aggressively. Another thread had a poster assume I was female and respond with gender based comments. Both situations were interesting because it was clear that their perception of my gender strongly colored their reaction to my words.

                                          Unfortunately there are different expectations of the genders in many peoples minds. A great example is the office pot luck. IME if a woman brings a store bought item people think it's lame but often men are given a pass if they bring a bag of chips because they are a man. I love that here are able to avoid most of the silliness and shortchanging that assumptions create!

                                          1. re: MGZ

                                            I am always amused when I discover someone is the opposite gender than I had assumed. I kinda like it.

                                          2. re: greygarious

                                            Yeah, no one has ever guessed I'm female when nothing to the contrary is presented.

                                      2. For my two cents, I'd note that I have no interest in disclosing my gender outside of the words I choose to put on the "page". Moreover, I actually prefer not to know the gender of other 'hounds as well. One of the things that makes communication on this Site valuable is that no one can bring unearned* prejudices into the discussion.

                                        To elaborate, if "we" were havin' a "talk" in person, seeing me you might be more likely to grant credence to my comments about barbecue or shucking oysters than you would to my opinions on a Vietnamese restaurant or how to bake a cake. Here there are now unfounded assumptions. Knowledge prevails and benefits us all.

                                        *This is not to say that we haven't "earned" some prejudices from past discussions. For example, there are some "guys" on my local board who I trust for a recommendation for a great steak and others who I read to learn where to get the best Chinese, etc.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: MGZ

                                          Yes. I like what you said.

                                          To quote you: "I think you and I are generally considering the same fundamental issue - assumption. "

                                          But we are coming at it from different directions :)

                                          1. re: ursy_ten

                                            "But we are coming at it from different directions :)"

                                            That, my friend, is why we all keep comin' back to read this stuff.

                                        2. Being the owner of an androgynous name, I am the receiver of a lot of this. My fragile male ego has become resilient in response to the usual " I know a female with your name" statements.

                                          To those womyn or myn who need to sanitize everything and take the spice out of life, include me out.

                                          1. Maybe instead of having a profile page, we could each have an auto profile header when we write a comment, ha!

                                            Seriously though, I don't see any benefit to knowing gender, age, work history or expertise if the playing field is suppose to be level...if CH's want you to know their "story" they share it but making it mandatory is not something I would care about...save it for dating sites.

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: HillJ

                                              I am all for any level of anonymity a CH wants, for whatever reasons. It's not difficult to deduce gender based on style and content, although I have guessed incorrectly twice.
                                              I expect those who loathe me here are 50-50 by gender, but I really don't care.
                                              One can work-around with neutral pronouns.

                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                It's easy to enjoy you Veggo. Not caring about the BS is a lovable quality in a community of faceless but passionate food lovers.

                                                Oh and on my list of so what I'll gladly add appalled spell checkers.

                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                  Thanks, HillJ. As to spell checkers, I'm thinking of delucacheesemonger's thread that was brighter than a thousand suns for 3 days until it was collapsed. I shared my thought with him that posters should at a minimum, get the spelling in a new thread correct within 2 hours. Beyond that, I understand the English as a second language condition, but I abhor sloppiness. Errant keystrokes after a few glasses of wine are a foregivable sin.

                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                    LOL, then I've been forgiven quite a few x's!

                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                      Oh, for the days when Sam and I were simultaneously quaffing Flor de Cana, and alternating between CH and e-mails. Such good fun we had.

                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                        Good times, and boy do I miss them.

                                                    2. re: Veggo

                                                      I so miss deluca's thread . . . it was one of my favorite NAF topics of all time. I was fondly thinking of it upthread when a couple of guys or gals mentioned "hearing the voice" of a fellow CH.

                                              2. Although my gender is rather obvious, I don't find a "gender marker" to be of much value.
                                                The only time I've seen gender addressed on these boards, it's not been a good thing, generally speaking.

                                                2 Replies
                                                  1. re: wyogal

                                                    I agree, it's usually counter productive, genitalia speaking...

                                                  2. I actually recently got kind of annoyed at myself for indicating my gender in my name. I think it's a bit of a fascinating social experiment to see what gender people think I am when I'm truly anonymous (usually- a dude).

                                                    So, if I had the option, I'd actually obscure my gender rather than display it.

                                                    27 Replies
                                                    1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                      Send the Mods an e-mail and ask if you could drop the last four letters of your screenname.

                                                      1. re: MGZ

                                                        You made me laugh so hard with that!

                                                        Because so many men identify with floral names... ;-D

                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                          I spose you didn't know my screenname is short for Marigolds, Gladiolas, and Zinnias?

                                                          1. re: MGZ


                                                            And such flamboyant flowers they are.

                                                            1. re: mcf

                                                              Flamboyance is my thing. I even once wore a pink shirt (and it had a collar! Admittedly, Mom bought it for me, so I kinda had to)

                                                                1. re: MGZ

                                                                  my screen name represents a lovely bouquet of violets, Easter lilys, gardenia, goldenrod, and orchids, as anyone might have guessed.

                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                    Whereas mine is for macho female.

