Sociolinguistics and gender
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society,
including cultural norms, expectations, and context, on the way language is used, and the
effects of language use on society. Sociolinguistics differs from sociology of language in that
the focus of sociolinguistics is the effect of the society on the language, while the sociology of
language focuses on language's effect on the society. Sociolinguistics overlaps to a
considerable degree with pragmatics. It is historically closely related to linguistic
anthropology and the distinction between the two fields has even been questioned recently.
It also studies how language varieties differ between groups separated by certain social
variables, e.g., ethnicity, religion, status, gender, level of education, age, etc., and how
creation and adherence to these rules is used to categorize individuals in social or
socioeconomic classes. As the usage of a language varies from place to place, language usage
also varies among social classes, and it is these sociolects that sociolinguistics studies.
The social aspects of language were in the modern sense first studied by Indian and Japanese
linguists in the 1930s, and also by Louis Gauchat in Switzerland in the early 1900s, but none
received much attention in the West until much later. The study of the social motivation of
language change, on the other hand, has its foundation in the wave model of the late 19th
century. The first attested use of the term sociolinguistics was by Thomas Callan Hodson in
the title of his 1939 article "Sociolingistics in India" published in Man in India..
Sociolinguistics in the West first appeared in the 1960s and was pioneered by linguists such as
William Labov in the US and Basil Bernstein in the UK. In the 1960s, William Stewart and
Heinz Kloss introduced the basic concepts for the sociolinguistic theory of pluricentric
languages, which describes how standard language varieties differ between nations (e.g.
American/British/Canadian/Australian English; Austrian/German/Swiss German;
For example, a sociolinguist might determine through study of social attitudes that a particular
vernacular would not be considered appropriate language use in a business or professional
setting. Sociolinguists might also study the grammar, phonetics, vocabulary, and other aspects
of this sociolect much as dialectologists would study the same for a regional dialect.
The study of language variation is concerned with social constraints determining language in
its contextual environment. Code-switching is the term given to the use of different varieties
of language in different social situations.
William Labov is often regarded as the founder of the study of sociolinguistics. He is
especially noted for introducing the quantitative study of language variation and change,
making the sociology of language into a scientific discipline.
Traditional sociolinguistic interview
Sociolinguistic interviews are an integral part of collecting data for sociolinguistic studies.
There is an interviewer, who is conducting the study, and a subject, or informant, who is the
interviewee. In order to get a grasp on a specific linguistic form and how it is used in the
dialect of the subject, a variety of methods are used to elicit certain registers of speech. There
are five different styles, ranging from formal to casual. The most formal style would be
elicited by having the subject read a list of minimal pairs (MP). Minimal pairs are pairs of
words that differ in only one phoneme, such as cat and bat. Having the subject read a word list
(WL) will elicit a formal register, but generally not as formal as MP. The reading passage
(RP) style is next down on the formal register, and the interview style (IS) is when an
interviewer can finally get into eliciting a more casual speech from the subject. During the IS
the interviewer can converse with the subject and try to draw out of them an even more casual
sort of speech by asking him to recall childhood memories or maybe a near death experience,
in which case the subject will get deeply involved with the story since strong emotions are
often attached to these memories. Of course, the most sought after type of speech is the casual
style (CS). This type of speech is difficult if not impossible to elicit because of the Observer's
Paradox. The closest one might come to CS in an interview is when the subject is interrupted
by a close friend or family member, or perhaps must answer the phone. CS is used in a
completely unmonitored environment where the subject feels most comfortable and will use
their natural vernacular without overtly thinking about it.
Fundamental concepts in sociolinguistics
While the study of sociolinguistics is very broad, there are a few fundamental concepts on
which many sociolinguistic inquiries depend.
Main article: Speech community
Speech community is a concept in sociolinguistics that describes a distinct group of people
who use language in a unique and mutually accepted way among themselves. This is
sometimes referred to as a Sprechbund.
To be considered part of a speech community, one must have a communicative competence.
That is, the speaker has the ability to use language in a way that is appropriate in the given
situation. It is possible for a speaker to be communicatively competent in more than one
Speech communities can be members of a profession with a specialized jargon, distinct social
groups like high school students or hip hop fans, or even tight-knit groups like families and
friends. Members of speech communities will often develop slang or jargon to serve the
group's special purposes and priorities.
Community of Practice allows for sociolinguistics to examine the relationship between
socialization, competence, and identity. Since identity is a very complex structure, studying
language socialization is a means to examine the micro-interactional level of practical activity
(everyday activities). The learning of a language is greatly influenced by family but it is
supported by the larger local surroundings, such as school, sports teams, or religion. Speech
communities may exist within a larger community of practice.
High prestige and low prestige varieties
Main article: Prestige (sociolinguistics)
Crucial to sociolinguistic analysis is the concept of prestige; certain speech habits are assigned
a positive or a negative value, which is then applied to the speaker. This can operate on many
levels. It can be realised on the level of the individual sound/phoneme, as Labov discovered in
investigating pronunciation of the post-vocalic /r/ in the North-Eastern USA, or on the macro
scale of language choice, as realised in the various diglossias that exist throughout the world,
where Swiss-German/High German is perhaps most well known. An important implication of
sociolinguistic theory is that speakers 'choose' a variety when making a speech act, whether
consciously or subconsciously.
Understanding language in society means that one also has to understand the social networks
in which language is embedded. A social network is another way of describing a particular
speech community in terms of relations between individual members in a community. A
network could be loose or tight depending on how members interact with each other. For
instance, an office or factory may be considered a tight community because all members
interact with each other. A large course with 100+ students would be a looser community
because students may only interact with the instructor and maybe 1–2 other students. A
multiplex community is one in which members have multiple relationships with each other.
For instance, in some neighborhoods, members may live on the same street, work for the
same employer and even intermarry.
The looseness or tightness of a social network may affect speech patterns adopted by a
speaker. For instance, Sylvie Dubois and Barbara Horvath found that speakers in one Cajun
Louisiana community were more likely to pronounce English "th" [θ] as [t] (or [ð] as [d]) if
they participated in a relatively dense social network (i.e. had strong local ties and interacted
with many other speakers in the community), and less likely if their networks were looser (i.e.
fewer local ties).
