Males say blue

> Part of the motivation for this line of inquiry was the following
> question that Kessler and McKenna pose:
>      Rather than asking people to notice or describe the typical and
>      atypical behaviors of their own and other gender... information
>      could be gathered on which, if any, nonverbal behaviors are
>      "conditions of failure." In what nonverbal ways could a person
>      behave such that her/his gender is questioned? (1978: 157)
> Rather in line with Kessler and McKenna's own findings that there
> ultimately is no single defining quality that distinguishes a man
> from a woman, my findings, as Shadowschild also noted, would
> suggest that neither is there one single quality or action that all
> by itself is a condition of failure to present either a male or
> female character.
Is there a 'single defining quality' that reveals when a person's gender is being questioned? Why would one suppose that 'Are you a man?' would be any more indicative than one's own saying 'I am a man'? And if the use of a forthright q such as that is 'gendered,' can acting ambiguously be a strategem to sort out which other personas are crossed?
> The question then remains, ... why that is so important for
> players to know? A part of that answer is simply that without an
> actual body present for reference, most people feel at least
> slightly at unease. Another part is that playing a character is
> often a very personal experience and the IC and OOC experiences are
> not that readily separable. The relation between two characters
> thus implies the relation between the two players behind them.
> Gender is such an integral part of how we interact with people that
> its absence, or rather the uncertainty about it, causes trouble
> with how we should relate and thus how we should communicate with
> that other person. If the gender is not simply available, or if it
> is "neutral," as is the "spivak" gender category on MOOs, then
> everything we do or say needs some extra thought, since the
> communication does not fall within regular, everyday patterns of
> speech, as a nineteen year old male player indicates:
> ... Uncertainty about or absence of gender thus influences
> communication as surely as the presence of gender does and in order
> to facilitate the communication players try to resolve the question
> of the other player's gender, so that they may speak easily and
> in/with their habitual speech patterns.
Does your participatory methodology let you separate the two uncertainties: yrs (in writing a character whose gender is either 'put on' or left off altogether) and hyrs, in reading mixed/ absent genderizing signals? If not, is there anything else to say but that the nearest thing to a person-defining quality is not gender but confidence (= not needing extra thought)?

kerry, etymologizing


Posted 21 Apr 1999 to Cyberculture as "Re: RFC: males say blue"

logos links future demos past
Comments? Contributions? Write to Serchan.