In education, business, law, and other fields, gender blindness or sex blindness[1] is the practice of disregarding gender as a significant factor in interactions between people and applying equal rules across genders (formal equality of opportunity).[2]

In education

Krista Ratcliffe writes that gender blindness functions in the classroom to downplay the existence of gender differences, which tends to reinforce existing gender substantive inequality.[3]

The National Student Genderblind Campaign, founded in the United States in 2006,[4] has argued in favor of gender-neutral campus housing at colleges and universities to better serve gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex students.[5]

In health care

The use of mixed-gender hospital rooms has proved controversial in both the United Kingdom and Canada.[6] Manitoba's Health Minister, Theresa Oswald, has campaigned actively against such rooms, saying that if humanity can "put somebody on the moon", it can find a way to honor gender requests without leading to delays for patients.[7] Great Britain agreed to phase out such rooms by 2010.[6]

Some medical ethicists have been critical of efforts to return to single-sex rooms.[7] Jacob M. Appel, an advocate for mixed rooms in the United States, has written that opposition to gender-mixed rooms stems from "old-fashioned prejudice", arguing: "Because some people have been brought up to fear or dislike sharing a room with a person of the opposite sex, or blush at the prospect of catching a glimpse of an unwelcome body part when a robe slips open, we enshrine and perpetuate this prejudice in social policy."[8]

In law

Further information: Constitutional colorblindness

The legal test of the "reasonable person" has been criticised for being genderblind to be applied in some areas of the law, particularly sexual harassment. Women are subjected to more normalised and endemic sexual harassment than men. On the grounds of this, the American case of Ellison v. Brady 924 F.2d 872 (1991), the court held that "a sex-blind reasonable person standard tends to be male-based and tends to systematically ignore the experiences of women".[9]


Gendered treatment prevails all over the world. Of a study of organisations which offered women-only services, 23% said that their reason was based on women's inequality and the desire to address that imbalance; 20% that women-only spaces promote female development and empowerment; 18% that they were providing a service not being met by unisex services and which focused on the specific needs of women.[10]

Studies indicate a broad support for single-sex service options to remain available. In a 2011 poll of 1,000 women by the Women's Resource Centre, 97% stated that women should have the option of accessing female-only services if they were victims of sexual assault. 57% indicated that they would choose a women-only gym over a mixed gym.[11] Single-sex services can provide greater comfort and engagement for participants who would otherwise not get involved.[12][further explanation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Bacchi, Carol Lee (2009). "Policy". In Essed, P.; Goldberg, D.T.; Kobayashi, A. (eds.). A Companion to Gender Studies. John Wiley & Sons. p. 183. ISBN 978-1-4051-8808-1.
  2. ^ Hubbard, Dianne. "Ideas about equality: Gender, sexuality and the law." Unravelling Taboos (2007): 86.
  3. ^ Ratcliffe, Krista (2005). "Listening Pedagogically". Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. p. 134. ISBN 0-8093-2668-X.
  4. ^ "About". The National Student Genderblind Campaign. Archived from the original on 8 April 2013.
  5. ^ Redden, Elizabeth (28 December 2006). "A Room for Jack and Jill". Inside Higher Ed.
  6. ^ a b Miner, John (17 June 2010). "Shared room sparks rage". London Free Press. Archived from the original on 28 January 2018. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  7. ^ a b Bruce Owen, Oswald vows action to stop coed rooms in hospitals, Winnipeg Free Press, 14 May 2010
  8. ^ Appel, Jacob M. (2010-06-18). "Are We Ready for Coed Hospital Rooms?". HuffPost. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  9. ^ McCammon, Holly J.; Taylor, Verta; Reger, Jo; Einwohner, Rachel L. (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of U.S. Women's Social Movement Activism. p. 204.
  10. ^ "Women-only services: making the case. A guide for women's organisations" (PDF). London, UK: Women's Resource Centre. July 2011. p. 18. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-11. Retrieved 2018-04-18.
  11. ^ "Women-only services: making the case" (2011), p. 15.
  12. ^ "Women-only services: making the case" (2011), p. 17.