A social network may apply to the macro level of a country or a city, but also to the interpersonal level of neighborhoods or a single family. Recently, social networks have been
formed by the Internet, through chat rooms, MySpace groups, organizations, and online
Internal vs. external language
In Chomskyan linguistics, a distinction is drawn between I-language (internal language) and
E-language (external language). In this context, internal language is linguistic knowledge that
a native speaker of language has. It applies to the study of syntax and semantics on the
abstract level. External language applies to language in social contexts, i.e. behavioral habits
shared by a community. Internal language analyses operate on the assumption that all native
speakers of a language are quite homogeneous in how they process and perceive
language. External language fields, such as sociolinguistics, attempt to explain
why this is in fact not the case. Many sociolinguists reject the distinction between I- and Elanguage on the grounds that it is based on a mentalist view of language. On this view,
grammar is first and foremost an interactional (social) phenomenon (e.g. Elinor Ochs,
Emanuel Schegloff, Sandra Thompson).
Differences according to class
Further information: Linguistic insecurity
Sociolinguistics as a field distinct from dialectology was pioneered through the study of
language variation in urban areas. Whereas dialectology studies the geographic distribution of
language variation, sociolinguistics focuses on other sources of variation, among them class.
Class and occupation are among the most important linguistic markers found in society. One
of the fundamental findings of sociolinguistics, which has been hard to disprove, is that class
and language variety are related. Members of the working class tend to speak less standard
language, while the lower, middle, and upper middle class will in turn speak closer to the
standard. However, the upper class, even members of the upper middle class, may often speak
'less' standard than the middle class. The looseness or tightness of a social network may affect
speech patterns adopted by a speaker. For instance, Sylvie Dubois and Barbara Horvath found
that speakers in one Cajun Louisiana community were more likely to pronounce English "th"
[θ] as [t] (or [ð] as [d]) if they participated in a relatively dense social network (i.e. had strong
local ties and interacted with many other speakers in the community), and less likely if their
networks were looser (i.e. fewer local ties) This is because not only class, but class
aspirations, are important.
Studies, such as those by William Labov in the 1960s, have shown that social aspirations
influence speech patterns. This is also true of class aspirations. In the process of wishing to be
associated with a certain class (usually the upper class and upper middle class) people who are
moving in that direction socio-economically will adjust their speech patterns to sound like
them. However, not being native upper class speakers, they often hypercorrect, which
involves overcorrecting their speech to the point of introducing new errors. The same is true
for individuals moving down in socio-economic status.
In any contact situation, there is a power dynamic, be it a teacher-student or employeecustomer situation, this power dynamic results in a hierarchical differentiation between
Social language codes
Basil Bernstein, a well-known British socio-linguist, devised in his book, 'Elaborated and
restricted codes: their social origins and some consequences,' a social code system he used to
classify the various speech patterns for different social classes. He claimed that members of
the middle class have ways of organizing their speech that are fundamentally very different
from the ways adopted by the working class.
In Basil Bernstein's theory, the restricted code was an example of the speech patterns used by
the working class. He stated that this type of code allows strong bonds between group
members, who tend to behave largely on the basis of distinctions such as 'male', 'female',
'older', and 'younger'. This social group also uses language in a way that brings unity between
people, and members often do not need to be explicit about meaning, as their shared
knowledge and common understanding often bring them together in a way that other social
language groups do not experience. The difference with the restricted code is the emphasis on
'we' as a social group, which fosters greater solidarity than an emphasis on 'I'. The time when
"restricted-code" matters is the day when children start school where the standard variety of
language is used. Moreover, the written form of a language is already very different from the
everyday form. Children with restricted-code, therefore, struggle at school more than those
who speak an "elaborated-code". The type of communication used by the working class
reminds Paivio's dual code theory. According to Paivio, there are two types of codes; verbal
and non-verbal. The dual coding theory proposed by Paivio attempts to give equal weight to
verbal and non-verbal processing. Paivio (1986) states: "Human cognition is unique in that it
has become specialized for dealing simultaneously with language and with nonverbal objects
and events. Moreover, the language system is peculiar in that it deals directly with linguistic
input and output (in the form of speech or writing) while at the same time serving a symbolic
function with respect to nonverbal objects, events, and behaviors. Any representational theory
must accommodate this dual functionality." (p. 53). The use of context by members of
working class to imply what they mean, therefore, may be a "non-verbal code". However, this
type of communicative skills may not be understood by other children who belong to other
classes. What's more, children with restricted-code may have difficulty in understanding the
teacher, the only source of information for them at school. Therefore, it is suggested that
working-class children should have pre-school training within their early childhood period.
Early schooling may provide them with opportunities to acquire the way of speaking valid at
Basil Bernstein also studied what he named the 'elaborated code' explaining that in this type
of speech pattern the middle and upper classes use this language style to gain access to
education and career advancement. Bonds within this social group are not as well defined and
people achieve their social identity largely on the basis of individual disposition and
temperament. There is no obvious division of tasks according to sex or age and generally,
within this social formation members negotiate and achieve their roles, rather than have them
there ready-made in advance. Due to the lack of solidarity the elaborated social language code
requires individual intentions and viewpoints to be made explicit as the 'I' has a greater
emphasis with this social group than the working class.
Deviation from standard language varieties
A diagram showing variation in the English language by region (the bottom axis) and by
social class (the side axis). The higher the social class, the less variation.
The existence of differences in language between social classes can be illustrated by the
Bristolian Dialect (lower class) ... Standard English (higher class)
I ain't done nothing
... I haven't done anything
I done it yesterday
... I did it yesterday
It weren't me that done it
... I didn't do it
Any native speaker of English would immediately be able to guess that speaker 1 was likely
of a different social class than speaker 2, namely from a lower social class, probably from a
working class pedigree. The differences in grammar between the two examples of speech is
referred to as differences between social class dialects or sociolects.
It is also notable that, at least in England and Australia, the closer to standard English a dialect
gets, the less the lexicon varies by region, and vice versa.
