Gender neutrality – when does it become too much?

Gender neutrality has become a bit of a buzz phrase recently, and there are definitely worthy causes that champion equality of the sexes. McKenna Pope’s petition to make the Easy Bake Oven more inclusive for boys is one of those causes that make sense. To assume that the kitchen is the sole domain of girls is a wildly outdated idea that should have been squashed decades ago. It’s a step in the right direction to allow boys and girls the same opportunities in life without focussing one gender at the detriment of another. Luckily, most people agree, with 94% of Brits believing that a person’s gender should not come into play with regards to how they are treated by society, according to research by Confused.com [source].

Sadly, there are a whole host of gender stereotypes that are still prevalent these days that aren’t going away any time soon. Despite evidence to the contrary, it is still widely believed that gender is a product of genetics, and that we’re hardwired from birth to think and act as a male or a female. It’s the classic nature vs. nurture argument, and in the case of gender it seems more likely that a combination of our upbringing, social conditioning and decades of media exposure and advertising has landed us into these ill-fitting shoes.

In the case of marketing toys for children, gender neutrality is a great thing. Why can’t a three year old boy have a doll for Christmas? If dolls are meant to emulate motherhood in girls, then logically they emulate fatherhood in boys (being able to care for another life is a useful trait, no matter who you are). The problem lies in doing away with the gender divide in adults. Usually by the time we reach adulthood we’ve assumed our gender roles and act accordingly. Men act like men because they’ve learned to act like men, not because they were born this way. In certain areas the battle of the sexes is a real one, and initiatives like the EU Gender Directive that is due to come into play on December 21st are creating an androgynous population for no good reason.

The Directive will impact on the insurance industry, specifically car insurance, life insurance and annuities. Insurers will no longer be allowed to use gender as a way of assessing the risk of a driver, despite years’ worth of evidence that clearly points to men as being riskier drivers. While female drivers have been enjoying a lower premium, after December 21st they’re likely to see their prices go up by as much as a quarter and women under 25 will see the sharpest increases. The opposite is true for women who have life insurance – the older you are the more likely you are to see the price go up by over a fifth. This is despite statistics that show women generally live longer than men, which make them less likely to claim on a life insurance policy.

The EU Gender Directive seems to be sticking its nose in where it’s not needed or wanted for no other reason than to shake things up. I’m all for equality in every sense, and gender neutrality is a worthy goal to work towards, provided there’s evidence to support its usefulness. In the case of the insurance industry, the evidence justifies the gender divide, but we can’t do anything to stop our prices going up.

There is still a little time left before December 21st, so if you want to be safe of the price rises for another year, it might be worth cancelling your current policy and shopping around for a new one before the ruling hits. Young women drivers and older women with life insurance policies should definitely strike while the iron’s hot – there may be cancellation and admin fees to pay, but it could work out better for you than waiting for your prices to shoot up.

This article was written by Jamie Gibbs, who is the resident blogger for life insurance comparison site Confused.com. Despite his gender-neutral name, he considers himself to be quite manly, though he does have a weakness for adorable baby animals.

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