The idea for this survey came from a statement that “everybody” knows that a woman is an adult human female. I attempted to find research on people’s perceptions of sex and gender but drew a blank, so decided to set up my own little survey to collect people’s views. It is not scientific, it is heavily biased and the dataset is very small. I acknowledge all of these limitations, but none the less, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to gain a snapshot of what people’s views were.
Data Collection and Sampling
The data was collected using the Survey monkey online survey tool (free version). Unfortunately because of the limitations of the free version, only 100 responses were able to be collected. The data was collected via a web link to survey and was anonymous. Links to the survey was posted on my personal facebook page and shared with a gender critical facebook group and a scottish independence facebook group; and on my twitter feed with six retweets.
Data Analysis processing
Data was manually extracted from Survey Monkey then manually inputted into a google spreadsheet. The data input was double checked for errors.A small number of “other” responses were recoded into the predetermined categories, another category (of “Genetics”) was also added in the question “What determines sex”, due to a number of people identifying this as the determining factor in the “other” box. Details of these re-codings are given at the description of each of the questions.
The data was extracted in a .csv format from Google docs and then imported into Datacracker for analysis. A number of people only answered the demographic questions, but did not answer the opinions questions. These were discarded for the full analysis.
100 people in total responded to the survey, of those 100, only 82 gave answers to the last three questions and consequently were excluded from the analysis. This was a design flaw in the survey which should have forced answers to all questions. An additional 5 people responded “other and gave non-commital answers such as “unsure” or “I dont know”, these were re-coded to missing and excluded from the substantive responses. The tables below show the sex, assigned sex and gender breakdown of the participants, first for all respondents (n=100) and then for substantive respondents only (n=77)
What is your sex?
Two respondents answered “other” One of these respondents answered the question “What is sex” as “The sex you were assigned at birth”, consequently their sex was recoded from other to match their sex assignment as given in the following question. The other respondent explained their response by “I dont think that “sex” necessarily fits into these neat categories without reference to gender”.
Which sex were you assigned at birth?
One respondent declined to answer this question (shown in dataset as “-”).
What is your gender?
Three respondents answered “other”. Two (“Gender is a construct, I am a male” and “Biologically designated “man”?”) were recoded as missing data (shown in dataset as “-”), another (“I am neither a man nor a woman”) was recoded to Genderqueer.
People whose sex was in alignment with both their assigned sex and the gender expected of that sex were considered cis for the purposes of this analysis, while people who had mismatches between their sex, assigned sex and gender were considered trans. A new variable was calculated to reflect the this. Those who had not answered all the demographic questions were considered as missing data and recoded to “-”
Surprisingly, given that women tend to discuss issues of gender more than men, more of the survey respondents were men than women, although more men than women declined to give substantive answers and were consequently excluded from the final analysis. All of the men who responded were cis, and only one trans woman responded, but did not give substantive answers and was excluded from the final analysis. Very few trans people (n=6) completed the survey, of which two did not give substantive answers to the final three question are were excluded. All trans people (n=4) who were included in the final analysis were genderqueer and all of the men and women who were included were cis.
What determines a person’s sex?
Seven respondents in the substantive dataset selected the “other” box. Three people gave “other” explainations which specified genetic or chromosomal factors (“Chromosomes”, dominant chromosomal make up, “Genes”) those were re-coded to give a new category of “Genetic”. One was recoded to Assignation (“identity and others’ perception follow from assigned sex”) and one to Identity (“What they say it is”). The two remaining “others” both cited a range of factors.
The majority of people believed that the determinant of sex was either identity (38%) or reproduction (30%). Neurological factors were considered to be determining by more cis women and trans people than cis men. All of those who considered the determinant of sex to be either reproduction or genetic were cis, while fewer trans people than cis people considered it a matter of identity than cis people.
What determines a person’s gender
Five substantive respondents answered “other”. Two (“their sex and/or their gender identity”; “What they say it is“) were recoded to Identity, while another was recoded to Perception (“The social class they inhabit- if they live/are treated as that gender”). Three people answered “other”, all citing multiple factors (“Mainly a mix of social context and self-determination.”, “A combination of social and psychological factors”, “All above ??”)
Three quarters of respondents considered that gender identity was the strongest determining factor for gender. This was reasonably consistent between men, women and trans genderqueer people. Women were more likely to consider that perception was a determining factor of gender. Nearly 10% of cis people considered that neurological factors determined gender, and 5% considered sex assignation but no trans people did. Over 10% of cis men considered that reproduction was the determining factor for gender, by contrast no cis women or trans people did. Three people answered “other”, both citing multiple factors (“Mainly a mix of social context and self-determination.”, “A combination of social and psychological factors”, “All above ??”)
