Thinking to be polite, I just addressed a lady by the title “sir”. In the split-second in which my brain realised I would have to ask her to keep a watchful eye over my stuff it deduced that a “sporty outfit” and a bald head had a high probability of fitting the male profile.
Well… I was wrong :pensive:. Technically, I was correct but any trained classifier is bound to make some misclassifications from time to time. This misclassification is perfectly palatable when we’re just working the math but becomes painful when materialized into a social encounter.
She could have been a cancer patient. I meant absolutely no harm, in fact, the usage of a title was simply done out of respect. You could say that my efforts to be “nice” inflicted some harm after all. Understandably she was visibly annoyed by this and despite the fact that I apologised, I probably contributed to one of the multiple dreaded episodes of her day.
I know our mind generalizes and intuitively deduces things to offload some work from our active though processes. By not overanalyzing every detail, we reserve some cognitive capacity for other things which eventually allow us to do the cool things us humans do, but everything has a flip side.
Most of us are probably raised to address people by titles. Not just “no” but “no, sir”. Not just “yes” but “yes, ma’am”. How do you avoid gender titles without sounding too casual or perhaps disrespectful? At some point you are bound to offend someone it seems. Offending the prick who feels entitled to be addressed by title or offending the person who is already fighting enough bullshit to have to deal with another one of our archaic social constructs?
It’s not just about mentally modelling the world in a manner that is more accepting towards those crossing or jittering about the gender chasms, but also about not being the proverbial dick to address cancer-fighting ladies by a title society has reserved for men.
Then again you could ask… why should the recipient of the title usage be sensitive about the title they are addressed by?!? There are many sides to this.
Mind you, I’m not saying the social construct is out of place. It is there for a reason, I suppose, however; in light of our recent understanding of the complexity and non-dichotomous nature of “gender” that it is probably wise to consider modifying our language to reflect our new understanding.
Perhaps this modification of language isn’t an active process, but more of an organic change that we’ll have to evolve through over the course of the next years, decades or perhaps centuries.
Meanwhile, I’ll be more careful about title attribution. Perhaps I’ll just talk less :speak_no_evil:
If we could just apply regular expressions in natural language…
Excuse me, .*
Social constructs are so complicated, back to machines…