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The perception of gender and how this conditions specific responses

This topic is split off from this topic,

Given the following request

Please be prepared: Discussing this, will in itself, be creating the conditions to get specific responses, many of which are unskillful and unwholesome. Please use this as an opportunity to gain clarity and move beyond this conditioning, and to check all responses, to ensure that they are well considered, and kind. It is to be anticipated that conditioned responses will be towards argumentativeness and heated debate about fixed views in this subject.

However, while this is an interesting topic, discussion of it comes second to our value of making sure that this is a safe and welcoming place for ALL participants. Our purpose is to provide access to the Words of the Buddha, (EBTs) for all people. If it looks like the discussion is becoming unwholesome, and counter-productive to the purpose of this site, the topic will be closed.

With metta :dharmawheel: :pray:

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You misrepresent what I said. I didn’t say either of those two. What I said was:

So the problem from a scientific point of view, isn’t your first criticism 1) that there are more than two sexes or your second criticism 2) that sexes simply do not exist. But it is a third way :wink: - 3) too many exclusive and sometime contradictory scientific definitions of male and female to make a binary choice possible without resort to scoring each individual trait and adding up the result.

In the old days they just looked at the infant and if it had what looked a bit like a penis, they would say “it’s a boy” and if it had what looked a bit like a vagina they would say “it’s a girl”. If they couldn’t distinguish or it looked like there was both, everyone would go very quiet. The science is much more precise and refined these days.

So in the spirit of science rather than ideology, I wonder if you could supply your definitions of ‘male’ and ‘female’ - maybe a list of those traits that you mention with the key indicators that mean that people fall into one binary or the other and also any threshold assumptions that make you make for each trait that you supply?

As I say, the health service (which is a scientific body - not prone to ideological thinking) in the UK, does give a list of these traits which are all sourced from the appropriate sub-divisions within biology (hormonal, some external physiology, some internal physiology, genetic, etc…). These are a variety of definitions of ‘male’ and ‘female’ from the sub-disciplines. The NHS also gives each one a sliding scale from 0-100 (maximum male-ness to maximum female-ness for each trait) for each of these traits, simply because that is what they can observe. Remember, the only reason to score these traits and state the resulting ‘binary sex’ of an infant is for legal (ideological) reasons. The labels woman/man is now becoming a very blunt instrument in terms of modern medicine. We are now looking towards medicine which caters to the physiology of the individual - from their genetics to their gut microbiome.

Maybe it’s all very different in your country? What I’m presuming from what you say, is that your list of traits just has two values 0 and 1 (male and female) for each trait. If so, then you must have many more (or perhaps like the old days, much fewer) traits on your list than our health service does. Further, I assume that all of the traits in your definition must fall on one side e.g. all the traits must end up ‘male’ for the infant to be categorised a male, otherwise from your point of view the person will be classified as having gone through some abnormal development in the womb? Remember, what’s considered ‘normal’ in this case has certainly changed very much in the last 50 years or so.

So if you can supply some definitions so that I can examine your assumptions, that would be great … and then I can maybe ask you some questions regarding this? This will help my understanding of what you are trying to suggest. Currently, without your definitions for male and female, I am finding your assertion difficult to understand in terms of current mainstream biology, with its sub-divisions and sometimes contradictory definitions of male and female within and between these sub-divisions.

I don’t suppose you could work your moderator magic and split off my reply above and the subsequent ones into another topic could you @Viveka ? Although for me, it is fundamental to the OP question, as the whole path is gendered because of a fundamental misunderstanding of gender which is perpetuated by modern EBT practitioners.

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So the problem from a scientific point of view, isn’t your first criticism 1) that there are more than two sexes or your second criticism 2) that sexes simply do not exist. But it is a third way :wink: - 3) too many exclusive and sometime contradictory scientific definitions of male and female to make a binary choice possible without resort to scoring each individual trait and adding up the result

A pretty standard definition of “male” is an individual who under normal circumstances would produce sperm.

