Gender is the wide set of characteristics that are seen to distinguish between male and female entities, extending from one's biological sex to, in humans, one's social role or gender identity. As a word, it has more than one valid definition. In linguistics, it refers to characteristics of words. In ordinary speech, it is used interchangeably with "sex" to denote the condition of being male or female. In the social sciences, however, it refers specifically to social differences such as gender roles. The World Health Organization (WHO), for example, uses "gender" to refer to "the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women". People whose gender identity feels incongruent with maleness or femaleness may refer to themselves as "intergender".
Many languages have a system of grammatical gender, a type of noun class systemâ€”nouns may be classified as masculine or feminine (for example Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic and French) and may also have a neuter grammatical gender (for example Sanskrit, German, Polish, and the Scandinavian languages). In such languages, this is essentially a convention, which may have little or no connection to the meaning of the words. Likewise, a wide variety of phenomena have characteristics termed gender, by analogy with male and female bodies (such as the gender of connectors and fasteners) or due to societal norms.
While the idea of gender as a social construct is favored in many social sciences, especially gender studies, in the hard sciences, research links biological and behavioral differences in males and females as determining factors for gender (here meaning "the state of being male or female") in humans and other species; this is assisted by debate regarding the extent to which the various biological differences necessitate differences in gender identity, which has been defined as "an individual's self-conception as being male or female, as distinguished from actual biological sex".
- 1 Sociological gender
- 2 Biological gender
- 3 General studies
- 4 Legal status
- 5 See also
- 6 Discuss
Gender identity is the gender a person self-identifies as. The concept of being a woman is considered to have more challenges, due to society not only viewing women as a social category but also as a felt sense of self, a culturally conditioned or constructed subjective identity. The term "woman" has chronically been used as a reference to and for the female body; this usage has been viewed as controversial by feminists, in the definement of "woman". There are qualitative analyses that explore and present the representations of gender; feminists challenge the dominant ideologies concerning gender roles and sex. Social identity refers to the common identification with a collectivity or social category which creates a common culture among participants concerned. According to social identity theory, an important component of the self-concept is derived from memberships in social groups and categories; this is demonstrated by group processes and how inter-group relationships impact significantly on individuals' self perception and behaviors. The groups to which people belong will therefore provide their members with the definition of who they are and how they should behave in the social sphere.
Categorizing males and females into social roles creates binaries, in which individuals feel they have to be at one end of a linear spectrum and must identify themselves as man or woman. Globally, communities interpret biological differences between men and women to create a set of social expectations that define the behaviors that are "appropriate" for men and women and determine women and mens different access to rights, resources, and power in society. Although the specific nature and degree of these differences vary from one society to the next, they typically favor men, creating an imbalance in power and gender inequalities in all countries.
Western philosopher Michel Foucault claimed that as sexual subjects, humans are the object of power, which is not a institution or structure, rather it is signifier or name attributed to "complex strategical situation". Because of this, "power" is what determines individual attributes, behaviors, etc. and people are a part of an ontologically and epistemologically constructed set of names and labels. Such as, being female characterizes one as a woman, and being a woman signifies one as weak, emotional, and irrational, and is incapable of actions attributed to a "man". Judith Butler said gender and sex are more like verbs than nouns. She reasoned that her actions are limited. "I am not permitted to construct my gender and sex willy-nilly," she said. "[This] is so because gender is politically and therefore socially controlled. Rather than 'woman' being something one is, it is something one does." There are more recent criticisms of Judith Butler's theories which critique her writing for reinforcing the very conventional dichotomies of gender.
Social assignment and idea of fluidity
There are two contrasting ideas regarding the definition of gender, and the intersection of both of them is definable as below:
Gender is the result of socially constructed ideas about the behavior, actions, and roles a particular sex performs. The beliefs, values and attitude taken up and exhibited by them is as per the agreeable norms of the society and the personal opinions of the person is not taken into the primary consideration of assignment of gender and imposition of gender roles as per the assigned gender. Intersections and crossing of the prescribed boundaries have no place in the arena of the social construct of the term "gender".