What is sex by What is gender
Nearly a third of participants thought that both sex and gender were a matter of identity, while 3 each thought that they were either both determined through neurology, or both through reproduction. A substantial proportion considered that while sex was a matter of reproduction, gender was determined by identity.
Are sex and gender essentially the same thing?
Five “other” responses were recorded. One was recoded to Yes (“sex is male/female, gender is masculine/feminine; one is what you are the other is how you are”), while another was recoded to No (“No. Someone may have a different gender to that traditionally associated with their sex.”).
The remaining three “other” responses were
“They are strongly interlinked social concepts, although it seems to me that sex tends to be conceptualised more along the lines of embodiment, and gender more along the lines of performance.”
sex is biological; gender is cultural
No, because I don’t think gender exists in the same solid way that sex does. I was raised in a feminist household and ‘gender’ was something i was taught to oppose, to break down. Beyond the physical differences, and the way they can biologically and (i am learning) neurologically affect us, I don’t think gender exists. Its a bunch of social signifiers attributed to the sexes. I see no point in pursuing the differences that do exist into a theory of difference when fighting patriarchy. I also feel oppressed by this as a bisexual, violent when politically necessary but essentially soft, sensitive, compassionate man; I feel like i’m being told I am “queer” or “more feminine” – I want to be accepted as who I am, and not silenced into pre-existing social categories that im trying to debunk. The women in my life are also oppressed by this, and told to be ‘more feminine’ to get along, to get ahead, to fit in – this shit is coming from both sexists and supposed feminists. What the fuck. I fully respect a trans persons chosen name and pronouns, that’s just manners. Why does it have to go beyond that? I feel like its making gender more important than equality. Most trans people just want to get on with their lives, but are now being encouraged to be really problematic – people i knew who were basically apolitical/left, now wading into the feminist movement to attack women they are nowhere near understanding or being on parity with. In the last few years it is UNDENIABLE that to be outwardly wearing signifiers of your non assigned gender has become more and more popular on the left, and I do not believe many of these people are really trans at all, but trying to use the issue to make a public statement of their opposition to sexism. It’s unfair on trans people, women, gay people, and the whole left who get attacked one way or the other.
Cis men were much more likely to be cis-centric than cis women, Over 10% of cis men considered that sex and gender were necessarily linked and unchangeable while no cis women felt the same way; 22% of men but only 9% of women felt that although they were necessarily linked, a person could change both their sex and gender together through the process of transition.
Of those who did accept that some people did have a different gender to that traditionally allocated to their sex, men were much more likely to consider that this would be a very small number (22%) than women (9%) or that. The vast majority of women – nearly 80% – considered that sex and gender were not necessarily linked, in contrast to less than 50% of men. 75% (n=3) of transpeople considered that they were not necessarily linked, with one transperson answering “other”.
So, to answer the fundamental question “Does everybody know that a woman is an adult human female?“, it would appear not, only a very small proportion of people know this, and all of the people who know this fact are cis men. No woman who answered this survey knew this; no person who is female knows this and no-one who is trans knows this. The only people from this survey who knew this were a very small minority of cis men. Which really begs the question if the “knowledge” of a minority of cis men is really knowledge at all.
The vast majority, particularly women, considered gender a matter of identity, and no cis woman in this survey and only a small proportion of men considered that sex and gender were linked and unchangable.
Only 9% of women, compared with 33% of men, believed that sex and gender were always associated with one another – all of these women considered that this could be changed through a process of transition, but only two thirds of men agreed. Only 9% of women compared with 11% of men considered that there were only a small number of cases where people may be of a different gender than that traditionally associated with their sex.
There were no radical feminists who did not accept the existence of trans people in this survey. This is surprising not only because “TERFs” are often considered the main barrier for trans liberation, and a major site of activism for trans activists, but also because one of the places that this survey was posted was in a gender critical discussion group which has a high proportion of radical feminists within it, so might be considered a likely place for radical feminists who are hostile to trans people to inhabit.
This is of course, a tiny and massively biased survey of my mates, gender critical feminists, supporters of scottish independence and randoms, but never the less it demonstrates that people are breaking the link between sex and gender, and no longer considering one necessarily entails the other.