Main article: Prestige (sociolinguistics)
It is generally assumed that non-standard language is low-prestige language. However, in
certain groups, such as traditional working-class neighborhoods, standard language may be
considered undesirable in many contexts. This is because the working class dialect is a
powerful in-group marker, and especially for non-mobile individuals, the use of non-standard
varieties (even exaggeratedly so) expresses neighborhood pride and group and class
solidarity. There will thus be a considerable difference in use of non-standard varieties when
going to the pub or having a neighborhood barbecue (high), and going to the bank (lower) for
the same individual.
Main articles: Variation (linguistics), Dialectology, and Language and gender
Studies in the field of sociolinguistics typically take a sample population and interview them,
assessing the realisation of certain sociolinguistic variables.
A commonly studied source of variation is regional dialects. Dialectology studies variations in
language based primarily on geographic distribution and their associated features.
Sociolinguists concerned with grammatical and phonological features that correspond to
regional areas are often called dialectologists.
There are several different types of age-based variation one may see within a population.
They are: vernacular of a subgroup with membership typically characterized by a specific age
range, age-graded variation, and indications of linguistic change in progress.
Variation may also be associated with gender. Men and women, on average, tend to use
slightly different language styles. These differences tend to be quantitative rather than
qualitative. That is, to say that women use a particular speaking style more than men do is
akin to saying that men are taller than women (i.e., men are on average taller than women, but
some women are taller than some men).
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society: Sociolinguistics or linguistic anthropology?". Journal of Sociolinguistics
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Readings. Malden, Ma.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2003.
3. ^ T. C. Hodson and the Origins of British Socio-linguistics by John E. Joseph
Sociolinguistics Symposium 15, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, April 2004
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Sociolinguistics: Society and Identity. Page 44
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Gender is a range of physical, mental, and behavioral characteristics distinguishing between
masculinity and femininity. Depending on the context, the term may refer to biological
sex (i.e. the state of being male, female or intersex), social roles (as in gender roles), or gender
Sexologist John Money introduced the terminological distinction between biological sex and
gender as a role in 1955. Before his work, it was uncommon to use the word "gender" to refer
to anything but grammatical categories. However, Money's meaning of the word did not
become widespread until the 1970s, when feminist theory embraced the distinction between
biological sex and the social construct of gender. Today, the distinction is strictly followed in
some contexts, especially the social sciences and documents written by the World Health
Organization (WHO). However, in most other contexts, even in some areas of social
sciences, the meaning of gender has undergone a usage shift to include "sex" or even to
replace the latter word. Although this gradual change in the meaning of gender can be
traced to the 1980s, a small acceleration of the process in the scientific literature was observed
when the Food and Drug Administration started to use "gender" instead of "sex" in 1993.
"Gender" is now commonly used even to refer to the physiology of non-human animals,
without any implication of social gender roles.
In the English literature, the trichotomy between biological sex, psychological gender, and
social sex role first appeared in a feminist paper on transsexualism in 1978. Some cultures
have specific gender-related social roles that can be considered distinct from male and female,
such as the hijra of India and Pakistan.
The social sciences have a branch devoted to gender studies. Other sciences, such as
psychology, sexology and neuroscience, are also interested in the subject. While the social
sciences sometimes approach gender as a social construct, and gender studies particularly do,
research in the natural sciences investigates whether biological differences in males and
females influence the development of gender in humans; both inform debate about how far
biological differences influence the formation of gender identity.
Etymology and usage
The modern English word gender comes from the Middle English gendre, a loanword from
Norman-conquest-era Old French. This, in turn, came from Latin genus. Both words mean
"kind", "type", or "sort". They derive ultimately from a widely attested Proto-Indo-European
(PIE) root gen-, which is also the source of kin, kind, king, and many other English
words. Most uses of derivatives of this root in Indo-European languages refer either
directly to what pertains to birth (for example pre-gn-ant) or, by extension, to natural, innate
qualities and their consequent social distinctions (for example gentry, generation, gentile,
genocide, and eugenics). It appears in Modern French in the word genre (type, kind, also
genre sexuel) and is related to the Greek root gen- (to produce), appearing in gene, genesis,
The first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED1, Volume 4, 1900) notes the original
meaning of gender as "kind" had already become obsolete.
Gender (dʒe'ndəɹ), sb. Also 4 gendre. [a. OF. gen(d)re (F. genre) = Sp.
género, Pg. gênero, It. genere, ad. L. gener- stem form of genus race, kind =
Gr. γένος, Skr. jánas:— OAryan *genes-, f. root γεν- to produce; cf. KIN.]
†1. Kind, sort, class; also, genus as opposed to species. The general gender:
the common sort (of people). Obs.
13.. E.E.Allit. P. P. 434 Alle gendrez so ioyst wern ioyned wyth-inne. c 1384
CHAUSER H. Fame* 1. 18 To knowe of hir signifiaunce The gendres. 1398
TREVISA Barth. De P. K. VIII. xxix. (1495) 34I Byshynynge and lyghte ben
dyuers as species and gendre, for suery shinyng is lyght, but not ayenwarde.
1602 SHAKES. Ham. IV. vii. 18 The great loue the generall gender beare him.
1604—Oth. I. iii. 326 Supplie it with one gender of Hearbes, or distract it with
many. 1643 and so on.
The word was still widely attested, however, in the specific sense of grammatical gender (the
assignment of nouns to categories such as masculine, feminine and neuter). According to
Aristotle, this concept was introduced by the Greek philosopher Protagoras.
ηὰ γένη ηῶν ὀνομάηων ἄρρενα καὶ θήλεα καὶ ζκεύη The classes (genē) of the
nouns are males, females and things. The Technique of Rhetoric III v
In 1926, Henry Watson Fowler recommended that the word be restricted to this grammarrelated meaning only:
"Gender...is a grammatical term only. To talk of persons...of the masculine or
feminine g[ender], meaning of the male or female sex, is either a jocularity
(permissible or not according to context) or a blunder."
However examples of the use of gender to refer to masculinity and femininity as types are
found throughout the history of Modern English (from about the 14th century).
