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Sunday night: WORDS

Anne Dalke's picture

Sunday night, along w/ your usual reflections on the week past, please post here three "gender" terms you want to understand better/be able to use. Please tell a brief  'story' about each one: a time you yourself misused the word, or were confused someone else's use, or ....? In other words, tell us why knowing how to use this word matters to you...


MC's picture

Late Words

1. viragoid was very interesting to me primarily because I had never seen it before, but after reading amophrast's findings I am very intrigued to know more about how this word is used and its greater etymology. A trip to the OED might be necessary?

2. homoemotional was also very interesting to me because it seems like it could be either taken as a way to describe homoromanticism or describing any sort of emotional bonding, which I think is very interesting as it seems like when it comes to gender and other self-identification peer groups and platonic emotional connections are less mentioned. 

3. zengender is actually a word I found on Kate Bornstein's blog post asking for submissions/suggestions for her new book. The description was "all, nothing, fluid, evolving". I found this particularly interesting because it brings to mind how religion comes into play with gender, and also the modern interpretations of older religions, especially a religion coming from a tradition of sex hierarchy. I admit my knowledge of Buddhism is primarily of pre-1700s Mahayana Buddhism, so I would be very interested in learning about how modern schools of Buddhism treat gende, as well as the language of Chan/Zen Buddhism in modern Western culture.

buffalo's picture


  1. Pansexual. In the past I’ve been told that pansexual means that you aren’t actually very sexually attracted to any genders, but you still date people. People have asked me if being bi-sexual means the same thing as pansexual, and I didn’t know the answer. I’ve also heard people say that pansexual means that you like all genders….so I’m curious about what it actually means!

 2. Androgynous. A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend and I told her that I thought she dressed androgynously, thinking that meant not particularly masculine or feminine, but thought differently. She was offended that I said this because she thought androgynous meant the opposite of your gender, so she interpreted my comment as me saying that she dresses like ‘a guy’.

 3.Boi. I’ve seen this word before, but am not sure of the definition although I think it has to do with being born female, and not identifying as female. I’m curious if it does in fact mean what I said above, it is interchangeable with genderqueer?


MC's picture

It seems as though you are

It seems as though you are confusing the term pansexual with panromantic.

colleenaryanne's picture

Womyn, reclaiming, and "disentangling gender and sex"

I'd like to discuss the use of the word "womyn" as a substitute for "women." I've read that etymologically it's problematic, and I would like to explore that more.

I'd like to talk about reclaimed words and what it means to reclaim a term, like "queer" or "bitch" or "slut."  How does one "reclaim" a term, and what are the parameters inside which you can use these reclaimed words that were once offensive and derogatory but are now used positively by the very people they were meant to subjugate.  I'd like to talk about how people who fall outside of the term are generally not allowed to use the term, and where the line between being offensive and reclaiming the word by taking away its power is?

I would definitely like to talk more about "disentangling gender and sex" as pejordan says. I have striven for a very long time to figure out what the difference between the two terms are exactly.  I know there is a stark difference and I have a vague idea of what that difference is, but everything I've ever read on it and anyone I've ever talked to about it has only given me rough ideas of the disctinction between the two.  There is much debate and conflicting information between all the sources I've consulted on this issue. I'd like it cleared up once and for all - or to be comfortable in an understanding that nothing about this subject is clear and that I'm striving to understand something that is not meant to be fully understood. 

sara.gladwin's picture

three words/terms

The first thing I'd like to know more about are the gender neutral pronouns. The reason for this is mostly because I have heard them used before but only have a vague concept of what they are and what they mean to various people to use them or not use them.

Secondly, I think I want to discuss more the concept of "no-gender" that Bornstein discusses in the gender work book. I think it would be interesting to talk about what she means and the implications of living without a gender.

Also from the genderwork book, but I thought the examples Bornstein gives of people dressing in a "genderf*ck" and "passing" styles are interesting and could be interesting terms to play around with.

j1377's picture

Queer: I didn't hear this

Queer: I didn't hear this term used in a positive light until I came to Bryn Mawr and heard some identify as such. While I now know that it is a common term, I still don't know EXACTLY what it means...

Grrl: I saw this term used in the workbook but I have zero idea what it means...

Androgyny: I THINK I know what this term means, but I would like to know more. It seems as though there is always something more this class can teach me. 

meowwalex's picture

Along with grrl, I want to

Along with grrl, I want to learn about Riot grrrl, I've heard it around on campus but I'm not really sure what it means.

gender binary- Does this just refer to the "traditional" ideas of what gender is: female vs male?

Androgyny: I am confused as to what this means. . .




aybala50's picture

"gender" terms

I guess my first question isn't necessarily a specific term, but rather what makes a word a "gender" term? Are there any words that do not belong in this category? In languages such as French (if I'm thinking of the right thing), the language itself is inseparable from 'gender' terms. The way you speak to a person is affected by their gender, which can only be man or woman? I could be wrong, it's been a long time since I've taken a French course, so please correct me if I am wrong.

