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Gender Bender
buzzed, B&W
hairylunch
What the hell - I've been checking with references for my recruits the last few days, e-mailing them a standard form that needs to be completed and returned. Now, this is what the first line of my signature looks like (the e-mail's been obfuscated to try and hold off the spammers):
Ernie Chang, AmeriCorps*VISTA Leader
Prevention Resource Center
http://prevention.state.mt.us/
echang[at]state[dot]mt(dot)us
406.444.3925
I've gotten several responses back, but two of them were addressed to "Ms. Chang." Since when did Ernie become a feminine name? I mean in high school, after I work a black, leather mini-skirt and coordinating leather jacket with a blond wig and a well endowed bosom (which wasn't quivering) for Homecoming/Halloween one year, I picked up the name Ernestina, which seems feminine, but Ernie? These people are obviously reading far enough to see that my last name is Chang - do they skip over my first name?

Is this because the task of getting references seems like a task that would be assigned to predominantly female administrative assistants? Or perhaps people are assuming that because I'm working with AmeriCorps I'm female? (Anecdotally, members tend to be about 4:1 female to male.) Maybe I write in a feminine style?

Coincidentally, I've been wearing my hair down for the last few days. When I first grew my hair out, I wore it down a lot, but stopped when I kept getting called "ma'am" or "she" and things like that (mainly when people saw me from behind first). I started wearing the pony tail partially in response to this, and also because it was more convenient to have it pulled back and out of my face, especially for working out, playing soccer, and playing ultimate. When I grew it back out, I kept pulling it back, because when it was in that awkward length when it's too short to wear in a ponytail, I hated how I kept getting hair in my face, and kept wanting to pull it back. Now that it's long, and I have the option to go ponytail or not, I decided to start wearing it down again, just for a change of pace (though I'm going to guess if I start getting too many female forms of address, I'll start wearing it back again). Maybe these are the first flood of female pronouns to come my way . . .

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It's difficult to detemine gender if you're foreign. Since I work with many Japanese through email, I've pieced together rules that work 75% of the time. Names ending in 'a' or 'o' are generally feminine.

It's possible those you contacted weren't native English speaking folk. Or it's possible they lack comprehension skills...

So AmeriCorps is 80% female... hmmm >:)

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