Appeal to Gender


The argument urges a position or an action by appealing to the listener's gender, and to traits and characteristics considered desirable (or undesirable) for that gender.



While technically this fallacy might be applied to any gender, it is typical (in a male-centric society such as ours) for this fallacy to appeal to male characteristics, through such phrases as "be a man," "man up," "grow a pair," etc. Even women can sometimes be praised for possessing male-specific traits. However, women can also be urged to do and think certain things by appeals such as "a real lady doesn't..."



"[A]ll history shows that even the most masculine intellect will sometimes lose his orientation..." - Charles S. Peirce, from The Fixation of Belief


"But the other truly – don`t really know the word – baller?  The other baller thing Marie Yovanovitch did today was that although her testimony was behind closed doors at the request of the impeachment committees, she decided to release her opening statement publicly." - Rachel Madow, Oct. 11, 2019.


"Secret - strong enough for a man." - 1980s antiperspirant commercial.



Growing up inevitably involes some process of discovering ones identity, including ones gender identity, and this process is not necessarily confined to ones teenage years. Throughout our lives we humans are sensitive to praise to the effect that we are exemplary members of our gender, or, alternatively, we can be shamed by claims to the effect that we are not worthy of our gender. Both can be powerful (but irrelevant) motives to act in certain ways or to believe certain things.

The fallacies of Appeal to Flattery and Appeal to Guilt clearly overlap with this fallacy. However, the appeal to gender as a specific form of flattery or guilt is so common, and so persuasive that many of my students (over several semesters) have urged me to recognize a separate fallacy. We debated such names as "Appeal to Strength" and "Appeal to Masculinity," but none seemed quite right. Finally, one of my students suggested that gender itself was the core concept we were looking. She suggested the name "Appeal to Gender."


Source: Kyra Skibicki, one of my students in 2019, deserves the credit for describing and naming this fallacy.


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