Specific 'gender' terms..i guess I would like to further discuss "trans" as it relates to both transgender and transexual or just 'trans' on its own. Until coming to Bryn Mawr I honestly didn't even know that trans people existed and it would be great to learn more about the word and its uses and meanings

I would also love to learn more about the relationship between sex, gender, and sexual orientation. I know that, for example, in its most general meaning lesbian refers to a woman who is sexually attracted to a woman. Is this the only meaning? Are there any words that do not connect sex, gender, and sexual orientation? 

Overall, will our use of language allow for us to lose the gender binary. Can gender cease to exist when language is so closely tied to it. If a language like French relies solely on the gender binary in its communication, how to we take gender away? 

michelle.lee's picture

1. Hir I saw this word when

1. Hir

I saw this word when taking the gender aptitude test and, similar to pejordan, I assumed it was a typo.  I looked it up,however, and found that hir is a gender neutral pronoun.  I've always been confused by gender-neutral pronouns just because I'v felt that they don't work out very well sometimes.  I'd like to study more about them so I can see how it could possibly integrate itself in regular speech.  I've also liked to know the history behind gender neutral pronouns and how much they are being used today in every day life. 

2. Gender.  Before I came to Bryn Mawr, I was only aware of two genders but I would like to know more about the 5 genders mentioned in My Gender Workbook and what they are.  

3. Perfect Gender.  This relates with number 2 but I want to know what specifically entails with a "perfect gender."  Is it a part of the 5 genders?

dchin's picture

Three Words

1. PoMosexual: According to the Google books preview for Pomosexuals: challenging assumptions about gender and sexuality, "PoMoSexual is the queer erotic reality beyond the boundaries of gender, separatism, and essentialist notions of sexual orientation." Despite what brief definition, I'm still not sure what this means. Can anyone be pomosexual? Is this a commonly used term? ( 

2. Agendered: defines this as a person who is "internally ungendered." What does it mean to be internally ungendered? Is it a mental state of being? Furthermore, there are various forces imposing gender on us from the second we are born, so how does one even achieve ungenderedness? 

3. Metrosexual: "...heterosexual male with a strong aesthetic sense who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle.This term can be perceived as derogatory because it reinforces stereotypes that all gay men are fashion-conscious and materialistic." (Again, from Is this term still as derogatory today? If it was derogatory because it reinforced sterotypes about gay men being "fashion-conscious and materialistic," is it still derogatory now, when it seems that heterosexual men are increasingly expected to be more image-conscious? Is it acceptable to use in some situations or not at all?

bluebox's picture

Vocabulary words

I'd like to know more about zhe/zhim/hir (I'm pretty sure I got those wrong) and gender neutral pronouns. And also how to pronounce them. Gender neutrality is really interesting to me, I want to know more about it.

I second FrigginSushi's comment on androgyny, and I'd like to know about agenderism, if there is a history for the term and what it means?

Also, I understand the concept of butch and femme, but is it a fashion statement, a mindset, or a personality? Someone I know refers to herself as butch but I really don't think it means what she thinks it means.

FrigginSushi's picture


- What's the difference between Pansexual and Bisexual? Does Pan suggest that there are more than two sexes? Or that there are more than 2 genders? Does Pan included MTF or FTM individuals. I feel like if they identify as one or the other that it would still be bisexual. Unless then it includes people who do not identify as either... Just kind of confused.

Also, does one know that they are Pansexual from a young age? Like I know that some people say that "they've always been gay", but do people grow up knowing they are pansexual as well?

- I understand that one can identify as Androgynous (between genders or without gender) and there are people who look Androgynous, but does tossing around the word "androgynous" offensive? For example, I watch America's Next Top Model and Tyra called a girl who has short hair an "androgynous beauty" when she didn't identify as androgynous. Would that offend people who do identify as androgynous? I'm not sure. Maybe I'm over thinking this.

- Does English have more academic words for "top" and "bottom". Japan has "uke" and "seme" and from what I know, those words are reserved spefically for sexual situations. Like you can't say "my cup is uke my desk". Are there academic terms in English for this concept?

melal's picture

The three words that I want

The three words thatI want to learn more about are: masculine, beautiful and girlish. My first two words are linked together.  I came to be interested in learning more about them is because of my friend’s comment on a girl that we both know— “her beauty is in a masculine way.” That was the first time that I heard people describe a girl’s beauty with masculinity. Usually we always apply the word “beautiful” to female with certain “female” physical characteristics, like long silky hair and delicate hands or skinny body, but without these characteristics, can one still beautiful? Or, what makes us feel someone is beautiful, either in a masculine way or in a feminine way? Are masculinity and femininity really incompatible?