                                                                  2. re: MGZ

                                                                    I wear pink shirts (button-down) fairly often. Is there something wrong with pink shirts?

                                                                    1. re: Jay F

                                                                      Chicks dig 'em. That's good enough for me.

                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                        It just happens that pink is a good shirt color because of my skin tone, or so I've been told.

                                                                      2. re: Jay F

                                                                        Not at all - it's just that I'm kinda a black and blue guy. Moreover, wearin' collars is something I've avoiding for a decade now. Seein' me in a pink, collard shirt even frightened my wife. If you like, post your e-mail and I'll send the shirt in question to you. I'ts a 17/34 Polo broadcloth (I had to look that last part up).

                                                                        1. re: MGZ

                                                                          That's my size. I'll pay shipping. I like broadcloth in warm weather.

                                                                          1. re: MGZ

                                                                            Hi, MGZ - That's just my size.

                                                                            My e-mail is in my profile.

                                                                            Thanks so much, Jay

                                                                          2. re: Jay F

                                                                            Only that they're preppy. ;-)

                                                                            Seriously, NO, I love them, though DH has kind of put his foot down about them.

                                                                            If folks notice how good you look in them, I'd buy them by the dozen IIWY. :-)

                                                                            1. re: mcf

                                                                              People tell me I look good in pink button-down shirts, shirts that are a dark teal (usually small-p polo), and anything my friend Bill picks out for me.

                                                                              I like dark teal so much, I have a set dishes in this color, Juniper Fiestaware.

                                                                              Though my favorite color is green, when I wear any shade of green shirt that doesn't have some blue in it, my face and arms turn gray and unattractive.

                                                                          3. re: MGZ

                                                                            That counts as one pink shirt more than I've ever owned.

                                                                    2. re: MGZ

                                                                      The weird thing is, when I signed up, I didn't really know much about the site and didn't figure I'd be back, so I just wanted to choose any old name for the moment and I happened to be reading Eliot's "The Waste Land." I just grabbed the first thing there I saw that would fit.

                                                                      1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                        Me, too, about just being expedient, now I wish I'd created a chow related name, but it's been years.

                                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                                          At least there's mystery with "mcf." Might stand for "munching, chomping foodie," or "My Chowish Friend," or "mighty chewy farfalle."

                                                                        2. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                          I was pregnant with twins when I picked mine. Lost the babes but had to keep the name. I still feel weird about it.

                                                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                                                            I'm so sorry for your loss.
                                                                            For what it's worth, I always assumed it meant you were a superfoodie :)
                                                                            But MGZ suggested up-thread asking the mods if you can change it, not sure if you'd want to (I could understand either side of that), but it is an option.

                                                                            1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                              Thanks Hyacinth. It has been forever so I am used to it just feel weird when I the whole name thing comes up.

                                                                              I think I asked to have it changed way back when but don't remember what they said. I am sure with the new PTB and software updates I could get it changed but I think that might make me feel even weirder if that makes any sense, LOL!

                                                                          2. re: MGZ

                                                                            Alas, you can't change usernames, you have to re-register your account, and then you lose your posting history, etc.

                                                                        3. Don't really care what your gender is. It is of little value if I choose to respond to you.

                                                                          However!!!!!!! I do wish more folks would choose to disclose their location. Not 5555 Main Street, 4th house on the right Small Town USA... but at least SE U.S. or West Coast U.S. or Argentina, Brazil, Canada. Maybe the really brave could say New York, Montana, Texas, Washington etc. If you really wanted to throw caution to the wind....Dallas, Little Rock, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco etc. ~~~ I personally would find it helpful at times in giving suggestions, for sides, mains, etc. I would not suggest going to your local fresh fish market to someone who lives in Montana, but may suggest it to someone in Boston, or New Orleans.

                                                                          Repeating....I do wish more folks would 'choose' to disclose their general location.

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                                            Hey I'm from NY, what about it!

                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                              I'm sorry! Wish I could help! :))

                                                                              1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                                                I do like it here, actually.

                                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                                  I have a niece that likes it there too......well pretty good anyway :)

                                                                          2. To respond to your pondering mood (love that :-) btw) Nah, my gender is not important here. I think most folks who have been CHs for a while know that despite the male avatar (beloved Dean-o) that I'm a she. But to me, that makes no nevermind to what I post, so I wouldn't indicate my gender outright, nor would I expect others to do so.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: pinehurst

                                                                              Thank you pinehurst

                                                                              Sometimes my pondering gets me in trouble, but it's always an interesting journey :)

                                                                            2. People who care about having their gender known can use a gender-specific name and/or avatar. For example, your avatar suggests to me that you are a woman.

                                                                              Unfortunately, there's a long history on the internet of women being abused, harassed, discriminated against and even stalked on message boards, so many women prefer to hide their gender (I know one who posted on this site for many years under a male name).

                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                That's sh*tty. I have never seen anything like that here. In fact, I'd probably be a d*ck and step in - some ingrained notions die hard. I mean, I still hold doors.

                                                                                1. re: MGZ

                                                                                  No, it's not a problem I'm aware of on this board, but you might be interested in what you find if you google "women harassed on internet."

