Dehumanizing Gender: The Debiasing Effects of Gendering Human-Abstracted Entities

Dehumanizing Gender: The Debiasing Effects of Gendering Human-Abstracted Entities

By
Ashley Martin, Michael L. Slepian
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (forthcoming). May
28, 2018, Pages 1-16

The propensity to “gender”—or conceptually divide entities by masculinity versus femininity—is pervasive. Such gendering is argued to hinder gender equality, as it reifies the bifurcation of men and women into two unequal categories, leading many to advocate for a “de-gendering movement.” However, gendering is so prevalent that individuals can also gender entities far removed from human sex categories of male and female (i.e., weather, numbers, sounds) due to the conceptual similarities they share with our notions of masculinity and femininity (e.g., tough, tender). While intuition might predict that extending gender to these (human-abstracted) entities only further reinforces stereotypes, the current work presents a novel model and evidence demonstrating the opposing effect. Five studies demonstrate that gendering human-abstracted entities highlights how divorced psychological notions of gender are from biological sex, thereby decreasing gender stereotyping and penalties toward stereotype violators, through reducing essentialist views of gender. Rather than “de-gendering” humans, we demonstrate the potential benefits of “dehumanizing gender.”