V. and Anna G. sent in this ad for a LOLCats T-shirt.  Notice that the woman’s t-shirt is for women only, but the man’s t-shirt also doubles as a unisex shirt.


Both Emily W. and Sabine M. sent in this example of the same phenomenon at Mental Floss:


Mindy J. sent us a third example from Secret Society of Vegans:

From Johanna G:

Finally, Jessica S. sent in this example from Kung Fu Nation:


This is just another example of the phenomenon of how we take one half of a (false) binary (such as man vs. woman) and make one generic and the other specific.   Men can be human, but women are always female humans; white people can be just people, but non-white people are always other; Christian symbols are for everyone, but non-Christian symbols are exclusive; and so on and so on.

For more examples, see these posts on how racial and ethnic identity adds spice, Sotomayor’s racial bias, male neutrality in stick figures (here and here), male-default avatars, flesh-colored products, for normal to darker skin, Michelle Obama’s “flesh-colored” gown.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.