1387–8: No mo genders been there but masculine, and femynyne, all the remnaunte
been no genders but of grace, in facultie of grammar—Thomas Usk, The Testament of
Love II iii (Walter William Skeat) 13.
c. 1460: Has thou oght written there of the femynyn gendere?—Towneley Mystery
Plays xxx 161 Act One.
1632: Here's a woman! The soul of Hercules has got into her. She has a spirit, is more
masculine Than the first gender—Shackerley Marmion, Holland's Leaguer III iv.
1658: The Psyche, or soul, of Tiresias is of the masculine gender—Thomas Browne,
1709: Of the fair sex ... my only consolation for being of that gender has been the
assurance it gave me of never being married to any one among them—Mary Wortley
Montagu, Letters to Mrs Wortley lxvi 108.
1768: I may add the gender too of the person I am to govern—Laurence Sterne, A
Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy.
1859: Black divinities of the feminine 'gender —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two
1874: It is exactly as if there were a sex in mountains, and their contours and curves
and complexions were here all of the feminine gender—Henry James, 'A Chain of
Italian Cities', The Atlantic Monthly 33 (February, p. 162.)
1892: She was uncertain as to his gender—Robert Grant, 'Reflections of a Married
Man', Scribner's Magazine 11 (March, p. 376.)
1896: As to one's success in the work one does, surely that is not a question of gender
either—Daily News 17 July.
c. 1900: Our most lively impression is that the sun is there assumed to be of the
feminine gender—Henry James, Essays on Literature.
As a verb, gender means "breed" in the King James Bible:
Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind
—Leviticus 19:19, 1616
The modern academic sense of the word, in the context of social roles of men and women,
dates from the work of John Money (1955), and was popularized and developed by the
feminist movement from the 1970s onwards (see Feminism theory and gender studies below).
The theory was that human nature is essentially epicene and social distinctions based on sex
are arbitrarily constructed. Matters pertaining to this theoretical process of social construction
were labelled matters of gender.
The popular use of gender simply as an alternative to sex (as a biological category) is also
widespread, although attempts are still made to preserve the distinction. The American
Heritage Dictionary (2000) uses the following two sentences to illustrate the difference,
noting that the distinction "is useful in principle, but it is by no means widely observed, and
considerable variation in usage occurs at all levels."
The effectiveness of the medication appears to depend on the sex (not gender)
of the patient.
In peasant societies, gender (not sex) roles are likely to be more clearly
In the last two decades of the 20th century, the use of gender in academia increased greatly,
outnumbering uses of sex in the social sciences. While the spread of the word in science
publications can be attributed to the influence of feminism, its use as a euphemism for sex is
attributed to the failure to grasp the distinction made in feminist theory, and the distinction
has sometimes become blurred with the theory itself. A recent Publication by the Australian
Human Rights Commission on "sexual orientation and gender identity" uses "sex and/or
gender identity" as a broad term to refer to diverse sex and/or gender identities and
expressions, including being "transgender, trans, transsexual and intersex. It also includes
being androgynous, agender, a cross dresser, a drag king, a drag queen, genderfluid,
genderqueer, intergender, neutrois, pansexual, pan-gendered, a third gender, and a third sex. It
also includes culturally specific terms, such as sistergirl and brotherboy, which are used by
some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples."
Among the reasons that working scientists have given me for choosing gender
rather than sex in biological contexts are desires to signal sympathy with
feminist goals, to use a more academic term, or to avoid the connotation of
copulation—David Haig, The Inexorable Rise of Gender and the Decline of
Analogous terms in other languages
Tamil has recently introduced terms for transgender and genderqueer people.
Urdu recognizes hijra as a third gender in India and Pakistan since the mid to late 2000s.
Greek distinguishes biological from sociological in adjectives.
In Greek, male biology and masculine grammatical inflection are denoted by arsenikos
(αρζενικός), in distinction to sociological masculinity, which is denoted by andrikos
(ανδρικός). Likewise, female biology and feminine grammatical inflection are denoted by
thēlukos (θηλσκός); and sociological femininity is denoted by gunaikeios (γσναικείος,
compare English gynaecology). This distinction is at least as old as Aristotle (see above). It is
a different distinction to English, where 'female' and 'male' refer to animals as well as humans,
but not to grammatical categories; whereas, 'feminine' and 'masculine' refer to grammatical
categories as well as humans, but not properly to animals, except as anthropomorphism.
German <Geschlecht> makes no distinction in nouns.
In English, both 'sex' and 'gender' can be used in contexts where they could not be
substituted—'sexual intercourse', 'safe sex', 'sex worker', or on the other hand, 'grammatical
gender'. Other languages, like German, use the same word, Geschlecht or geslacht, to refer
not only to biological sex, but social differences as well, making a distinction between
biological 'sex' and 'gender' identity difficult. In some contexts, German has adopted the
English loanword Gender to achieve this distinction. Sometimes Geschlechtsidentität is used
for 'gender' (although it literally means 'gender identity') and Geschlecht for 'sex'. More
common is the use of modifiers: biologisches Geschlecht for 'biological sex',
Geschlechtsidentität for 'gender identity' and Geschlechtsrolle for 'gender role', and so on.
Swedish makes clear distinction in nouns
In Swedish, 'gender' is translated with the linguistically cognate sv:genus, including
sociological contexts, thus: Genusstudier (gender studies) and Genusvetenskap (gender
science). 'Sex' in Swedish, however, only signifies sexual relations, and not the proposed
English dichotomy, a concept for which kön (also from PIE gen-) is used. A common
distinction is then made between kön (sex) and genus (gender), where the former refers only
to biological sex. There are different opinions whether genus should involve biology, but
within the genusvetenskap, which is strongly influenced by feminism, it usually does not.
Sweden uses the words könsroller and könsidentitet (literally 'sex role' and 'sex-identity') for
the English terms 'gender role' and 'gender identity'.
French has no distinction in noun: "sexe", but the distinction is supplied by the neologistic
In French, the word sexe is most widely used for both "sex" and "gender" in everyday
contexts. However, the word genre is increasingly used to refer to gender in queer or
academic contexts, such as the word transgenre (transgender) or the translation of Judith
Butler's book Gender Trouble as Trouble dans le genre. The term identité sexuelle was
proposed for "gender" or "gender identity," although it can be confused with "sexual identity"
(one's identity as it relates to one's sexual life).
