I'm talking about "snaps", or "poppers" for the Brits amongst you, that garment closure with the onomatopoetic name(s). They look approximately like this:
The pokey side, with its flat back, attaches very cleanly to the fabric:
Well, let me tell you how that was explained to me.
"Alright so there's a male side and a female side, and the male one goes on top"
And I discovered shortly thereafter, that this Highly Icky terminology is used for lots of other things too.
Plug? Male. Socket? Female.
Pokey part? Male. Denty part? Female.
The WORST was when I heard it applied to Velcro. VELCRO. There's perfectly acceptable non-gross terminology for velcro - the scratchy side is teeny hooks and the soft side is teeny loops, so call it hook and loop. But nooooooo, the hook has to be "male" and the loop "female".
IS NO ONE ELSE BOTHERED BY THIS? GOOD LORD.
At first, I didn't really know what about it made me uncomfortable, but I have figured it out:
Thing 1: cisnormativity
This terminology basically reduces the concepts of "male" and "female" to "penis" and "vagina" (or "poke" and "hole" if you prefer euphemism). There is SO MUCH more to gender (and to sex) than "penis or vagina", but using this kind of terminology reinforces the extreme old-fashioned binary.
Thing 2: heteronormativity
Snaps (and other such things) only work when the two opposite parts are put together. A denty side will not snap with another denty side. This is NOT TRUE of humans, but the application of human terminology to this system reinforces the idea that only a male and female ("penis" and "vagina") can/will fit together.
Thing 3: EWW
If the snaps are male/"penis" and female/"vagina" that means that every time you snap a snap (or plug in a lamp, or stick together some velcro), you're simulating the act of sex. Does no one else think that's weird? Did it never occur to any of my teachers that, by assigning hardware genders based on similarity to genitalia, they are turning everything into sex, everywhere all the time? Closing a shirt? SEX. Setting up a television? SEX. EEUUEGH its just so icky to think about. And there's no room for consent in there either. What if those little snaps don't want to have sex? TOO BAD, you needed to close up that shirt to go on stage.
I know this sounds ridiculous, but you can't tell me it isn't running in the background of this whole nomenclature system. You can't say "that looks like a penis, lets call it male" and then also say "this has nothing to do with the function of the hardware, it was just a handy term".
I move that we abolish this linguistic shortcut. I am 1000% sure that every piece of hardware that it is applied to can be referred to differently. Some of them already have established words - for Velcro, hook and loop; for electrics, plug and socket.
I've not yet heard a set of terms for the parts of snaps, so I humbly suggest "innie" and "outie". Like bellybuttons! And I think it can be said, that snaps do bear a certain (limited) resemblance to bellybuttons.
Let's abolish cis-het normativity in our work terminology, kids.
There's no good reason to keep it.