Serko Travel’s Default Genders

I just signed up to a corporate Serko Travel account. Title and Gender were mandatory fields. There were no gender-neutral options (like Mx). And, every time I chose a Title, they chose a default Gender for me.

Here’s what Serko sets as your default gender, based on your title:

data-defaultmale option
true Admiral
true Baron
false Baroness
true Bishop
true Brother
true Captain
true Colonel
true Commander
false Dame
true Dr
true Earl
true Father
true General
true His Excellency
true Hon
false Hon Dame
true Hon Dr
true Hon Jus
true Hon Prof
true Hon Sen
true Hon Sir
true Judge
false Lady
true Lieutenant
true Lord
false Madam
true Major
true Master
false Miss
true Mr
false Mrs
false Ms
true Pastor
true Prof
true Rabbi
true Reverend
true Rt Hon
true Sen Hon
true Senator
true Sergeant
true Sir
false Sister
true Viscount
false Viscountess

Yes, that truly is “data-defaultmale”.

#DistractinglySexy: Women Scientists and Systemic Bias

Women Scientists Are Tweeting "Sexy" Photos Of Themselves At Work To Shut Down Sexism.

Women get paid 83% as much as men.* That’s a 17% loss of female earning capacity (real jobs or real pay that women have lost just for being women).

So compare this ongoing, systemic discrimination** against women with a very few, very sexist men losing their jobs.

If 17% of men lose their jobs over being sexist and male, then that’s an interesting statistic.

When 17% of men lose their jobs over just being male, then I’ll agree there’s something terribly wrong.

That said, I am a white man who benefits from systemic bias in many ways. I sometimes say stupid, discriminatory things. I don’t always realise. I’d hope to be told what I’d done, and given a chance to change.

I recently did the Old-Young and Gay-Straight Harvard Implicit Association Tests. It turns out I have implicit positive associations with being young and straight. Which is tough when I’m getting older (and gayer!) If you’re interested in your own implicit biases, and willing to be disturbed, give them a try.

After missing a week or so of blogging, I’m trying a new strategy – less-than-perfect drafts! Let me know how it goes, or if I mess anything up.

  • Yes, I rounded up.

** In orchestral auditions, the impact of gender on assessment is 50%.

Stereotyping Families

“When your kid has a new friend, don’t ask ‘What do your friend’s mommy and daddy do?’ Ask what their parents do”
from How not to raise a homophobe: A straight parents guide..

It’s good advice: avoid assuming that every child has a male and female carer. But it falls into exactly the trap it’s trying to avoid: assuming too much about someone else’s family.§

What about children whose parents were never married, separated, divorced, or bereaved?#
What about blended or polyamorous families?
What about children who live with their extended families, or are in foster care?
We just can’t assume that every child (or, for that matter, every person*):

  • has more than one carer,
  • has at most two carers,
  • has exactly one family~,
  • lives in only one household,
  • or lives with a (biological) parent!

And, more broadly, we just can’t assume that every person:

  • is employed,
  • has or wants a relationship, significant other(s), or child(ren).

What about single people?

I’d like to suggest an alternative:
Say, “Tell me about their family…”
This can be backed-up with a variety of age-appropriate questions (if the child needs prompting):

  • Where do they live?**
  • What do they do for recreation, hobbies, or holidays?**
  • What are their values, cultural, and/or faith background?##

In addition to asking about a child’s carer’s work. However, if asking about work is common in the culture around a child, they’ll most likely pick it up anyway.

You could also mix it up by asking about the other child, as well as their family. But my guess is that you’ll have heard a lot about the other child already!

§ The article, and particularly the quote, implicitly assumes that every family has exactly two parents.

# Many arguments against marriage equality rely on the assumption that children benefit from or need carers (well, “parents”) of two different genders. These apply just as much to families which have experienced separation, divorce, or bereavement. But, for some reason, they’re never mentioned. This has always irritated me.

* Adults regularly ask these same questions of each other. We just don’t often notice, because they’re lifelong habits.

~ I grew up with a single mother as my primary carer. I have three parents, in two separate families and households. My families have multiple surnames, and mine is unique – which allowed me to easily filter telemarketers when I was younger, because they’d ask for Mr. W. (who doesn’t exist).

With divorce rates above 50% in some jurisdictions, multi-household and blended families are no longer the the exception to the nuclear family – they’re often the rule.

In some (sub-)cultures, “Ask what their parents do” means “what do their parents do for a job”. This is often used as a proxy for (unconscious) class categorisation. Other (sub-)cultures typically ask about relatives, ancestry, interests, or religious background†† as an introductory exchange.

†† Many Christian sub-cultures inevitably ask “Where do you go to church?” as an opening line. This allows instant categorisation of someone’s likely theological variations, and also subtly excludes those who are not attending (typical) churches.

** These questions are potentially classist. (Also, not everyone plays or watches sport as a hobby.)

## These questions are potentially discriminatory on a racial, cultural, or religious basis. I’m not always confident I can ask these questions without the risk of being racist. But there are some contexts where they can be appropriate.