In the old days they just looked at the infant and if it had what looked a bit like a penis, they would say “it’s a boy” and if it had what looked a bit like a vagina they would say “it’s a girl”. If they couldn’t distinguish or it looked like there was both, everyone would go very quiet. The science is much more precise and refined these days.

Which would be accurate in 95% or more of cases, in terms of sex.

So in the spirit of science rather than ideology, I wonder if you could supply your definitions of ‘male’ and ‘female’ - maybe a list of those traits that you mention with the key indicators that mean that people fall into one binary or the other and also any threshold assumptions that make you make for each trait that you supply?

See above.

As I say, the health service (which is a scientific body - not prone to ideological thinking) in the UK, does give a list of these traits which are all sourced from the appropriate sub-divisions within biology (hormonal, some external physiology, some internal physiology, genetic, etc…). These are a variety of definitions of ‘male’ and ‘female’ from the sub-disciplines. The NHS also gives each one a sliding scale from 0-100 (maximum male-ness to maximum female-ness for each trait) for each of these traits, simply because that is what they can observe. Remember, the only reason to score these traits and state the resulting ‘binary sex’ of an infant is for legal (ideological) reasons. The labels woman/man is now becoming a very blunt instrument in terms of modern medicine. We are now looking towards medicine which caters to the physiology of the individual - from their genetics to their gut microbiome.

My intimate experience of the NHS is that it can become influenced by ideology. Can you provide some links as to what you are referring to in the rest of your post here?

We need to know if someone is male or female as males or females can be prone to specific sex related conditions. Its not ideology. The advancement towards personalised medicine does not support the idea that humans are not sexually dimorphic, with intersex conditions as a 3rd.

mainstream biology, with its sub-divisions and sometimes contradictory definitions of male and female within and between these sub-divisions.

Mainstream biology recognises male, female and intersex.

In further discussing this topic, please keep it in context of the Topic “The perception of gender and how it conditions specific responses”, rather than a general discussion about gender differences.

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Non-perception of gender is recommended:

"Not delighting, not caught up in his masculinity, a man does not go into bondage with reference to women. This is how a man transcends his masculinity.

“This is how there is lack of bondage” —AN 7.48

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Sorry, I haven’t got anything to hand. You’ll need to do your own research on that. There was a discussion with some starting references on this forum a few years ago. I think everything is archived here, so you may find that by searching. It was quite a long topic if I remember correctly.

Yes. This we agree on. I think where we disagree is the number of models (perceptions) that are actually recognised by mainstream biology? I say there is more than one (hormonal, external physiology, internal physiology, genetics, etc…), whereas you are maybe suggesting there is only one model recognised by mainstream biology, that of sperm producer = male, everyone else = female / small probability of intersex? Is that a fair summary?

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@Viveka

I just read the post of @paul1 and perhaps the title does shift things somewhat. I have no issue with the change in emphasis from speech to perception. Thanks for closing the previous one.

It seems this is perception of gender as a binary Male and Non-Male (the latter including some otherwise recognized as male but qualify as azoospermic, as well as all females and some inter-sex). Is that correct representation of this definition?

Sperm producing/non-sperm producing does not appear to be compatible with male, female and intersex.

As a materialistic definition, it seems to be problematic, even just for humans, let alone other biological forms. As a cultural definition, it fixes on one point to define point of view.
From standpoint of Vinaya, it would appear to make the ordination questions possibly unanswerable for many scrupulous aspirants who have not participated directly in reproduction.
And perhaps that weakness can point towards a better (more useful, more skillful) perception?

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Dear Fiona, I think that there are a number of different ways of perceiving gender. Since your thread focussed on right speech I think that shifting discussion about sex and gender (if people really feel that they have to hash this over again :frowning: ) is quite a skilful thing to do.

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Thanks Gillian, not sure how you can evaluate perception without relying on speech and language. They typically are the expression of our perceptions. However, I am relieved to be out of this dukkha of trying to change the world.

