I’ve posted before on how subconscious bias means that the person who is completely un-racist or un-sexist or un-whatever is very rare. Right now I’m just documenting one personal example of that phenomenon.
I’ve been reading a lot of scholarly articles for my thesis, and in scholarly articles, people cite other authors by their last name. So I get familiar with a lot of last names without knowing their gender, until I go find the articles that those people wrote and see their whole name, or until I see someone talk about them extensively enough to use a pronoun. So far I have mistaken several women for men, but I have never gotten it into my head that a writer must be a woman only to find out that the writer was a man. And this isn’t a hard science type of field where you’d expect women to be few and far between. I’ve found many more women than I expected. But even after realizing that women are doing well in this field, I still assume that so-and-so is male. And even after realizing that I’m doing that, I keep assuming that the next name I read belongs to a man.
So that sucks.
I think there was one time I messed up the gender the other way around, but that was because I saw the first name and it was a name I think of as female, but the person was actually male. Not the same.
This also brings up the issue of how bizarre gender-based pronominal systems are. I can’t talk about someone properly until I’ve figured out their gender, and I’m afraid I’ll refer to someone with the wrong pronoun if they have a name that’s unusual for their gender in my experience. That’s pretty ridiculous when you think about it. The gender of these people doesn’t make any difference in their theories, which is why it doesn’t need to be noted in the citation info. But I have to stop and figure that out before saying anything about them. In fact, that’s the ONLY information I have to have about someone in order to give them a pronoun in English – well, besides knowing that they’re human and neither me nor the person I’m speaking to.