A dozen new gender categories will wreak havoc on audience research firms since they soon won’t be permitted to use the “binary” categories: male or female.


Audience researchers were still licking wounds caused by technological challenges and analytic viewer comprehension, when another brick started heading their way.

First, some definitions. The aforementioned technical challenges refers specifically to set-top box data; the speed at which data is delivered to TV outlets; Nielsen’s Total Audience, which tracks any views, regardless of platform; and Nielsen’s Advanced Audience Forecasting, which helps media owners and advertisers forecast linear TV viewing.

Analytics is the practical application of patterns and other information gathered from the analysis of data.

What will soon hit “them”, however, is something called “gendering.” For its 2020 census, the U.S. Census Bureau considered adding to the traditional “male” and “female” classifications (now called “binary” categories) a dozen new, non-binary terms to reflect androgyny and gender fluidity, such as, “transgender,” “cisgender”, “bigender,” “trigender,” “pangender,” “agender,” and “other-gendered.”

After considerable consideration, the Bureau decided not to pursue the matter for fear of accidentally leaving some people out. Plus, explained the Bureau’s press office, “At the Bureau, the sex question intends to capture a person’s biological sex and not gender. Sex is based on the biological attributes of men and women, while gender is a social construction.”

Up to now, age, “binary” gender, ethnicity, zip code, and occupation were used to determine tastes, interests, and viewing habits, and to these ends, stereotyping (or delineating recognizable social groups) was important in data-gathering.

Today, viewer classification (and thus the current viewership sampling) is becoming obsolete. According to the J. Walter Thompson marketing company, 56 percent of consumers 13-to-20 years old say that people they know use gender-neutral pronouns like “ze” instead of “he” or “she.” To this so-called Gen Z-er, gender doesn’t define a person. They feel that consumer behavior is now a function of personality, rather than gender.

Today’s advertisers need to figure out ways to contend with these new social challenges. They need to both understand their target audiences, as well as develop brand strategies that are gender ambiguous in order not to incur the wrath of the public. Take what happened with Thinx, a company that blundered when it publicized its “Underwear for women with periods” campaign since it excluded transmen. It quickly remedied the situation, however, by introducing a “Boyshort” product for transmen.

Even for a country like the United States, which is obsessed with data and statistics (German social philosopher Theodor W. Adorno, 1903-1969, liked to refer to the U.S. as the “United Statisticians”), becoming a gender neutral or gender fluid society will represent one of the most significant social, religious, and business challenges since the introduction of the Internet.

However, there is another challenge that this new social state of affairs is creating for researchers, and that is the use of proper language and acceptable analytic terms — elements closely monitored by the Political Correctness Police Force.

One example of this is the case of researcher James Chung of Reach Advisors, a New York-based research firm. In 2010, he stated “that single, childless women in their 20s now earn eight percent more on average than their male counterparts in metropolitan areas.” In cities like Memphis and Atlanta, those women earned 20 percent more than male counterparts, while in Los Angeles, the difference was 12 percent. In New York, it reached 17 percent.

Chung analyzed 2008 data from the U.S. Census Bureau and attributed the results to the fact that 50 percent of the women were better educated.

In the end, the actual study was never released, reportedly, so as to not risk offending the “gender gap” movement.

(By Dom Serafini)

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