The assignment of gender involves taking into account the physiological and biological attributes assigned by nature followed by the imposition of the socially constructed conduct. The social label of being classified into one or the other sex is obligatory to the medical stamp on the birth certificate. The cultural traits typically coupled to a particular sex finalize the assignment of gender and the biological differences which play a role in classifying either sex is interchangeable with the definition of gender within the social context.
In this context, the socially constructed rules are at a cross road with the assignment of a particular gender to a person. Gender ambiguity deals with having the freedom to choose,manipulate and create a personal niche within any defined socially constructed code of conduct while gender fluidity is outlawing all the rules of cultural gender assignment. It does not accept the prevalence of two rigidly defined genders "Male and Female" and believes in freedom to choose any kind of gender with no rules, no defined boundaries and no fulfilling of expectations associated with any particular gender.
Both these definitions are facing opposite directionalities with their own defined set of rules and criteria on which the said systems are based.
Sexologist John Money coined the term gender role in 1955. "The term gender role is used to signify all those things that a person says or does to disclose himself or herself as having the status of boy or man, girl or woman, respectively. It includes, but is not restricted to, sexuality in the sense of eroticism." Elements of such a role include clothing, speech patterns, movement, occupations, and other factors not limited to biological sex. Because social aspects of gender can normally be presumed to be the ones of interest in sociology and closely related disciplines, gender role is often abbreviated to gender in their literature.
Most societies have only two distinct, broad classes of gender roles—masculine and feminine—and these correspond with biological sexes male and female. However, some societies explicitly incorporate people who adopt the gender role opposite to their biological sex, for example the Two-spirit people of some indigenous American peoples. Other societies include well-developed roles that are explicitly considered more or less distinct from archetypal male and female roles in those societies. In the language of the sociology of gender they comprise a third gender, more or less distinct from biological sex (sometimes the basis for the role does include intersexuality or incorporates eunuchs). One such gender role is that adopted by the hijras of India and Pakistan. Another example may be the Muxe (pronounced "moo-shay"), found in the state of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, "beyond gay and straight."
The Bugis people of Sulawesi, Indonesia have a tradition incorporating all of the features above. Joan Roughgarden argues that in some non-human animal species, there can also be said to be more than two genders, in that there might be multiple templates for behavior available to individual organisms with a given biological sex.
Feminism and gender studies
The philosopher and feminist Simone de Beauvoir applied existentialism to women's experience of life: "One is not born a woman, one becomes one." In context, this is a philosophical statement, however, it is true biologically a girl must pass puberty to become a woman and true sociologically mature relating in social contexts is learned, not instinctive.
Within feminist theory, terminology for gender issues developed over the 1970s. In the 1974 edition of Masculine/Feminine or Human, the author uses "innate gender" and "learned sex roles", but in the 1978 edition, the use of sex and gender is reversed. By 1980, most feminist writings had agreed on using gender only for socioculturally adapted traits.
In gender studies the term gender is used to refer to proposed social and cultural constructions of masculinities and femininities. In this context, gender explicitly excludes reference to biological differences, to focus on cultural differences. This emerged from a number of different areas: in sociology during the 1950s; from the theories of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan; and in the work of French psychoanalysts like Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, and American feminists such as Judith Butler. Those who followed Butler came to regard gender roles as a practice, sometimes referred to as "performative".
Hurst states that some people think sex will â€œautomatically determine oneâ€™s gender demeanor and role (social) as well as ones sexual orientation (sexual attractions and behavior).â€ Gender sociologists believe that people have cultural origins and habits for dealing with gender. For example, Michael Schwalbe believes that humans must be taught how to act appropriately in their designated gender in order to properly fill the role and that the way people behave as masculine or feminine interacts with social expectations. Schwalbe comments that humans "are the results of many people embracing and acting on similar ideas". People do this through everything from clothing and hairstyle to relationship and employment choices. Schwalbe believes that these distinctions are important, because society wants to identify and categorize people as soon as we see them. They need to place people into distinct categories in order to know how we should feel about them.
