Gender vs. Sex
● "Gender" refers to a person's perceived or
projected social location within culturally
established designations between masculine
and feminine behaviors.
● Sex refers to a person's assignment, usually by
medical, religious, familial, and / or
governmental authorities, into categories
socially constructed on the basis of perceived
genetic and biological factors.
Cis vs. Trans
● Cis sex/gender people are those who conform
to the existing notions of sex and gender within
a given social, historical, cultural, political, and
● Trans sex/gender people are those who do not
conform to the existing notions of sex and
gender within a given social, historical, cultural,
political, and scientific context.
There are some clear physiological differences between males and females.
In addition to different sex organs and sex chromosomes, the average male is 10 percent taller, 20 percent heavier, and 35 percent stronger in the upper body
than the average female. Some researchers believe that these physiological differences may have been influenced by social/cultural decisions in our
evolutionary past. Even so, when measured against their own body size, rather than on an absolute scale, actual strength differences are minimal.
Females, for reasons still somewhat undetermined, tend to outlive males. Female life expectancy in the U.S. is 79.8 years; for males it is 74.4.
Behaviorally, age of sitting, teething, and walking all occur at about the same time in females and males. However, males enter puberty on average two years
later than females (it is important to note, however, that females have a clear sign (e.g., menarche) of puberty onset whereas males (and their parents) are
generally uncertain of the exact onset of puberty, which could skew these interpretations).
There are no significant differences in intelligence, happiness, or self-esteem between males and females. However, females are, statistically, twice as vulnerable
to anxiety disorders and depression (possibly due to their experience as a subordinate or minority group within many societies), but only one-third as vulnerable
to suicide and one-fifth as vulnerable to alcoholism (potentially due to traditional definitions of masculinities that link violence and substance abuse to
Females have slightly more olfactory receptors on average and are more easily re-aroused immediately after orgasm (potentially due to traditional associations of
femininities to the pursuit of sexual pleasure and intimacy in relation to masculine associations with sexual conquest and performance).
Much evidence has shown that there are differences in male and female brains. In fact, the temporal lobe, which is the part of the brain associated with language
and emotion, develops up to 4 years earlier in females in comparison to boys (which mirrors patterns of gender socialization for femininities).
Social and Psychological
● Gender differences (whether reflected in later
physiology or not) typically vary by society,
environment, historical context, and/or culture,
indicating they are social constructions.
Work and Occupations
Women's participation in the workforce has varied significantly
● Prior to the development of capitalism and factory-type work,
women played a significant role in food production and household
With the advent of capitalism and labor outside of the home,
women continued to play a significant role, though their
participation in paid labor outside the home initially diminished.
Also, women's participation in the labor force varied (and varies)
depending on marital status and social class.
One measure of educational attainment where women have made great inroads is in college attendance. In 1960, 37.9% of female high
school graduates enrolled in college, compared with 54.0% of male high school graduates. In 2002, more female high school graduates were
enrolling in college than males, 68.4% of females vs. 62.1% males.
Women now earn more Bachelors and Masters degrees than do men, and for the first time in 2009, they earned more PhDs.
While women are entering college at higher rates and even earning more degrees, the degrees are in less prestigious areas (e.g., social
sciences and humanities compared to physical sciences) and women with degrees still earn less than do men with comparable degrees.
At the primary and secondary levels, girls don't often do as well as boys, particularly in math and the sciences. One recent study offers a
partial explanation for why this might be the case: highly math-anxious female teachers in elementary school pass their math-anxiety on to
the girls in the classroom, but not to the boys. At the beginning of the class, there were no differences in math anxiety between the boys and
girls, but in classes taught by female math-anxious teachers, girls developed math anxiety and boys did not. This anxiety led girls to believe
boys were better at math than girls, though there is no evidence to suggest that is actually the case.
● Sexism is discrimination against people based on their
perceived sex or gender. Sexism can refer to four subtly
different beliefs or attitudes:
– The belief that there are only two sexes.
– The belief that one sex is superior to the others.
– The belief that men and women (as well as other genders) are
very different and that this should be strongly reflected in
society, language, the right to have sex, and the law.
– It can also refer to simple hatred of men (misandry) or women
(misogyny) or trans people (transphobia).
● Sociologists and other social scientists generally attribute many of the differences between genders to
● In gender socialization, the groups people join are the gender categories, "cisgender women and men"
and "transgender people". Thus, gender socialization is the process of educating and instructing
potential males, females, and intersex children as to the norms, behaviors, values, and beliefs of group
● Many of the gender differences just described are attributed to differences in socialization, though it is
possible that as yet undemonstrated genetic and biological factors play some role. It is important to keep
in mind that gender differences are a combination of social and biological forces; sometimes one or the
other has a larger influence, but both play a role in dictating behavior.
● Research finds that gender differences in work and occupations begin with adolescents' first jobs:
– first jobs are significantly segregated by sex
– girls work fewer hours per week than boys
– girls earn less per hour than boys
– hourly wages are higher in job types dominated by males
– girls are assigned more housework than are boys
● In this perspective, which was developed in the
1940s and 1950s, genders are viewed as
complementary - women take care of the home
while men provide for the family.
● Much current research, especially after the
women's movement of the 1960s and 1970s,
criticizes this approach for supporting the status
quo and condoning the oppression of women.
● In contrast to the status quo supporting structural
functionalist approach, social conflict theory argues that
gender is best understood in terms of power relationships.
● Men's dominance of women and cisgender dominance of
transgender is seen as an attempt to maintain power and
privilege to the detriment of women.
● This approach is normative in that it prescribes changes to
the power structure, advocating a balance of power
● Symbolic Interaction theories examine the varied meanings and
constructions of gender over time and space.
● Symbolic Interaction researchers have demonstrated the shifting
"biological beliefs" about gender in relation to women's movement
activities as well as the processes whereby gender socialization
● This approach seeks to excavate the origins of gender beliefs and
patterns while paying specific attention to the ways these meanings
change in relation to shifting power dynamics and social norms.
● Feminist Theory critiques hierarchical power relations embedded
within existing gender structures, cultures, beliefs, discourses,
identities, and processes of self presentation.
● Feminist Theory examines how women and other gender minorities
are disadvantaged in relation to men and cisgender norms within
patriarchal structures, cultures, and processes of social organization.
● Feminist Theory tries to ascertain how people learn to present, signify,
interpret, and believe in notions of womanhood and/or manhood as
well as the ways these processes generate, challenge, maintain,
and/or reproduce social inequalities.
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