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The Gender assumption March 4, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in contemplation, life, sport.

What is your default assumption of a person’s gender ? Weird question ? Read on.

Imagine this. You are reading a first person account whose author you don’t know. You read through 3-4 paras and by then you have a picture of what is going on and so far, nothing specific indicates the gender of the author. But you have already made an assumption that is not yet validated from the story. The assumption is (almost) necessary to picture what is going on. And then suddenly there is a mention and it turns out that your assumption was wrong. Is there a word for this feeling/situation ?

Thats what happened to me reading this article. Try reading it without looking at the author’s name, which gives it up.

<Gender spoiler ahead>

Consdier this sentence.

The lone woman, Marcy, who a few months later would fall on the snow and break her pelvis, offered to give me her old helmet.

When I first read this sentence, its was more of a schadenfreude. When I re-read the article knowing the gender of the author, I felt bad for Marcy ! Of course this is just one example, so its hard to say what is happening here.

Douglas Adam’s die hard fans ( which I am not one because I haven’t ever managed fiction, certainly not sci-fi ) know of his book – “The Meaning of Liff” – which is a “dictionary of things that there aren’t any words for yet”. Maybe there is a word for it, I don’t know. This is a site where people contribute their own “Liffs”. Take a look, funny some.

On a different note, this sentence was so typical :

I taught my son to ski when he was 5, holding him between my legs as we coasted down the bunny slope. By 12 he didn’t want to ski with me anymore. He’d stand at the bottom of the lift looking frustrated. “What took you so long?!”

If you are above 8 and reading this, you can so relate to this !



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