The Economics of Gender

After my TEDx talk at the beginning of March (watch here), I have been approached by a lot of hetero / cis people asking more about my thoughts on gender. Now, normally, when I talk about the gender binary it is with other queer people which means it ends up in a circle jerk of us realizing just how open minded and amazing we all are but interacting with people that haven’t necessarily thought about gender identity and the implications of stereotyping before has been enlightening. It has also been challenging, in that, I need to figure out a way to explain myself. This had led to some new observations, one of which I want to try to explain in this post.

First off, don’t let the title scare you, this is not really an economics post, I am just going to use a standard concept of economics to explain myself and I will use kid gloves so I promise it won’t hurt. So here is what I propose, the stereotypes of the gender binary have been heavily influenced by the strong positive correlation of two traits happening within the same person. However, as correlation does not imply causation, stereotypes are frequently wrong. Whoa, Becky, you might be thinking, you just blew your economics load on us without even asking where to put it. So let me try to explain, causation means that one thing can be directly attributed to another – one causes the other. Let’s say I slap you across the face, you then develop a red mark on your face and perhaps some hurt fee fees. The first part is an example of causation – my slap caused your face to have a hand print on it. Let’s compare this to correlation, I’ve slapped you and you have hurt fee fees, well, I cannot say there is causation here because you might have already been feeling sad because you stepped on a worm this morning and you felt terrible about it. Now, there could be a positive correlation, i.e. there is a high percentage of people that just got slapped who also have hurt feelings but you cannot say it was the slap that caused it. Get it? Got it? Good.

What’s this got to do with gender? Well, when I am having conversations about why gender stereotypes have developed and how valid they are, a lot of people jump right to an obvious point, they will ask, “but wouldn’t you agree that men are physically stronger than women” (they are normally asking in the binary which is why I have termed it as such)? This is where our economics lesson comes in handy because this is just a positive correlation. It happens to be that being male assigned at birth and being physically strong are positively correlated. However, if you are a biological male it does not mean that you are strong (i.e. – not causation). Therefore, just because you are biologically male does not mean that you will be stronger than someone that is biologically female. To elaborate on that point, if someone is FAAB (female assigned at birth) they will have X amount of people that are weaker than them. Now, a higher percentage of those people will be FAAB but some will be MAAB (male assigned at birth). Therefore, just by being MAAB does not mean you will be stronger than someone that is FAAB. Yes, there might be lumping at either end of the strength spectrum but there are also plenty of people in the middle of this spectrum. The reason this issue comes about is the restriction of the language and lumping a very diverse population into just two groups. I think you have got it down now but just to make sure, let’s try another example. If you have a dick, does that mean you are male? And the answer is…? No, of course it doesn’t. It just happens that being born with a dick has a positive correlation with people that identify as cis-male.

And so this sums up my economics gender lesson for the day, if you think it makes sense, feel free to use it when trying to explain the gender binary and how silly stereotypes are in your next conversation.