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Another area that I’m just reading about, and you might interest you too @Ceisiwr is the history of sex verification in sport and how this has changed over time. So this is a case where a specific idea drives our perception of sex. The reason that the tests (which have changed considerably over the past 50 years or so) are performed is so that certain individuals are excluded from participating in competitions that have the labelling “women” associated with them. So people entering sports labelled “male” are not tested. So, for the purposes of sport, anyone can be a male (no one questions it), but you need to pass a test to be considered a female.

One interesting note in the current climate is that it appears (from wiki) that: “Non-white female athletes are disproportionately targeted for sex verification testing because they are judged against a white standard, so clear discrepancies will often be found”

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Yes. This we agree on. I think where we disagree is the number of models (perceptions) that are actually recognised by mainstream biology? I say there is more than one (hormonal, external physiology, internal physiology, genetics, etc…), whereas you are maybe suggesting there is only one model recognised by mainstream biology, that of sperm producer = male, everyone else = female / small probability of intersex? Is that a fair summary?

I would say that focusing upon one aspect, say genetics, is a poor method to reach a definition of “male” or “female”.

that of sperm producer = male, everyone else = female / small probability of intersex? Is that a fair summary?

Those who would have produced sperm/eggs under normal development/circumstances, yes. Those with a mix of female and male traits being intersex, yes.

Another area that I’m just reading about, and you might interest you too @Ceisiwr is the history of sex verification in sport and how this has changed over time. So this is a case where a specific idea drives our perception of sex. The reason that the tests (which have changed considerably over the past 50 years or so) are performed is so that certain individuals are excluded from participating in competitions that have the labelling “women” associated with them. So people entering sports labelled “male” are not tested. So, for the purposes of sport, anyone can be a male (no one questions it), but you need to pass a test to be considered a female.

That is interesting. Being a total ignoramus when it comes to do with anything to do with sport I’ll have to take your word for it.

One interesting note in the current climate is that it appears (from wiki) that: “Non-white female athletes are disproportionately targeted for sex verification testing because they are judged against a white standard, so clear discrepancies will often be found”

Sounds vague at the moment.

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It seems this is perception of gender as a binary Male and Non-Male (the latter including some otherwise recognized as male but qualify as azoospermic, as well as all females and some inter-sex). Is that correct representation of this definition?

Male and female binary with intersex as the third. My definition would include azoospermic individuals as male.

Sperm producing/non-sperm producing does not appear to be compatible with male, female and intersex.

Male = Under normal development/function would be sperm producing.

Female = Under normal development/function would be egg producing.

Intersex = Traits from both sexes due to abnormal development.

As a materialistic definition

My answers so far have been strictly in terms of science, which is materialistic. From a classical Theravadin perspective the Abdhidhamma only recognises the dhammas of masculinity and femininity and those who have a mix of both. In terms of the EBT only males, females and ubhatobyanjanakas (intersex) are recognised in terms of sex. In terms of gender apart from “man” and “woman” pandakas are also recognised, which seems likely to be defined as men or women who are gender non-conforming in some way. For example, a male pandaka seems to refer to men who are sexually deficient in some way, thus compromising their masculinity, or behave in an “unmanly” manner such as by being a passive, likely effeminate, homosexual.

it seems to be problematic, even just for humans, let alone other biological forms

I am only discussing humans here, not other species.

From standpoint of Vinaya, it would appear to make the ordination questions possibly unanswerable for many scrupulous aspirants who have not participated directly in reproduction.
And perhaps that weakness can point towards a better (more useful, more skillful) perception?

The Vinaya has a ban on ordaining certain types of male pandakas, likely those who are seen to have compromised their masculinity/do not display enough of their gender conforming masculinity. So, when the Vinaya asks “are you a man” it seems to mean “are you a real man” according to the idea of what it means to be a “man” at the time of the Blessed One. The same understanding can be applied to women.

… “under normal development/circumstances” some people have never produced sperm, do not produce eggs, are probably not “a mix of female and male traits”.

Do those people have gender?
Is gender a transitory trait for most “women”, and never a trait for some?
Do men who produce no sperm have no gender?

