Re: gender, sex & biology

Subject: Re: gender, sex & biology
From: Andreas Ramos <andreas -at- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 12 Apr 1994 14:36:20 -0700

On Tue, 12 Apr 1994, Michael LaTorra wrote:
> > On Tue, 12 Apr 1994, Michael LaTorra wrote:
> > > To sum up, I say that technical communication is gender-free.

> > To which Andreas returned:
> > Sure it is! That's why computer magazine readers are 97.5% men. That's
> > more men readers than even for BIKER magazine, or Playboy.

> To which Michael vollied:
> Technical communication is gender-free, but technical interest is
> not, as computer magazine readership shows. Technical communication
> is gender-free, and the profession of technical writing is almost
> perfectly balanced between men and women, with the women slightly
> outnumbering men.

To which Andreas parried:
ah, several distinctions. The *profession* itself, the membership, is
indeed gender free, in a sense that there are both men and women in it.
Quite right.
I'd add that the product, or the output, of that profession, however,
isn't genderfree; it seems from this discussion that many of us, men and
women, simply haven't thought about it, and we're unconsciously writing
for/towards men only.
To put it differently, we can't even think of how to distinguish writing
towards men or towards women.
It appears, from the summary of the article that I posted, that other
professions have thought about this. We as communicators should do so as
Hermes, the Greek God with a pie-pan hat and the feathers on his
high-tops, was the Fed-Ex of Olympus who converted messages from the Gods
into something that men could understand. Men couldn't understand the
direct language of the gods.
We techwriters are in the same dilemma: mortals (users) can't understand
the pure language of the programmers and engineers. We have to convert it
into something that users can understand.
By adopting the techie position, which seems to exclude women, in that
women don't read computer magazines, and I'd venture to say, don't read
manuals either, then we as applied herme/neuticians are presenting
material which is too much from the techie point of view. If we maybe
listened to users, then we could do a better transmutation.

As I said elsewhere, there are many women who are editors of major
computer magazines. Publishing is indeed a woman's field. One such
publisher told me that the other women are well aware that computer
communications is mostly men. They'd like to see this to change. To put
it differently, women are a huge, untapped market.

I'm interested in this in that by being better aware of the nature of our
communication, I'd be a better writer.


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