Hurst comments that in a society where we present our genders so distinctly, there can often be severe consequences for breaking these cultural norms. Many of these consequences are rooted in discrimination based on sexual orientation. Gays and lesbians are often discriminated against in our legal system due to societal prejudices. Hurst describes how this discrimination works against people for breaking gender norms, no matter what their sexual orientation is. He says that "courts often confuse sex, gender, and sexual orientation, and confuse them in a way that results in denying the rights not only of gays and lesbians, but also of those who do not present themselves or act in a manner traditionally expected of their sex". This prejudice plays out in our legal system when a man or woman is judged differently because he or she does not present the "correct" gender. How people present and display their gender has consequences in everyday life, but also in institutionalized aspects of our society.
Recent critiques of feminist theory by Warren Farrell have given broader consideration to findings from a ten-year study of courtship by Buss Both perspectives on gendering are integrated in Attraction Theory, a theoretical framework developed by Dr Rory Ridley-Duff illustrating how courtship and parenting obligations (rather than male dominance) act as a generative mechanism that produces and reproduces a range of gender identities.
See also Sexual differentiation
The biology of gender became the subject of an expanding number of studies over the course of the late 20th century. One of the earliest areas of interest was what is now called gender identity disorder (GID). Studies in this, and related areas, inform the following summary of the subject by John Money, a pioneer and controversial sex and gender researcher.
The term "gender role" appeared in print first in 1955. The term "gender identity" was used in a press release, November 21, 1966, to announce the new clinic for transsexuals at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was disseminated in the media worldwide, and soon entered the vernacular. The definitions of gender and gender identity vary on a doctrinal basis. In popularized and scientifically debased usage, sex is what you are biologically; gender is what you become socially; gender identity is your own sense or conviction of maleness or femaleness; and gender role is the cultural stereotype of what is masculine and feminine. Causality with respect to gender identity disorder is subdivisible into genetic, prenatal hormonal, postnatal social, and postpubertal hormonal determinants, but there is, as yet, no comprehensive and detailed theory of causality. Gender coding in the brain is bipolar. In gender identity disorder, there is discordancy between the natal sex of one's external genitalia and the brain coding of one's gender as masculine or feminine.
Money refers to attempts to distinguish a difference between biological sex and social gender as "scientifically debased", because of our increased knowledge of a continuum of dimorphic features (Money's word is "dipolar") that link biological and behavioral differences. These extend from the exclusively biological "genetic" and "prenatal hormonal" differences between men and women, to "postnatal" features, some of which are social, but others have been shown to result from "postpubertal hormonal" effects
Prior to recent technology that made study of brain differences possible, observable differences in behaviour between men and women could not be adequately explained solely on the basis of the limited observable physical differences between them. Hence the then-plausible theory that these differences might be explained by arbitrary cultural assignments of roles. However, Money notes concisely that masculine or feminine self-identity is now seen as essentially an expression of dimorphic brain structure (Money's word is "coding"). The new discoveries have an additional advantage over the theory of cultural arbitrariness of gender roles, as they help explain the similarities between these roles in widely divergent cultures (see Steven Pinker on Donald Brown's Human Universals, including romantic love, sexual jealousy, and patriarchy).
Although causation from the biological â€” genetic and hormonal â€” to the behavioural has been broadly demonstrated and accepted, Money is careful to also note that understanding of the causal chains from biology to behaviour in sex and gender issues is very far from complete. For example, the existence of a "gay gene" has not been proven, but such a gene remains an acknowledged possibility.
Chromosomes were likened to books (above), also like books they have been studied at more detailed levels. They contain "sentences" called genes. In fact, many of these sentences are common to multiple species. Sometimes they are organized in the same order, other times they have been "edited" â€” deleted, copied, changed, moved, even relocated to another "book", as species evolve. Genes are a particularly important part of understanding biological processes because they are directly associated with observable objects, outside chromosomes, called proteins, whose influence on cell chemistry can be measured. In some cases genes can also be directly associated with differences clear to the naked eye, like eye-color itself. Some of these differences are sex specific, like hairy ears. The "hairy ear" gene might be found on the Y chromosome, which explains why only men tend to have hairy ears. However, sex-limited genes on any chromosome can be expressed and "say", for example, "if you are in a male body do X, otherwise do not." The same principle explains why chimpanzees and humans are distinct, despite sharing nearly all their genes.