This biological definition based on sperm, or other impermanent characteristics, seems problematic, because if those characteristics, it seems that there’s only lingering mental fabrication to define gender.
It seems a problem of logic. Either

  • if X is not there, Y cannot be there,
    OR
  • if X is there or not there, it does not determine if Y is present, except under a construct view called Normal.

Developmentally, it seems, non-“Normal” seems typical… not “abnormal” at all. This also suggests a View, rather than thinfs as they are, with anicca and anattā.

Just some of my thoughts at the moment. I think I have to retire from the discussion, it’s a dfficult day and I fear I ramble! Best wishes for examination leading towards liberation.

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A question

A lot of effort goes into definitions here. The descriptions of categories are not reality in themselves, but often seem to be adopted as ‘reality’.

Why is it so important to define these so precisely? Where does this craving come from? Is it something to do with identification - of building a self? Is this wise attention? Does it help or hinder the N8fp?

Especially in light of

Note: italicised additions are my own

Metta :slight_smile:

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For me, because those definitions can lead to a group being marginalized, discriminated against, persecuted.

Being gay is defined as a crime and gay men are chemically castrated.

Being gay is defined as an illness and gay people are subjected to conversion therapy.

Autism has been defined as illness. But now autistic people are speaking up and calling it neuro diversity.

Viewing women as the “weaker sex” or any definition that defines them as “not man” has consequences.

Writing that uses man as the default gender is exclusive to women. So you add non-gendered language to the to a text. :wink:

Marginalized groups are regularly defined as abnormal in some way, thereby justifying the marginalization.

Anyway, that’s why I think it is so important.

I suppose that depends on your goal. :slightly_smiling_face:

In my case it definitely hinders it. :rofl:

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Possibly the reason that I am finding this discussion hard to follow is that the words sex and gender aren’t being clearly differentiated. (I note that that OP is The perception of gender… .)

The distinction between sex and gender differentiates a person’s biological sex (the anatomy of an individual’s reproductive system, and secondary sex characteristics) from that person’s gender, which can refer to either social roles based on the sex of the person (gender role) or personal identification of one’s own gender based on an internal awareness (gender identity).
Source: Sex and gender distinction - Wikipedia

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Letting go of the concept of male/female binary makes it incredibly easy not to delight or get caught up in anything associated with that view. For example masculinity of femininity.

By the process of examining the definitions that we hold, we can often see that they have little or no basis in reality. The process can shine light on where these definitions are useful to use and where they are not useful or even harmful to use. Those underlying definitions, when left unexamined can support our biases. When examined they can undermines our biases.

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Thanks for the responses :smiley: I’m not answering because I meant them more as stimulus for reflection, rather than wanting to take an active part in the discussion :pray:

With much metta and karuna,
May all beings be free from suffering

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How to change cognitions (perceptions):

“The crucial point, from a meditative perspective, is that cognitions are amenable to a process of training.44 The ability to train cognitions is related to the fact that cognitions are the outcome of mental habits. By way of cognitive training, one can establish new and different habits and thereby gradually alter one’s cognitions. The basic procedure for such cognitive training is related to the same habit-forming mechanism, namely to becoming accustomed to, and familiar with, a certain way of viewing experience.45 By directing awareness again and again to the true characteristics of conditioned existence, these will become more and more familiar, imprint themselves onto one’s way of viewing experience, and thereby lead to the arising of similar ways of cognizing on future occasions.

[…]

To give a practical example: if, on the basis of an intellectual appreciation of impermanence, one regularly contemplates the arising and passing away of phenomena, the result will be the arising of aniccasaññã, of cognitions apprehending phenomena from the viewpoint of impermanence. With continued practice, awareness of impermanence will become increasingly spontaneous and have an increasing influence on one’s daily experiences, outside of actual contemplation. In this way, sustained contemplation can lead to a gradual change in the operational mechanics of cognition, and in one’s outlook on the world.”—-“Satipatthana,” Analayo

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