It’s only happenstance that I’ve got consecutive gender posts. Derrida spoke about prioritisation in binary pair, and the inherent symbolic connotation. Sex and gender are two examples.
At the risk of overstating the obvious, masculinity holds the priority in this pair bond. Masculinity traditionally conveys hardness, strength and logic, whilst femininity conveys softness and weakness and emotion. This is what Beauvoir intends by her use of the other sex—male and other. Even in a non-binary frame, maleness still prevails over everythying else. Of course, in this broader world, male may trump female, but in an appeal to nature fashion, female trumps intersex in the same way the light-skinned people of colour trump their darker-skinned counterparts.
English even has derivative terms such as hysterical, an emotional state rooted in the Greek hystera, the uterus or womb. Etymologically, the word was invented by the Greek under the impression that this behaviour was a deviation from male normaly.
In the physical world, this male-female terminology generailises to penetrator and penetrated—penetratrix, anyone? We routinely refer to plugs and connectors with prongs as male and recepticals are female. At first glance, it might be tempting to assume that penis is somehow related to penetration, but it’s not so, as penis derives from tail.
Fun Fact: The plural form of penis is penes.Etymonline. online etymology dictionary
In music there is the notion of cadence, the beats of a rhythm. Classically speaking, there are masculine and feminine cadences. And if you guessed that masculine cadences involve strong beats and feminine cadences invlove weak beats, you’d be correct.
Feminine CadenceMerriam-Webster online dictionary
a musical cadence in which the final chord or melody note falls on a weak beat
The reason I am writing this is as a reminder to the predjudice langage embeds and perpetuates. Even if we have lost the connection to the original intent, the sense remains. We should actively seek other terms that don’t promote this anachronistic belief system.
It’s also easy to get carried away and over-specify the domain. So, terms like manhole, manuscript, manipulate, and such are, let’s say, false cognates, in a manner of speaking. There are no counterpart womanholes—sophomoric humour notwithstanding—, womanuscripts, and womanipulation, though it might be fun to write some exposition with the intention of satarising these and words with a similar structure. I’m not sure I could womanage to carve out the time to get there.
In a different space, we’ve got master-slave word pairs. In computers, there may be master and slave drives. I’ve heard people point out the insensitivity of this notion without grasping that projecting American (or wider-world) human slavery on this rather than understanding this pairing existed well before the New World was even ‘discovered’. This is where hysterical political correctness needs to step down and give way to education.