Transcribe as Seen: Challenging RDA Regarding Gender in Moving Image Materials

Document Type

Book Chapter

Subject Area(s)

library and information science


Resource Description and Access (RDA) offers more free-formed approaches to constructing metadata, decentralizing the need for rigid comprehension of specificity when providing expansive metadata to objects. It allows for more operability and nuanced ways of describing items with contextual differences in larger collections, while maintaining connectivity between collections. One can imagine the nuance placed on topics of identity within a given framework, particularly concerning self-defined identities. Yet, early iterations RDA failed to facilitate language to discuss gender; assuming a categorical binary, forcing catalogers to label gender as either male or female, thus completely disregarding how a person identifies on a spectrum outside this binary. This limitation proves detrimental to users seeking out queer and non-gender conforming materials. Through critical advocacy, this guideline changed to state that catalogers should provide gender information with an understanding that “gender is the gender with which a person identifies”(RDA Toolkit 2017, under “RDA Principle 9.7”). While one may read this as progress, it is progress built on avoiding problems of normative gender presumptions. Stating that the person must identify explicitly as a gender limits potentials of identity and burdens those claiming identities outside the limits of a male/female binary. Furthermore, the amount of materials which do not provide said statement are limitless, as evidenced by the amount of queer materials housed in moving image archives.