The study of genetics is particularly inter-disciplinary. It is relevant to almost every biological science. It is investigated in detail by molecular level sciences, and itself contributes details to high level abstractions like evolutionary theory.
"It is well established that men have a larger cerebrum than women by about 8â€“10% (Filipek et al., 1994; Nopoulos et al., 2000; Passe et al., 1997a,b; Rabinowicz et al., 1999; Witelson et al., 1995)." However, what is functionally relevant are differences in composition and "wiring", some of these differences are very pronounced. Richard J. Haier and colleagues at the universities of New Mexico and California (Irvine) found, using brain mapping, that men have more than six times the amount of grey matter related to general intelligence than women, and women have nearly ten times the amount of white matter related to intelligence than men.
Gray matter is used for information processing, while white matter consists of the connections between processing centers. Other differences are measurable but less pronounced. Most of these differences are known to be produced by the activity of hormones, hence ultimately derived from the Y chromosome and sexual differentiation. However, differences arising from the activity of genes directly have also been observed.
|â€œ||A sexual dimorphism in levels of expression in brain tissue was observed by quantitative real-time Polymerase chain reaction, with females presenting an up to 2-fold excess in the abundance of PCDH11X transcripts. We relate these findings to sexually dimorphic traits in the human brain. Interestingly, PCDH11X/Y gene pair is unique to Homo sapiens, since the X-linked gene was transposed to the Y chromosome after the humanâ€“chimpanzee lineages split.||â€|
It has also been demonstrated that brain processing responds to the external environment. Learning, both of ideas and behaviors, appears to be coded in brain processes. It also appears that in several simplified cases this coding operates differently, but in some ways equivalently, in the brains of men and women. For example, both men and women learn and use language; however, bio-chemically, they appear to process it differently. Differences in male and female use of language are likely reflections both of biological preferences and aptitudes, and of learned patterns.
Two of the main fields that study brain structure, biological (and other) causes and behavioral (and other) results are brain neurology and biological psychology. Cognitive science is another important discipline in the field of brain research.
Society and behaviors
Many of the more complicated human behaviors are influenced by both innate factors and by environmental ones, which include everything from genes, gene expression, and body chemistry, through diet and social pressures. A large area of research in behavioral psychology collates evidence in an effort to discover correlations between behavior and various possible antecedents such as genetics, gene regulation, access to food and vitamins, culture, gender, hormones, physical and social development, and physical and social environments.
A core research area within sociology is the way human behavior operates on itself, in other words, how the behavior of one group or individual influences the behavior of other groups or individuals. Starting in the late 20th century, the feminist movement has contributed extensive study of gender and theories about it, notably within sociology but not restricted to it.
Social theorists have sought to determine the specific nature of gender in relation to biological sex and sexuality, with the result being that culturally established gender and sex have become interchangeable identifications which signify the allocation of a specific 'biological' sex within a categorical gender. The second wave feminist view that gender is socially constructed and hegemonic in all societies, remains current in some literary theoretical circles, Kira Hall and Mary Bucholtz publishing new perspectives as recently as 2008.
Contemporary socialisation theory proposes the notion that when a child is first born it has a biological sex but no social gender. As the child grows, "society provides a string of prescriptions, templates, or models of behaviors appropriate to the one sex or the other" which socialises the child into belonging to a culturally specific gender. There is huge incentive for a child to concede to their socialisation with gender shaping the individualâ€™s opportunities for education, work, family, sexuality, reproduction, authority, and to make an impact on the production of culture and knowledge. Adults who do not perform these ascribed roles are perceived from this perspective as deviant and improperly socialised.