Gender identity and gender roles
Main articles: Gender identity and Gender role
Gender identity is the gender a person self-identifies as. One's biological sex is directly tied to
specific social roles and expectations. Judith Butler considers the concept of being a woman
to have more challenges, owing not only to society's 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[weasel words], in the definition of "woman". There
are qualitative analyses that explore and present the representations of gender; feminists[who?]
challenge the dominant ideologies concerning gender roles and sex. Social identity refers to
the common identification with a collectivity or social category that 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 people belong to
therefore provide 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.[clarification needed] 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‘s and men‘s different access to
rights, resources, power in society and even health behaviors. 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.[better source needed]
Philosopher Michel Foucault, claims that as sexual subjects, humans are the object of power,
which is not an institution or structure, rather it is a 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 that gender and sex are more like verbs than nouns. She reasoned
that her actions are limited because she is female. "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." More recent criticisms of Judith Butler's theories critique her writing for reinforcing
the very conventional dichotomies of gender.
Social assignment and the idea of gender fluidity
See also: Sex assignment
According to Kate Bornstein, gender can have ambiguity and fluidity. There are two
contrasting ideas regarding the definition of gender, and the intersection of both of them is
definable as below:
The World Health Organization defines gender as 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
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 that 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 the two rigidly defined genders "man" and "woman" 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.
Mary Frith ("Moll Cutpurse") scandalised 17th century society by wearing male clothing,
smoking in public, and otherwise defying gender roles.
Sexologist John Money coined the term gender role in 1955. The term gender role means
those things people say or do to disclose their 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.
"Rosie the Riveter" was an iconic symbol of the American homefront in WWII and a
departure from gender roles due to wartime necessity.
Most societies have only two distinct, broad classes of gender roles, masculine and feminine,
that correspond with the biological sexes of 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
female and male 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
ʃe]), found in the state of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, "beyond gay and
The Bugis people of Sulawesi, Indonesia have a tradition that incorporates all the features
above. Joan Roughgarden argues that some non-human animal species also have more than
two genders, in that there might be multiple templates for behavior available to individual
organisms with a given biological sex.[clarification needed]
In July 2012 Gopi Shankar,a Gender activist and a student from The American College in
Madurai coined the regional terms for genderqueer people in Tamil, Gopi said apart from
male and female, there are more than 20 types of genders, such as transwoman, transmen,
androgynous, pangender, trigender,, etc., and ancient India refers it as Trithiya prakirthi. "
Measurement of gender identity
Early gender identity research hypothesized a single bipolar dimension of masculinityfemininity—that is masculinity and femininity were opposites on one continuum. As societal
stereotypes changed, however, assumptions of the unidimensional model were challenged.
This led to the development of a two-dimensional gender identity model, in which
masculinity and femininity were conceptualized as two separate, orthogonal dimensions,
coexisting in varying degrees within an individual. This conceptualization on femininity and
masculinity remains the accepted standard today.
Two instruments incorporating the multidimensional of masculinity and femininity have
dominated gender identity research: The Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) and the Personal
Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ). Both instruments categorize individuals as either being sex
typed (males report themselves as identifying primarily with masculine traits, females report
themselves as identifying primarily with feminine traits), cross sex-typed (males report
themselves as identifying primarily with feminine traits, females report themselves as
identifying primarily with masculine traits), androgynous (either males or females who report
themselves as high on both masculine and feminine traits) or undifferentiated (either males or
females who report themselves as low on both masculine and feminine traits). Twenge
(1997) noted that, although men are generally more masculine than women and women
generally more feminine than men, the association between biological sex and
masculinity/femininity is waning.
Feminism theory and gender studies
Biologist and feminist academic Anne Fausto-Sterling rejects the discourse of biological
versus social determinism and advocates a deeper analysis of how interactions between the
biological being and the social environment influence individuals' capacities. 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 may be analyzed in terms of biology—a girl must pass puberty to
become a woman—and sociology, as a great deal of mature relating in social contexts is
learned rather than 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 refers 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".
Charles E. Hurst states that some people think sex will, "...automatically determine one‘s
gender demeanor and role (social) as well as one‘s sexual orientation (sexual attractions and
behavior). 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 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 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.
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.
HBO has recently produced a documentary of the life and work of Gloria Steinem, perhaps
the name most associated with the women‘s movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Gloria: In Her
OWN Words shows rare video footage from the time that reshaped feminism and the
understanding of gender once again.
Political scientist Mary Hawkesworth addresses gender and feminist theory, noting that since
the 1970s the concept of gender has transformed and been used in significantly different ways
within feminist scholarship. Hawkesworth notes that a transition occurred when several
feminist scholars, such as Sandra Harding and Joan Scott, began to conceive of gender "as an
analytic category within which humans think about and organize their social activity".
Feminist scholars in Political Science began employing gender as an analytical category,
which highlighted "social and political relations neglected by mainstream accounts".
However, Hawkesworth notes "feminist political science has not become a dominant
paradigm within the discipline".
American political scientist Karen Beckwith addresses the concept of gender within political
science arguing that a "common language of gender" exists and that it must be explicitly
articulated in order to build upon it within the political science discipline. Beckwith describes
two ways in which the political scientist may employ 'gender' when conducting empirical
research: "gender as a category and as a process." Employing gender as a category allows for
political scientists "to delineate specific contexts where behaviours, actions, attitudes and
preferences considered masculine or feminine result in particular" political outcomes. It
may also demonstrate how gender differences, not necessarily corresponding precisely with
sex, may "constrain or facilitate political" actors. Gender as a process has two central
manifestations in political science research, firstly in determining "the differential effects of
structures and policies upon men and women," and secondly, the ways in which masculine
and feminine political actors "actively work to produce favorable gendered outcomes".
