According to my understanding the choices to this question is only A. But the answer sheet says the correct choices are A and C. The question asks the conceptualization about gender in western culture.

In choice C it says:

The idea of male/female binary gender is not generally considered the norm of contemporary Western civilization.

I don't know if I understand the word "norm" here correctly. If I understand it correctly, and the choice C is correct, I think it means in general western consider a third gender in their culture.

And the explanation to choice C even confuse me. It feels to me that the explanation contradict with choice.

I think this passage is quite simple, and maybe I misunderstand some key words. So please help me.

Question Answer

  • 1
    There are two possibilities. 1: "Male/Female binary gender" means those who are neither male nor female. 2. There could be a mistake on the author's side. Remember "Male/Female gender binary" is what you have at the beginning and is not the same as the one in C.
    – Noah
    Commented Sep 28, 2013 at 5:53
  • 9
    It looks like a mistake to me – the answer key seems to describe the opposite of what choice C actually states. Commented Sep 28, 2013 at 6:26
  • 3
    Actually A and B are correct, and if you replace "C" with "B" in the explanation it all makes sense.
    – Jim
    Commented Sep 28, 2013 at 7:04
  • 3
    The "not" in C shouldn't be there. An error which can cost candidates dearly on the day of the exam. The publishers ought to be informed, if they haven't been already.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 28, 2013 at 7:25
  • 2
    The answer key's description of what answer C says is a direct contradiction of what answer C actually says, however, no matter what misleading (and possibly mistaken, as Noah points out) locutions occur in the text. Only A is correct. B and C are not. Commented Sep 28, 2013 at 19:14

2 Answers 2


There is no way for us to answer this question definitively; the authors of the question are the only ones capable of doing so. But the following possibilities seem plausible to me:

  • There is a typo in Answer C and "not" should be removed. (Very likely.)
  • There is a typo in Answer C and "male/female binary gender" should be "third gender". (Somewhat likely. "Binary gender" is only used in the passage's first sentence.)
  • There is a typo in the explanation. (Unlikely.)
  • The usage of "male/female binary" in Answer C is equivalent to the usage of "third" in the explanation. (Very unlikely; binary gender more commonly refers to the concept that there are only two genders and is the same terminology used in the question.)
  • Answer C is actually asking whether the concept of binary gender is limited to Western culture. (Very unlikely. If this is the implication then both the answer and the explanation are very poorly worded.)
  • Answer C is making a distinction between the passage's usage of Western culture and the answer's usage of Western contemporary culture. (Very unlikely. This would be a ridiculous semantic trick and is not mentioned in the explanation.)

If I were to answer the question I would have only answered A. You should contact the authors and confirm the made a mistake or get a more thorough explanation for why Answer C is correct.

  • Thanks for the detailed analysis :) I have tried to contact the author/publisher, no reply so far. I will update this post if I get any any update from them.
    – David S.
    Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 2:52

There certainly might be an error here, stranger things have happened. But, personally, I am not so sure. Mind you, we are talking about the big bad GRE here. Right? GRE is hard-ass, it sure as Taxes ain't no driver's test or GED business, or ACT and SAT combined, for that matter. So, put we our thinking caps on. Oh Dialexis. And muse.


That which is constituted of two figures, things, or parts.

····It is no wonder then why patriarchy clings so fiercely to dualism. The dualism to which patriarchy subscribes is the gender binary. The gender binary as the false dichotomy of “man” and “woman”, serves as patriarchy’s underlying foundation. It is the assumption that only two genders exist in this world, male and female (despite evidence to the contrary). ... The function of patriarchy’s language is to reinforce the gender binary, yet gender (as a binary) is clearly a falsehood. So how does patriarchy succeed in concealing this dualist fantasy? We have considered the fallacy of the gender binary, its patriarchal purpose, and (briefly) the linguistic and intellectual means through which it is sustained. However, we also need to examine the origin of the gender binary within medical discourse. It might seem obvious that the origin of social gender is social. However, that is not what we are led to believe. We are led to believe that this binary is considered natural, and this “fact” of the culture is the key to keeping patriarchy alive. / The gender binary is the artificial division of the world into things that are "masculine" or "for men" and things that are "feminine" or "for women".

Having two equally important parts; related to something with two parts. Compounded or consisting of two things or parts; characterized by two (things).
·····A binary statistical distribution has only two categories. / This theory of binary composition of all chemical compounds, through the union of electro-positive and electro-negative atoms or molecules, was extended by Berzelius.


gender, n.

[count noun] Another word for sex.
·····the feminine gender. / We all have a gender. / Any flowering plant has both genders.

[count noun] Sexual identity, especially in relation to society or culture. The mental analog of sex: one's maleness, femaleness, etc., as seen from their own perspective.
·····Whether it's her personality, her political views, her gender, her sexual orientation, her prior background, or whatever, I don't know (probably differs from person to person). / O'Nan views her gender as an advantage. / I could be wrong, though that's what I heard from a discussion in school from a (female) sociologist (about how society views both genders).

[count noun] The members of one or other sex. Females or males considered as a group. All the members of one sex.
·····differences between the genders are encouraged from an early age / expressions used by one gender / the entire male gender

[mass noun] The state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones). A socio-cultural phenomenon that divides people into various categories such as "male" and "female," with each having associated dress, roles, stereotypes, etc. ·····traditional concepts of gender

Now, regarding the excerpt, in "gender binary", we have a noun (b1), modified by another noun (g_), acting as an adjective, and it can be g1, g2, g3 or g4.

In the "this third gender ... was an established presence in the Vedic culture", we have g2.

Finally, in the "Western conceptualization of gender," we have g4.

On the other hand, in the answer C, "binary gender" is a noun (g_), modified by an adjective (b2). Which g is it?

You have all assumed (Edit: actually, not all) it is g4. I say, it is g1 and g2 simultaneously.

In other words, "binary gender"* has an individual as its target, not the society/population on the whole. When they write "the idea of male/female," they mean "the idea that one person can be g1:male and at the same time be g2:female." Well, most certainly is it true that that "is not generally considered a norm of contemporary Western civilization." Yet.

Ergo: A and C are correct. The answer given is not wrong.


*A binary gender is a gender that is neither male nor female. It is a third thing. Nevertheless, it is the binarity that makes it the third.

  • Are you saying that there is not even a typo in answer C?? How do you explain that in the face of the first sentence of the paragraph: "The male/female gender binary dominates Western culture"
    – Jim
    Commented Sep 29, 2013 at 6:49
  • Yes. But, of course, none of us can be sure. I was just proving that my hypothesis is as sound as the other one. How do I explain it? Read my post once again.
    – Talia Ford
    Commented Sep 29, 2013 at 6:52
  • Another thing that adds weight to my argument is the fact that, throughout the entire text, it can be felt that they are relating one entire society with its norms—to another society with its own norms. ("Western culture, yet", "earliest", "established", "no equivalent"!) The relation is one of nonequivalence. That's what makes the entire text a hot topic. Da difference.
    – Talia Ford
    Commented Sep 29, 2013 at 7:08
  • @Jim: because as Noah et al commented above, a gender binary is not the same as a binary gender. Looks like you were applying common sense/normal usage rules to GRE; a foolish error. Commented Sep 29, 2013 at 14:33
  • 1
    @John It's a McGraw Hill book that covers the basics and one that most people agree is filled with errors. Read the reviews on Amazon.
    – dcaswell
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 2:03

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