Some believe society is constructed in a way in which gender is split into a dichotomy by social organisations which constantly invent and reproduce cultural images of gender. Joan Ackner (The Gendered Society Reader) believes gendering occurs in at least five different interacting social processes:
- The construction of divisions along the lines of gender, such as those which are produced by labor, power, family, the state, even allowed behaviors and locations in physical space
- The construction of symbols and images such as language, ideology, dress and the media, that explain, express and reinforce, or sometimes oppose, those divisions
- Interactions between men and women, women and women and men and men which involve any form of dominance and submission. Conversational theorists, for example, have studied the way in which interruptions, turn taking and the setting of topics re-create gender inequality in the flow of ordinary talk
- The way in which the preceding three processes help to produce gendered components of individual identity. i.e. the way in which they create and maintain an image of a gendered self
- Gender is implicated in the fundamental, ongoing processes of creating and conceptualising social structures.
Looking at gender through a Foucauldian lens, gender is transfigured into a vehicle for the social division of power. Gender difference is merely a construct of society used to enforce the distinctions made between that which is assumed to be male and female, and allow for the domination of masculinity over femininity through the attribution of specific gender-related characteristics. "The idea that men and women are more different from one another than either is from anything else, must come from something other than natureâ€¦ far from being an expression of natural differences, exclusive gender identity is the suppression of natural similarities."
Gender conventions play a large role in attributing masculine and feminine characteristics to a fundamental biological sex. Socio-cultural codes and conventions, the rules by which society functions, and which are both a creation of society as well as a constituting element of it, determine the allocation of these specific traits to the sexes. These traits provide the foundations for the creation of hegemonic gender difference. It follows then, that gender can be assumed as the acquisition and internalisation of social norms. Individuals are therefore socialised through their receipt of societyâ€™s expectations of â€˜acceptableâ€™ gender attributes which are flaunted within institutions such as the family, the state and the media. Such a notion of â€˜genderâ€™ then becomes naturalised into a personâ€™s sense of self or identity, effectively imposing a gendered social category upon a sexed body.
The conception that people are gendered rather than sexed also coincides with Judith Butlerâ€™s theories of gender performativity. Butler argues that gender is not an expression of what one is, but rather something that one does. It follows then, that if gender is acted out in a repetitive manner it is in fact re-creating and effectively embedding itself within the social consciousness. Contemporary sociological reference to male and female gender roles typically uses masculinities and femininities in the plural rather than singular, suggesting diversity both within cultures as well as across them.
From the 'evidence', it can only be concluded that gender is socially constructed and each individual is unique in their gender characteristics, regardless of which biological sex they are as every child is socialised to behave a certain way and have the â€˜properâ€™ gender attributes. If individuals in society do not conform to this pressure, they are destined to be treated as abnormal; therefore it is personally greatly beneficial for them to cooperate in the determined â€˜correctâ€™ ordering of the world. In fact, the very construct of society is a product of and produces gender norms. There is bias in applying the word â€˜genderâ€™ to anyone in a finite way; rather each person is endowed with certain gender characteristics. The world cannot be egalitarian while there are â€˜assignedâ€™ genders and individuals are not given the right to express any gender characteristic they desire.
The difference between the sociological and popular definitions of gender involve a different dichotomy and focus. For example the sociological approach to "gender" (social roles: male versus female) will focus on the difference in (economic/ power) position between a male CEO (disregarding the fact that he is heterosexual or homosexual) to female workers in his employ (disregarding whether they are straight or gay). However the popular sexual self-conception approach (self-conception: gay versus straight) will focus on the different self-conceptions and social conceptions of those who are gay/straight, in comparison with those who are straight (disregarding what might be vastly differing economic and power positions between male and female groups in each category). There is then, in relation to definition of and approaches to "gender", a tension between historic feminist sociology and contemporary homosexual sociology.
A person's sex as male or female has legal significance â€” sex is indicated on government documents, and laws provide differently for men and women. Many pension systems have different retirement ages for men or women. Marriage is usually only available to opposite-sex couples.
The question then arises as to what legally determines whether someone is male or female. In most cases this can appear obvious, but the matter is complicated for intersexual or transgender people. Different jurisdictions have adopted different answers to this question. Almost all countries permit changes of legal gender status in cases of intersexualism, when the gender assignment made at birth is determined upon further investigation to be biologically inaccurate â€” technically, however, this is not a change of status per se. Rather, it is recognition of a status which was deemed to exist, but unknown, from birth. Increasingly, jurisdictions also provide a procedure for changes of legal gender for transgendered people.