With regard to gender studies, Jacquetta Newman states that although sex is determined
biologically, the ways in which people express gender is not. Gendering is a socially
constructed process based on culture, though often cultural expectations around women and
men have a direct relationship to their biology. Because of this, Newman argues, many
privilege sex as being a cause of oppression and ignore other issues like race, ability, poverty,
etc. Current gender studies classes seek to move away from that and examine the
intersectionality of these factors in determining people's lives. She also points out that other
non-Western cultures do not necessarily have the same views of gender and gender roles.
Newman also debates the meaning of equality, which is often considered the goal of
feminism; she believes that equality is a problematic term because it can mean many different
things, such as people being treated identically, differently, or fairly based on their gender.
Newman believes this is problematic because there is no unified definition as to what equality
means or looks like, and that this can be significantly important in areas like public policy.
Social construction of sex
While scholars generally regard gender as a social construct, a lot of researchers, including
some feminists, consider sex to only be a matter of biology and something that is not about
social or cultural construction. For instance, John Money, a sexologist, suggests the
distinction between biological sex and gender as a role. Moreover, Ann Oakley, a professor
of sociology and social policy at the Institute of Education, University of London, says "the
constancy of sex must be admitted, but so also must the variability of gender." Also, the
World Health Organization states, "'[s]ex' refers to the biological and physiological
characteristics that define men and women," and "'[g]ender' refers to the socially constructed
roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men
and women." Thus, sex is regarded as a category studied in biology (natural sciences),
while gender is studied in humanities and social sciences. Moreover, Lynda Birke, a feminist
biologist based in the Institute for Women's Studies at the University of Lancaster in the
United Kingdom, maintains "'biology' is not seen as something which might change."
Therefore, it is stated that sex is something that does not change, while gender can change
according to social structure.
However, there are some other scholars who argue that sex is also socially constructed like
gender. For example, Judith Butler, a professor of rhetoric and comparative literature at the
University of California, Berkeley, states in her book Gender Trouble: Feminism and the
Subversion of Identity that "perhaps this construct called 'sex' is as culturally constructed as
gender; indeed, perhaps it was always already gender, with the consequence that the
distinction between sex and gender turns out to be no distinction at all."
Furthermore, she continues:
It would make no sense, then, to define gender as the cultural interpretation of
sex, if sex is itself a gendered category. Gender ought not to be conceived
merely as the cultural inscription of meaning on a pre-given sex (a juridical
conception); gender must also designate the very apparatus of production
whereby the sexes themselves are established. [...] This production of sex as
the pre-discursive ought to be understood as the effect of the apparatus of
cultural construction designated by gender.
Moreover, she claims "bodies only appear, only endure, only live within the productive
constraints of certain highly gendered regulatory schemas," and sex is "no longer as a
bodily given on which the construct of gender is artificially imposed, but as a cultural norm
which governs the materialization of bodies."
In regards to history, Linda Nicholson, a professor of history and women's studies at
Washington University in St. Louis, claims that the notion of human bodies being separated
into two sexes is not historically consistent. She argues that male genitals and female genitals
were considered inherently the same in Western society until the 18th century. At that time,
female genitals were regarded as incomplete male genitals, and the difference between the
two was conceived as a matter of degree. In other words, there was a gradation of physical
forms, or a spectrum. Therefore, the current perspective toward sex, which is to consider
women and men and their typical genitalia as the only possible natural options, came into
existence through historical, not biological roots.
In addition, drawing from the empirical research of intersex children, Anne Fausto-Sterling, a
professor of biology and gender studies at Brown University, describes how the doctors
address the issues of intersexuality. She starts her argument with an example of the birth of an
intersexual individual and maintains "[o]ur conceptions of the nature of gender difference
shape, even as they reflect, the ways we structure our social system and polity; they also
shape and reflect our understanding of our physical bodies." Then she adds how gender
assumptions affects the scientific study of sex by presenting the research of intersexuals by
John Money et al., and she concludes that "they never questioned the fundamental assumption
that there are only two sexes, because their goal in studying intersexuals was to find out more
about 'normal' development." She also mentions the language the doctors use when they
talk with the parents of the intersexuals. After describing how the doctors inform parents
about the intersexuality, she claims that because the doctors believe that the intersexuals are
actually male or female, they tell the parents of the intersexuals that it will take a little bit
more time for the doctors to determine whether the infant is a boy or a girl. That is to say, the
doctors' behavior is formulated by the cultural gender assumption that there are only two
sexes. Lastly, she maintains that the differences in the ways in which the medical
professionals in different regions treat intersexual people also give us a good example of how
sex is socially constructed. In her book, titled Sexing the body: gender politics and the
construction of sexuality, she introduces the following example:
A group of physicians from Saudi Arabia recently reported on several cases of
XX intersex children with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), a genetically
inherited malfunction of the enzymes that aid in making steroid hormones. [...]
In the United States and Europe, such children, because they have the potential
to bear children later in life, are usually raised as girls. Saudi doctors trained in
this European tradition recommended such a course of action to the Saudi
parents of CAH XX children. A number of parents, however, refused to accept
the recommendation that their child, initially identified as a son, be raised
instead as a daughter. Nor would they accept feminizing surgery for their child.
[...] This was essentially an expression of local community attitudes with [...]
the preference for male offspring.
Thus it may be said that determining the sex of children is actually a cultural act, and the sex
of children is in fact socially constructed. Therefore, it is possible that although sex seems
fixed and only related to biology, it may be actually deeply related to historical and social
factors as well as biology and other natural sciences.
Biological factors and views
See also: Sexual differentiation and Sex determination and differentiation (human)
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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. He stated:
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.
Although causation from the biological—genetic and hormonal—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
There are studies concerning women who have a diagnosis called congenital adrenal
hyperplasia, which leads to the overproduction of masculinizing sex hormones, androgens.
These women usually have normal female appearances (though nearly all girls with CAH
have corrective surgery performed on their genitals) but despite of hormone-balancing
medication that they are given since birth, they are statistically more likely to be interested in
activities traditionally linked to males than females. Psychology professor and CAH
researcher Dr. Sheri Berenbaum attributes these differences to exposure to higher levels of
male sex hormones in utero.