                                                                                  It's really hard to prove with specific examples, but some men will treat someone they perceive to be woman differently from the way they'd treat a man: women's ideas and opinions are often treated as less valid (not consciously, most people -- men and women -- are completely unaware of doing this). Most women have had the experience of having something they said ignored, and then when a man says something similar, everyone suddenly starts paying attention.

                                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                    It happens in real life, too.

                                                                                    It shouldn't, but it does.

                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                      Yes, it does. I didn't mean my remarks to apply solely to the internet. But the anonymity of the internet emboldens overt misogyny.

                                                                                2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                  Although, I've been assumed to be a guy on another site I use and have gotten boob pics sent to me by women asking for dates, so it seems guys get harassed too ;)

                                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                    Wow, I've been all over usenet and forums for almost two decades and not encountered that, nor ever thought of pretending to be male for safety.

                                                                                    I do think it's always wisest to protect one's privacy and that of one's family when online, in general. I've seen some nasty online situs blow up and lead to stalking, even arrests and court, but those were between men having pissing wars.

                                                                                  2. I've been online for nearly 20 years. Women online used to have to deal with a lot of inappropriate behavior, from come-ons to harassment to dismissal of our opinions. By force of habit, I choose gender-neutral usernames whenever I can. My sex has nothing to do with what I write here.

                                                                                    When referring to other posters, I almost always use their username rather than "he" or "she." It's not that difficult, and to me it actually feels more respectful of their online privacy. But then, I'm kind of the quintessential reserved New Englander.

                                                                                    17 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Allstonian

                                                                                      and I tend to use "he", simply because I had an old-school English teacher who insisted that when the gender is unknown, it's proper to use the masculine.

                                                                                      I sometimes add "or she", just because even though it's ingrained at this point, I bristle just a bit (at myself!!)... I just can't make myself like s/he, but I'd never nitpick somebody for it.

                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                        I don't like s/he, either, but I won't use "their" and I refuse to default to male. So it's what I use.

                                                                                        Or defer, for that matter. :-)

                                                                                          1. re: Servorg

                                                                                            I still don't like it, though I wouldn't correct others for using it. I'm still trying to stop clenching my jaw when I hear "your guyses.'"

                                                                                            Use of "their" is not universally acceptable, either, as this article, which states your point, discusses: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/26/mag...

                                                                                            1. re: Servorg

                                                                                              The problem with "their" is when it obviously refers to a singular subject.

                                                                                          2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                            Funny, when I was in law school in the 90s, the rule of usage that prevailed, and was taught, was to always use the feminine pronoun(s) in writings for a court or publication.

                                                                                          3. re: Allstonian

                                                                                            Using a Chowhound s/n makes it easy. Since we take the time to create a s/n, I like using them. Some profiles I have taken the time to read include a first name and if I feel that the Chowhound would welcome me using it, I'll refer to them by their first name.

                                                                                            But I think you've nailed it for me, that username whether you're a quintessential reserved New Englander (fun) or not (I'm not) makes conversation easy and easy to follow a thread.

                                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                                              responding to a username also helps cut down on (but sadly doesn't eliminate) the terse "but I wasn't talking to you" growling.

                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                Point taken. Not knowing if a comment is aimed at the original poster who started the OP or to anyone joining in is one of my pesky pet peeves about the design of these boards.

                                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                  yes, the "reply to" can ignite problems if you're not careful which poster you're replying to.

                                                                                                  I've been barked at more than once because I replied to a particular poster to put my comment into a logical position in the conversation.

                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                    Sometimes, if many comments in rapid reply happen to occur at once the position "your" comment falls in doesn't fall logically. Ever find that happens to you?

                                                                                                    And if the mods delete a specific comment out of a sequence, then I'm really lost. :)

                                                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                      We try not to do that, but sometimes new replies come in after we open a thread while we're still considering whether something needs to be nuked. If you see situations where there are weird orphaned replies that make no sense, please flag them for us. We can remove them and ask the poster to edit/repost somewhere where it'll fit better with the remaining conversation.

                                                                                                      1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                                                        Can do. Thanks for catching my comment. Nice to there are alternative solutions.

                                                                                                    2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                      It never hurts to quote what you're responding to in the reply.

                                                                                                      1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                        Oh, I've found that a touchy choice, MGZ.

                                                                                                        Some folks do not like be quoted or a portion of their comment reposted within your own immediately or after the fact.

                                                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                          a very wise man once told me that people are like cats. On seeing my puzzled expression, he continued that cats like to be petted, but they hate to be petted against the lay of their fur.

                                                                                                          But no matter how hard you try to always pet the cats the right direction, there are some cats that just keep turning around.

                                                                                              2. re: Allstonian

                                                                                                For obvious reasons, a number of people here have thought that I'm a woman. (My username, taken from the title of one of my favorite songs, is actually a reference to the first-generation musical instrument the Ondioline, invented by a Frenchman named Georges Jenny.) However, I can't say that I've ever noticed that this makes a difference in how my posts are received one way or the other.