Comments on Armoured Skeptic’s remarks about Bill Nye saves the world(episode 9): The sexual spectrum

 

Next follows a commentary on Armoured Skeptic’s review of Bill Nye’s show: Bill Nye saves the world specifically about his comments in regard to episode 9 “The sexual spectrum.”
It will be somewhat unwieldy as I have chosen to quote sources directly into the text. It might have been better to move the sources to the bottom, which would facilitate readability, but I choose otherwise.

Introduction

Armoured Skeptic(shortened to Armoured because I am lazy) has released a review of Bill Nye’s show Bill Nye saves the world called Bill Nye vs the world. Both are referenced at the end of this post.
In his review he makes various comments that I would like to comment on in turn, not so much as to criticize Armoured( I agree with some of his criticism) but more out of my interests what scientists say and offer others the chance to evaluate what is being said by everyone involved. If we want to know the science, let’s see what the scientists have to say.

I will focus on episode 9 of the show as out of the thirteen episodes of the show the review by Armoured takes up nine minutes out of twenty minutes(it runs from 9:50 till 19:05). In addition, some of the comments invite additional commentary.

Some general remarks

Before going into details I would like to point out that while the show does claim to be scientific(Nye ends every episode with a monolog about it), it never actually cites a scientific source, with a rare exception in episode 4. Nevertheless Armoured levels this criticism in episode 9 and he says “This episode is very clearly politically driven and has very little base in science[]” (9:48 – 10:05) and “There is no science about gender expression, Bill.” and “He(i. e. Bill Nye) doesn’t demonstrate how science explores the concept at all.”(18:25 -18:50)

It is a pity that the claim that the episode is clearly politically driven is never elaborated upon by Armoured. Maybe he will do so in a follow-up.

Next, I agree that there are some cringeworthy moments in this episode. The ice-episode, as well as the performance by Rachel Bloom, seem to suggest that diversity and loose morals go hand-in-hand. It was probably not meant that way, but it was hard to not see it as such. I think the last thing LGBT people need is to have the stigma reinforced that they screw around. But then again, maybe there is some scientific research that backs such an assumption up. Who knows.

At last, I would like to point out that I do not claim that I know what scientists have to say, I merely explore some comments Armoured makes and then find out what I can find in the scientific journals. It could, therefore, be that I am mistaken or misconstrue what scientists think. Therefore, in case of doubt: research.

The details

Cis-male

Armoured (10:22): “Bill uses the name cis-male[].. Cringe.”

Armoured’s tone seems to suggest that the word cis-male is odd and although the cringe might be used  to disapprove of the way Nye describes himself and his guest(cis-male white guys) I still feel the need to point out that cis-gender or cis-male is a scientific term to describe a person whose gender identity corresponds with his assigned sex at birth.

It is for instance used in the following scientific articles:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262864391_The_Representability_and_Responsibility_of_Cisgender_Queer_Men_in_Women’s_Studies

And:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/311704867_A_Comparison_of_Trans_Women_Trans_Men_Genderqueer_Individuals_and_Cisgender_Brothers_and_Sisters_on_the_Bem_Sex-Role_Inventory_Ratings_by_Self_and_Siblings

And:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/311731647_Which_Gender_is_More_Concerned_About_Transgender_Women_in_Female_Bathrooms

Also it is used by APA( American Psychological Association (APA))

https://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/sexuality-definitions.pdf

The percentage: sex

For proper reference, I will quote Bill Nye as well.

Armoured(10:35): “So keep that in mind, one-quarter of one percent of people don’t fit biological norms.

Nye(3:07): “And by everybody I mean every living reproducing thing.”

Nye(3:25) “And like I said there are sex chromosome abnormalities in one in four hundred pregnancies.”

Armoured(10:40): “I am little confused why he even brought up the statistic here []

Nye(3:30): “I mean that is pretty frequent.”

What is gender?

Armoured(10:55): “Gender is more like you feel and act as opposed to your chromosomes.”

Nye:(3:49): “Gender is how you identify yourself and your experience.”

Let’s open up a scientific paper:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304815061_Traditional_Masculinity_and_Femininity_Validation_of_a_New_Scale_Assessing_Gender_Roles

Quote(page 2, left column) “ Gender is also one of the first social categories that children learn in today’s societies, and thus knowledge of gender stereotypes is evident from early childhood on (for a recent review, see Steffens and Viladot,2015) and into adulthood, with both adolescents and college students construing their self-concepts in line with the gender stereotypes they have internalized (e.g., Nosek et al., 2002;Steffens et al., 2010).”

It is not so much how you feel or act but about what role you are expected to fulfill in society.

APA:

Gender refers to the attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex. Behavior that is compatible with cultural expectations is referred to as gender-normative; behaviors that are viewed as incompatible with these expectations constitute gender non-conformity.

Gender refers to the attitudes, feelings and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex. Behavior that is compatible with cultural expectations is referred to as gender‐normative; behaviors that are viewed as incompatible with these expectations constitute gender non‐ conformity (APA, 2012).