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Main article: Sexual reproduction
Sexual differentiation demands the fusion of gametes that are morphologically
—Cyril Dean Darlington, Recent Advances in Cytology, 1937.
Sexual reproduction is a common method of producing a new individual within various
species. In sexually reproducing species, individuals produce special kinds of cells (called
gametes) whose function is specifically to fuse with one unlike gamete and thereby to form a
new individual. This fusion of two unlike gametes is called fertilization. By convention,
where one type of gamete cell is physically larger than the other, it is associated with female
sex. Thus an individual that produces exclusively large gametes (ova in humans) is called
female, and one that produces exclusively small gametes (spermatozoa in humans) is called
An individual that produces both types of gametes is called hermaphrodite (a name applicable
also to people with one testis and one ovary). In some species hermaphrodites can selffertilize (see Selfing), in others they can achieve fertilization with females, males or both.
Some species, like the Japanese Ash, Fraxinus lanuginosa, only have males and
hermaphrodites, a rare reproductive system called androdioecy. Gynodioecy is also found in
several species. Human hermaphrodites are typically, but not always, infertile.
What is considered defining of sexual reproduction is the difference between the gametes and
the binary nature of fertilization. Multiplicity of gamete types within a species would still be
considered a form of sexual reproduction. However, of more than 1.5 million living
species, recorded up to about the year 2000, "no third sex cell—and so no third sex—has
appeared in multicellular animals." Why sexual reproduction has an exclusively
binary gamete system is not yet known. A few rare species that push the boundaries of the
definitions are the subject of active research for light they may shed on the mechanisms of the
evolution of sex. For example, the most toxic insect, the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex, has
two kinds of female and two kinds of male. One hypothesis is that the species is a hybrid,
evolved from two closely related preceding species.
Fossil records indicate that sexual reproduction has been occurring for at least one billion
years. However, the reason for the initial evolution of sex, and the reason it has survived to
the present are still matters of debate, there are many plausible theories. It appears that the
ability to reproduce sexually has evolved independently in various species on many occasions.
There are cases where it has also been lost, notably among the Fungi Imperfecti. The
blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus), flatworm (Dugesia tigrina) and some other species
can reproduce either sexually or asexually depending on various conditions.
The following systematic list (gender taxonomy) illustrates the kinds of diversity that have
been studied and reported in medical literature. It is placed in roughly chronological order of
biological and social development in the human life cycle. The earlier stages are more purely
biological and the latter are more dominantly social. Causation is known to operate from
chromosome to gonads, and from gonads to hormones. It is also significant from brain
structure to gender identity (see Money quote above). Brain structure and processing
(biological) that may explain erotic preference (social), however, is an area of ongoing
research. Terminology in some areas changes quite rapidly to accommodate the constantly
growing knowledge base.
46xx, 46xy, 47xxy (Klinefelter syndrome), 45xo (Turner's syndrome), 47xyy, 47xxx,
48xxyy, 46xx/xy mosaic, other mosaic, and others
testicles, ovaries, one of each (hermaphrodites), ovotestes, or other gonadal dysgenesis
androgens including testosterone; estrogens—including estradiol, estriol, estrone;
antiandrogens and others
primary sexual characteristics (six class system)
secondary sexual characteristics
dimorphic physical characteristics, other than primary characteristics (most
prominently breasts or their absence)
special kinds of secondary characteristics, due to their influence on psychology and
psychological identification with either of the two main sexes
social conformity with expectations for either of the two main sexes
gynophilia, androphilia, bisexuality, asexuality and various paraphilias.
See also: Sexual differentiation, Sexual dimorphism, and Sex differences in humans
Sexual differentiation in peafowl
Although sexual reproduction is defined at the cellular level, key features of sexual
reproduction operate within the structures of the gamete cells themselves. Notably, gametes
carry very long molecules called DNA that the biological processes of reproduction can
"read" like a book of instructions. In fact, there are typically many of these "books", called
chromosomes. Human gametes usually have 23 chromosomes, 22 of which are common to
both sexes. The final chromosomes in the two human gametes are called sex chromosomes
because of their role in sex determination. Ova always have the same sex chromosome,
labelled X. About half of spermatozoa also have this same X chromosome, the rest have a Ychromosome. At fertilization the gametes fuse to form a cell, usually with 46 chromosomes,
and either XX female or XY male, depending on whether the sperm carried an X or a Y
chromosome. Some of the other possibilities are listed above.
In humans, the "default" processes of reproduction result in an individual with female
characteristics. An intact Y-chromosome contains what is needed to "reprogram" the
processes sufficiently to produce male characteristics, leading to sexual differentiation. Part of
the Y-chromosome, the Sex-determining Region Y (SRY), causes what would normally
become ovaries to become testes. These, in turn, produce male hormones called androgens.
However, several points in the processes have been identified where variations can result in
people with atypical characteristics, including atypical sexual characteristics. Terminology for
atypical sexual characteristics has not stabilized. Disorder of sexual development (DSD) is
used by some in preference to intersex, which is used by others in preference to
Androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) is an example of a DSD that also illustrates that
female development is the default for humans. Although having one X and one Y
chromosome, some people are biologically insensitive to the androgens produced by their
testes. As a result, they follow the normal human processes that results in a female. Women
who are XY report identifying as a woman—feeling and thinking like a woman—and, where
their biology is completely insensitive to masculinizing factors, externally they look identical
to other women. Unlike other women, however, they cannot produce ova, because they do not
The human XY system is not the only sex determination system. Birds typically have a
reverse, ZW system—males are ZZ and females ZW. Whether male or female
birds influence the sex of offspring is not known for all species. Several species of butterfly
are known to have female parent sex determination.
The platypus has a complex hybrid system, the male has ten sex chromosomes, half X and
Main article: Gender studies
Gender studies is a field of interdisciplinary study and academic field devoted to gender,
gender identity and gendered representation as central categories of analysis. This field
includes Women's studies (concerning women, feminity, their gender roles and politics, and
feminism), Men's studies (concerning men, masculinity, their gender roles, and politics), and
LGBT studies. Sometimes Gender studies is offered together with Study of Sexuality.