Gender assignment, when there are indications that genital sex might not be decisive in a particular case, is normally not defined by a single definition, but by a combination of conditions, including chromosomes and gonads. Thus, for example, in many jurisdictions a person with XY chromosomes but female gonads could be recognized as female at birth.
The ability to change legal gender for transgender people in particular has given rise to the phenomena in some jurisdictions of the same person having different genders for the purposes of different areas of the law. For example, in Australia prior to the Re Kevin decisions, transsexual people could be recognized as having the genders they identified with under many areas of the law, including social security law, but not for the law of marriage. Thus, for a period, it was possible for the same person to have two different genders under Australian law.
It is also possible in federal systems for the same person to have one gender under state law and a different gender under federal law.
Gender and development
Gender, and particularly the role of women is widely recognized as vitally important to international development issues. This often means a focus on gender-equality, ensuring participation, but includes an understanding of the different roles and expectation of the genders within the community.
The Overseas Development Institute has highlighted that policy dialogue on the Millennium Development Goals needs to recognise that the gender dynamics of power, poverty, vulnerability and care link all the goals.
As well as directly addressing inequality, attention to gender issues is regarded as important to the success of development programs, for all participants. For example, in microfinance it is common to target women, as besides the fact that women tend to be over-represented in the poorest segments of the population, they are also regarded as more reliable at repaying the loans.
Some organizations working in developing countries and in the development field have incorporated advocacy and empowerment for women into their work. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization adopted in November 2009 a 10-year strategic framework that includes the strategic objective of gender equity in access to resources, goods, services and decision-making in rural areas, and mainstreams gender equity in all FAO's programmes for agriculture and rural development.
The Gender-related Development Index (GDI), developed by the United Nations (UN), aims to show the inequalities between men and women in the following areas: long and healthy life, knowledge, and a decent standard of living.
Gender and poverty
Gender inequality has a great impact especially on women and poverty. In poverty stricken countries it is more likely that men have more opportunities to have an income, have more political and social rights than women. Women experience more poverty than men do due to gender discrimination.
Gender and Development (GAD) is a holistic approach to give aid to countries where gender inequality has a great effect of not improving the scoial and economic development. It is to empower women and decrease the level of inquality between men and women.
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- Wearing, B 1996, Gender: The Pain and Pleasure of Difference, Longman, Melbourne.
- Acker, J 2000, â€˜Hierarchies, Jobs, Bodies: A Theory of Gendered Organizationsâ€™, in M Kimmel with A Aronson (eds), The Gendered Society Reader, Oxford University Press, New York.
- Glover & Kaplan, 2000, p. xxi.
- Glover, D & Kaplan, C 2000, Genders, Routledge, New York.
- Lloyd, M 1999, â€˜Performativity, Parody, Politicsâ€™ in CULT 19016 Contemporary Modes of Culture Resource Materials, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton.
- See for example http://www.jstor.org/pss/201865
- Gender and the MDGS. Overseas Development Institute (September 2008).
- Gender equity. Food and Agriculture Organization (November 2009).
- Chant. S. 2008. The â€˜feminisation of povertyâ€™ and the â€˜feminisationâ€™ of anti-poverty programmes: Room for revision? Journal of development studies 44(2):165-197.
Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Thinking Gender. New York & London: Routledge, 1990.
- Chafetz, JS. Masculine/Feminine or Human? An Overview of the Sociology of Sex Roles. Itasca, Illinois: F. E. Peacock, 1974 (1st ed.), 1978 (2nd ed.) . ISBN 0875812317. OCLC 4348310.
- Lepowsky, Maria. Fruit of the Motherland: Gender in an Egalitarian Society. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993 . ISBN 0231081200. OCLC 28183522.
- Lerro, Bruce "Power in Eden: The Emergence of Gender Hierarchies in the Ancient World", 2005, Trafford Publishing . ISBN 1412021413.
- Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook
- Children's Gender Beliefs
- WikEdâ€”Gender Differences
- WikEdâ€”Gender Inequities in the Classroom
- Gender Museum
- Gender in agriculture and rural development
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