What is anobbmo you ask? I have been inspired by Ella Fitzgerald to create the acronym, anobbmo, which is short for: "Ain't NObody's Business But My Own." No doubt, it will be a challenge to slip "anobbmo" into my everyday conversation (though it would look pretty snazzy on a text message). But I intend that this new, indispensable acronym should be used mainly in the sex and gender drop-down menus that are nearly universally used in web-based business registration forms.
I hereby request that anobbmo be added to every you-must-fill-out-this-info-before-you-can-join-our-website data form. Whenever I am forced to choose between only two menu options for sex and gender questions, I feel my personalized, wide -- and wild --definitions for both sex and gender are unacknowledged and my actual identifications are unimportant.
I suppose I could have chosen an acronym derived from, "I Prefer Not To Say," but IPNTS is difficult to pronounce (it sounds like a sneeze!) and it's message does not reflect back to the business owners that they -- in many instances -- have no business asking me about my private identifications when it comes to sex and gender, and that our mutual business together can be satisfactorily conducted without trespassing on my privacy. So, from now on I am taking my new word, anobbmo, to the internet and will use it when I can determine which business owners do NOT need to know my sex and gender in order to complete our business together.
I believe company owners should not be asking about anyone's sex and gender (not to mention other personal facts) unless they can certify that their ability to deliver services of equal quality to all people is somehow compromised by not knowing this information. To help promote important sex- and gender-fair business practices, I have composed a letter (see below) to any company owner who requests private information about sex and gender from their clients.
But before you see more of my suggestions, my blog-friends, here are two questions I have for you: What is YOUR experience when you encounter the two-choice sex and gender questions? And how would YOU design drop-down menus to improve your experience when registering with web-based companies? See how your thoughts compare with mine in my letter to Business Owners below.
P.S. The next word I want to add to my vocabulary is quattruornovemgintillion (pronounced) which would NOT look snazzy in a text message but would be awesome to use in conversations! (see below for an explanation...)
Dear Business Owner,
In our diverse social world the meanings of sex and gender are complex. Creating an information gathering technique that satisfies your need to have information, while at the same time reflects the true diversity found in your clientele IS possible if you: avoid the two-choice (e.g., female/male) sex and gender questions and allow for greater sex and gender expressions and identifications. Here are some suggestions that might help you find your way through these important sex and gender language issues.First, I would like to clarify, once and for all, if you need to ask about gender, then "female" and "male" may not be among the choices you offer because these terms refer to biological sex, not gender. Many academic and popular voices alike are unequivocal: sex and gender are not interchangeable words and your mixing them up not only confounds and weakens your data, but also, may irritate your clients who understand the difference between these terms.
Second, if you need to ask about biological sex, then "female" and "male" may be among your choices (see "Sex" checkboxes above). If you need to ask about gender, however, then "feminine" and "masculine" may be among your choices (see "Gender" checkboxes below).
At this stage in our academic, as well as, popular evolutions in the definitions for sex and gender, company owners who force clients to choose between only two options risk collecting misleading statistics as their clients may only choose, willy-nilly, one of two ill-fitting options when they do not see a more applicable choice available.
Third, it is important to ask yourself: "Do I really need to ask about sex or gender?" "Are your clients' sex and gender -- per se -- part of YOUR business?" For example, some owners might claim they need to ask for this information so owners can use the correct pronouns, she or he, when writing about the client. In that case, if pronoun usage is the only instance when your delivery of a business service might be compromised by not knowing someone's sex or gender, why not simply ask the client which pronouns are preferred? English speakers are well aware of English pronoun language limitations, so why not give a choice to your clients about how they would like to be addressed? (see example below).Still other business owners may believe they need to know the biological sex of their clients in order to maximize company profits by focusing on biological sex when creating ads. But given that clients are becoming more conscious of the greater meanings and diversity of their sex and gender and, also, are becoming more knowledgable about their internet privacy rights, business owners who continue to use forced, two-choice sex and gender drop-down menus and unnecessarily refer to the biological sex of their clients, will increasingly drive potential clients away with irritating and out-dated web-based registration practices long before a sale -- and profits -- can be made.
Of course, if you need to collect data on sex and gender (e.g., because you are providing a dating service, or offering a sexually-related healthcare protocol, etc.) and want to provide your clients with the very best and most diverse sex and gender checklist, you can do no better than to go to Yay genderform! and have your clients complete the 947 options, that -- as the Yay genderform! folks claim -- will give you a total of 1.1896×10285 or 1.1 quattruornovemgintillion possible combinations and ways to identify and describe your clients' sex and gender. In fact, YOUR filling out this form would be a great way to help you realize how much the out-dated, forced, two-choice sex and gender options are limiting, inaccurate, and inappropriate.
In conclusion, if you do these three things: (a) routinely ask yourself why -- or if -- you need sex and gender information; (b) respect the different -- and diverse -- meanings of sex and gender; and (c) offer checkbox options that allow for accurate -- as opposed to forced and only approximate -- responses from your clients, then you will be well on your way to collecting accurate and useful data, demonstrating your understanding of your clients' diversity, and respecting their need for privacy. By following these three guidelines YOU can be a business leader who sets the bar high for accurate, respectful, and restrained (need-to-know only) collection of personal information about sex and gender.
I hope these suggestions help you in designing your data collection forms. I wish you every business success.Yours sincerely,Dr. Jessica Motherwell McFarlaneInstructor, Psychology of GenderUniversity of British Columbia____________________________________________
The Gender Companion, copyright 2011 – Dr. Jessica Motherwell McFarlane, Ph.D. This blog is a companion site for the Psychology of Gender Online, UBC. Creative commons attribution, non-commercial sharing only (translation: feel free to quote me in context or use this entry but please always credit me for my work, thanks.)http://thegendercompanion.blogspot.com/ See also Psyc 320 course description: http://ctlt.ubc.ca/distance-learning/courses/psyc/psyc320/