 I choose “girlish” as my third word is because of a shopping experience that I used to have.  There was a time that my friend fell in love with two perfumes in a shopping mall, but she could really choose one of them. The sale assistant suggests that if she wants be more “womanish”, then take A, if she wants to be more “girlish”, then pick B. So I was wondering that is there a line lying between girlish and womanish? What makes a perfume smells “girlish” or “womanish”?

Amophrast's picture

Spivak neutral pronouns: e,

Spivak neutral pronouns: e, em, eir, eirs, emself. I think I came across this pronoun set on a tumblr post once. It is of a particular interest to be because I have been thinking for the future, when publishing fiction, or even in my personal life, it might be nice to be referred to as M instead of my first name. It would be pronounced as Em, and I could be referred to as such. It is theoretically gender neutral, though in reality, it isn't. In French, M would be monsieur; I have my father's last name (which is his father's last name...); and I think it is typically assumed that unless there are further qualifiers, a statement like "the person walked down the street" is really "the white man walked down the street." So it might be nice to talk about whether or not gender neutral pronouns are actually gender neutral

Bois (and gyrls). I've heard this word a super lot, around Bryn Mawr, around tumblr, around Philly's queer community, and yet I have still failed to get a definition for it (because there seems to be multiple). It seems to be more about gender presentation than gender identity (not to imply that these are not related). Also it's interesting because I've rarely heard the word "gyrl" (except in My Gender Workbook), though I know a few gay dudes who will consistently refer to other gay dudes as she, girl/(gyrl?), and diva.

Viragoid came up in My Gender Workbook, though the more common word seems to be virago. Wiki discusses it in an interesting way. It seems to come from vir (virile man), and was feminized with the ending -ago. It also seems to jump categories and mean either heroic or an insult.

mbeale's picture

Words to Learn!

Bigendered- I encountered this term skimming across the internet one day and even though it hasn't come up much since then, I'd still like to know more about the population of people who identify this way. 

Asexual- Recently, a friend of mine declared herself as asexual. And as I was relating this to another friend of mine, he said, "But she can't be...she hooked up with so and so a while ago..." In trying to defend her identity I realized I didn't exactly know what the term meant beyond what my recently declared asexual friend had told me.

Pansexual- In 7th grade I first heard about pansexuality. My friend's older sister relayed this orrientation to us just as proudly as she had told us moments before that she only reads books backwards. When I asked others about it they dismissed it as impossible, and I didn't bother thinking about it until later in high school. Even then, pansexuality seemed to be something people knew so little about.

S. Yaeger's picture

I would definitely like to

I would definitely like to know more about the terms "asexual" and "aromantic".  Like epeck wrote before me, I've heard both terms and I think I understand asexuality as a lack of sexual desire, but I have a very strong feeling that I don't fully grasp either term, especially as indentities.  I'm interested in how asexuality and aromanticism fit into the LGBTQ spectrum and the ways in which those who identify with either or both terms experience othering.  For a third term, I'd like to gain a better understanding of the difference (if there is one) between transsexual and transgender.

epeck's picture


-aromantic/asexual - Is there a difference between these words?  What is the difference?  It's been brought up in class, so I was wondering about it.  I've definitely heard "asexual" before and think I understand it, but I was unsure about how exactly one would use "aromantic."

-trans* - this term was also used in a post (I'm not sure when) and I asked about it in class but would be interested in more information.  Does the "*" only go with "trans" or can it go/is it used with with any identifying terms?

-5 genders - We have mentioned this a few times and I think it's briefly mentioned in My Gender Workbook but I've never studied it.  What are the five genders?  How are they defined?

pejordan's picture

Mostly from My Gender Workbook

I'm continuing to work my way through My Gender Workbook, and as a definite gender beginner I'm finding it very helpful and illuminating. Along with that, it's giving me a lot of words that I don't really know how to use. The first term that I want to learn how to use is “ze”; the first time I saw this was when reading My Gender Workbook, and at first I just thought it was a typo, then after looking it up I figured out that it was a gender-neutral pronoun. I think gender-neutral pronouns are a really great idea, and I want to learn more of them and learn how to use them. The second term I want to become more familiar with is transgender. I don’t remember a certain time when I heard it used, but I’d heard the term transsexual used more often. I would like to understand the difference between transsexual and transgender because I'm assuming there's a difference, and I think that understanding that difference will help me with my continuing work to disentangle gender from sex. Finally, I want to understand what being a political lesbian means. I found this one again from My Gender Workbook, in the section called “Be All You Can Be” where Kate had people write in and answer the questions “who are you” and “what are you.” I saw political lesbian several times and am curious about it because the link between politics and gender is something I've never really thought about, although here it might just be figuratively political.