In the second edition of The Dictionary of Modern English Usage by H. W. Fowler, improved by Ernest Gowers in 1965 we find:
gender, n., is a grammatical term only. To talk of persons or creatures of the masculine or feminine g., meaning of the male or female sex, is either a jocularity (permissible or not according to context) or a blunder.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of 1911 says:
gender, n. Grammatical classification (or one of the two, or three, classes) of objects roughly corresponding the the two sexes and sexlessness (masculine, feminine, & neuter) (of nouns & pronouns) property of belonging to such class (of adjj.) appropriate form for accompanying a noun of any such class; (joc.) sex.
This was the state of things for most of my life, and the kind of definition offered by the American College Dictionary, Webster's Seventh Collegiate Dictionary, Webster's New World Dictionary, and by the huge 2002 Mirriam-Webster Third New Unabridged Dictionary.
When we get to the 2011 Concise Oxford English Dictionary, something has happened:
gender n. 1. The state of being male or female (chiefly in cultural or social contexts) •the members of one or other sex: differences between the genders. 2. Grammar. a class (usually masculine, feminine, common, or neuter) into which nouns and pronouns are placed in some languages, distinguished by a particular class of inflection. •the property of belonging to such a class.
The revolution continues with a helpful "usage note"
USAGE Although the words gender and sex both have the sense 'the state of being male or female', they are typically used in different ways: sex tends to refer to biological differences, while gender tends to refer to cultural or social ones.
This is followed by helpful definitions of gender bender and gender dysphoria. You can look them up.
The first dictionary heading toward the leap in my collection is the 1992 Third Edition American Heritage Dictionary, followed by the 1993 American Heritage Dictionary: the definition is unchanged, but the usage note brings in the social category explanation, attributing it to anthropologists.
And we are on our way to Facebook, with its dizzying variety of possible "genders" you can opt for. As Jordan Peterson notes
, this is an invitation to take something public and create a purely personal description, a surrogate name, your own personal pronoun. In the United States, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has already decreed that employers in the United States must use these pronouns
or face sanctions and liability. What's worse is that transsexuals, in my experience, don't want any of these other pronouns: they just want the one belonging to the opposite of their biological sex.
I think it was a mistake. The Woodpile Report, #474, agrees
, though I'm sure someone is thinking of trying to sue them. And then there are the people who want to dictate what I am allowed to say, like the EEOC, mentioned above. They're after you, too, ladies and gentlemen, they're after you, too. Fortunately, Altadena is a nice community, and hasn't yet been taken over by the mental midgets.
I see there is more to account for: Social Justice is Language Pollution
Finally, an appropriate comment from Of Anointed and Laymen
:So an anointed can believe, simultaneously, in an extreme example of doublethink, that evolution must be true, and evangelical Christians are stupid for believing in Creationism (and thus must be accounted as science deniers), while trying to tell us that biological gender doesn’t even exist. The fact that kindergartners can tell the difference, but Yale grads can’t, is telling. So much for the Party of Science, eh?
When a layman tries to point out the obvious logical holes, he is shouted down by accusations of stupidity, and told to go “educate yourself.” The assumption is that the layman can’t understand the subtleties of the argument. For instance, in the gender example, an “educated” man might reply with “well, we are talking about gender as separate from biological sex. Gender is a social construct. Since you don’t know that, you must be dumb.”
Granted, this is what they teach in schools these days. But it’s also a ridiculous argument. A casual observation of animal species in the wild is sufficient to prove the whole thing to be utter rubbish. We don’t have genderqueer dogs, after all. Insofar as gender can be a social construct, it is in direct and conscious contravention to nature.
The argument they make is along similar lines of the feminist view of the patriarchy, as some kind of all-powerful system of privilege holding back (or oppressing) certain classifications of people because of biases, both unconscious and conscious. If the patriarchy is holding you back from being a tri-gender fartkin, then logically it must be that your nature was to be a tri-gender fartkin, you were meant to be one, and the social pressure (gender as a social construct) prevented you from it. But this can’t be true. Tri-gender fartkins observably do not exist in nature. So someone made it up, and then demanded the fantasy be accounted as true, and when resistance to the idea was presented, said the fantasy proves gender is a social construct.
It’s all circular rationalization. It doesn’t actually go anywhere.
The layman doesn’t necessarily go through all of the rationalization hoops to arrive at a similar conclusion, he just looks at the person claiming to be a tri-gender fartkin, and thinks the guy is a loony. That’s what we used to call “common sense.”