Gender (n): the condition of being male, female, or neuter. In a human context, the distinction between gender and SEX reflects the usage of these terms: Sex usually refers to the biological aspects of maleness or femaleness, whereas gender implies the psychological, behavioral, social, and cultural aspects of being male or female (i.e., masculinity or femininity.)

Percentage again: gender vs sex

Armoured(11:00) “How you feel and act as opposed to your chromosomes. Bill forgets to tell us how rare this is, by the way, it is less than one-quarter of one percent that doesn’t identify with the gender they are born with.”

Apparently Armoured is under the impression that Gender identity has something to do with people having problems with their gender. However, this is not what Nye is talking about. He is pointing out that gender identity is a facet of a person’s makeup. Armoured, however, keeps going on about the small percentage that does have issues.

Quote from a scientific source:

“The development of gender identity is the result of a complex interaction between genetic,
prenatal, and postnatal endocrine influences and postnatal psychosocial and environmental
experiences. “

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1763208/pdf/v089p00847.pdf

Armoured : “In fact, if this figure was relevant for gender identity, how come that “An estimated 3.5% of adults in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual and an estimated 0.3% of adults are transgender.”

This amounts to 3.8 % which is far more than the quarter of a percent. Clearly, other factors than an abnormality in chromosomes are involved.

https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Gates-How-Many-People-LGBT-Apr-2011.pdf

Correlation between sex and gender

Armoured(11:20) “instead he just explains the spectrum as if there is no correlation between sex and gender.”

Nye:(3:05) “So my sex and gender are on the same side of the spectrum, but there are people who are not the same.”

Armoured(11:25) “he just shrugs and moves on.”

Nye:(3:10) goes to explain the first hypothesis then moves on.

While Armoured does have a point – the gender identity explanation ends abrupt – the claim ‘as if there is no correlation’ is simply not true. That correlation is not discussed, does not imply that Nye thinks there is no correlation. It is just not discussed.

Percentage again: sexual orientation

Armoured(11:50): “it is 3.8 percent of the people in the United states who identify as LGBTQ”

https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Gates-How-Many-People-LGBT-Apr-2011.pdf

Estimates of those who report any lifetime same-sex sexual behavior and any same-sex
sexual attraction is substantially higher than estimates of those who identify as LGBT.
An estimated 19 million Americans (8.2%) report that they have engaged in same-sex
sexual behavior and nearly 25.6 million Americans (11%) acknowledge at least some
same-sex sexual attraction.

Nye is talking about sexual orientation in general, Armoured talks about LGBTQ.

Gender and gender expression

Armoured(12:00) “what is the difference between gender and gender expression?”

Gender Expression: The presentation of an individual, including physical appearance, clothing choice and accessories, and behaviors that express aspects of gender identity or role.

Gender identity: A person’s deeply‐felt, inherent sense of being a boy, a man, or male; a girl, a woman, or female; or an alternative gender (e.g., genderqueer, gender nonconforming, gender neutral) that may or may not correspond to a person’s sex assigned at birth or to a person’s primary or secondary sex characteristics

https://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/sexuality-definitions.pdf

Armoured(12:45) “there aren’t even any statistics or studies or psychological papers or polls or anything.[] It isn’t even quantifiable.”
Aren’t there?https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314206903_Prevalence_of_Adolescent_Gender_Experiences_and_Gender_Expression_in_Germany

‘Development and Validation of a Gender Expression Measure Among Sexual Minority Women.’
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0361684311413554

‘Gender expression, sexual orientation and pain sensitivity in women.’
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4028658/

‘Adolescents’ Acceptance of Same-Sex Peers Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Expression’
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10964-006-9111-0

Armoured fails to get the concept of Gender Expression as he has ill-defined the concept of Gender. Since to him gender also includes acting your gender, he has no room for gender expression, unlike the scientists do.

Spectrum

Armoured(13:48): “you can’t use the spectrum metaphor to demonstrate the exception.”

The point is that spectrum is used to point out that there is a wide varied of experiences. It has nothing to do with a number of people. It has to do with the available options.

Sex redefined
http://www.nature.com/news/sex-redefined-1.16943#/spectrum

Neuroscience Proves What We’ve Known All Along: Gender Exists on a Spectrum
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ravishly/neuroscience-proves-what-_b_6494820.html

http://cluster.meduniwien.ac.at/mnc/news/single-view/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=1647&cHash=9ab5947c979e9e872ad93231a45f4aaf

Summary

I do not like to get down on someone like Armoured Skeptic, but when he makes a claim that another person(Bill Nye) is unscientific and after some research it is obvious that he himself does not understand the underlying science, I feel it should be mentioned. Especially when he has a sizeable following.  Armoured is not dumb, but he might make mistakes and sometimes he gets carried away.

This does not mean he is wrong, or dumb or anything else. He is just misinformed. The lesson here is this: even if Armoured Skeptic claims something, you still need to check.

And that goes for me too.

Sources:

Armoured Skeptic’s review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCdk9fDE8zA

Bill Nye saves the world can be watched on Netflix, at the moment.

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