These disciplines study gender and sexuality in the fields of literature and language, history,
political science, sociology, anthropology, cinema and media studies, human development,
law, and medicine. It also analyses race, ethnicity, location, nationality, and
Main article: XY sex-determination system
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"—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, sexlimited 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 8–10% (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". Richard J. Haier and colleagues at the universities of New Mexico and California
(Irvine) found, using brain mapping, that men have more grey matter related to general
intelligence than women, and women have more white matter related to intelligence than men
– the ratio between grey and white matter is 4% higher for men than women.
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 produced by hormonal activity, ultimately derived from the Y
chromosome and sexual differentiation. However, differences that arise directly from gene
activity have also been observed.
A sexual dimorphism in levels of expression in brain tissue was observed by
quantitative real-time PCR, 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 human–chimpanzee lineages split.
Language areas of the brain:
Primary auditory cortex
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 female and male 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
See also: Sex and psychology
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
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.
Spain's desperate situation when invaded by Napoleon enabled Agustina de Aragón to break
into a closely guarded male preserve and become the only female professional officer in the
Spanish Army of her time (and long afterwards).
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 that 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
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 individual‘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 that splits gender into a dichotomy via social
organisations that constantly invent and reproduce cultural images of gender. Joan Ackner
(The Gendered Society Reader) believes gendering occurs in at least five different interacting
The construction of divisions along the lines of gender, such as those 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 that
involve any form of dominance and submission. Conversational theorists, for example,
have studied the way that interruptions, turn taking and the setting of topics re-create
gender inequality in the flow of ordinary talk
The way that the preceding three processes help to produce gendered components of
individual identity, i.e., the way 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 what is assumed to be female and male, 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
nature… 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 society‘s expectations of ‗acceptable‘ gender
attributes that are flaunted within institutions such as the family, the state and the media. Such
a notion of ‗gender‘ then becomes naturalised into a person‘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 Butler‘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 ‗proper‘ 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 ‗correct‘ 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 ‗gender‘ to
anyone in a finite way; rather each person is endowed with certain gender
characteristics. The world cannot be egalitarian while there are ‗assigned‘ genders
and individuals are not given the right to express any gender characteristic they desire.[neutrality
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:
female versus male) focuses 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 selfconception approach (self-conception: gay versus straight) focuses on the different selfconceptions 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 female and male groups in each category). There is then, in relation to definition of
and approaches to "gender", a tension between historic feminist sociology and contemporary
A person's sex as male or female has legal significance—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 oppositesex couples; in some countries, there are same-sex marriage laws.
The question then arises as to what legally determines whether someone is female or male. In
most cases this can appear obvious, but the matter is complicated for intersex 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—technically, however, this is not a change of status per se. Rather, it is
recognition of a status 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
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.
The first person of "neutral" gender (that is, neither man or woman in legal terms) is Norrie
May-Welby, from Australia, whose status was set on March, 2010.
Gender and economic 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.
In contemporary times, the study of gender and development has become a broad field that
involves politicians, economists, and human rights activists. Gender and Development unlike
previous theories concerning women in development includes a broader view of the effects of
development on gender including economic, political, and social issues. The theory takes a
holistic approach to development and its effects on women and recognizes the negative effects
gender blind development policies have had on women. Prior to 1970, it was believed that
development affected men and women in the same way and no gendered perspective existed
for development studies. However, the 1970s saw a transformation in development theory that
sought to incorporate women into existing development paradigms. When Ester Boserup
published her book, Women‘s Role in Economic Development Ester Boserup, there was a
realization that development affected men and women differently and there began to be more
of a focus on women and development. Boserup argued that women were marginalized in the
modernization process and practices of growth, development, and development policy
threatened to actually make women worse off. Boserup‘s work translated into the beginning
of a larger discourse termed Women in Development (WID) Women in Development coined
by the Women‘s Committee of the Washington DC Chapter of the Society for International
Development; a network of female development professionals.Society for International
Development The primary goal of WID was to include women into existing development
initiatives. Since it was argued that women were marginalized and excluded from the benefits
of development. In so doing, the WID approach pointed out that the major problem to
women‘s unequal representation and participation is the male biased and patriarch cal
development policies. In short, the WID approach blamed patriarchy which did not consider
women‘s productive and reproductive work. In fact, women were tied to domestic work hence
were almost invisible in development programs. The WID approach began to gain criticism as
―ignoring how women‘s economic marginalization was linked to the development model
itself. Some feminists argued that the key concept for women and development should be
subordination in the context of new capitalist forms of insecure and hierarchical job
structures, but not marginalization as WID approaches emphasized. The rise of criticism in
the WID approach led to a new theory to develop, that of Women and Development (WAD).
However, Just as WID had its critics, so did WAD. Many critics of WAD argued that it failed
to sufficiently address the differential power relations between women and men, and tended to
overemphasize women‘s productive as opposed to reproductive roles10. The rise of criticism
of the exclusion of men in WID and WAD led to a new theory termed Gender and
Development (GAD). Gender and development By drawing from insights developed in
psychology, sociology, and gender studies, GAD theorists shifted from understanding
women‘s problems as based on their sex (i.e. their biological differences from men) to
understanding them as based on gender – the social relations between women and men, their
social construction, and how women have been systematically subordinated in this
relationship. At their most fundamental, GAD perspectives link the social relations of
production with the social relations of reproduction – exploring why and how women and
men are assigned to different roles and responsibilities in society, how these dynamics are
reflected in social, economic, and political theories and institutions, and how these
relationships affect development policy effectiveness. According to proponents of GAD,
women are cast not as passive recipients of development aid, but rather as active agents of
change whose empowerment should be a central goal of development policy. In contemporary
times, most literature and institutions that are concerned with women‘s role in development
incorporate a GAD perspective; with the United Nations having taken the lead of
mainstreaming the GAD approach through its system and development policies.
Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute have 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. The various United Nations International
women‘s conferences in Beijing, Mexico City, Copenhagen, and Nairobi, as well as the
development of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000 have taken a GAD approach and
holistic view of development.13 The Millennium Declaration signed at the United Nations
Millennium Summit in 2000 including eight goals that were to be reached by 2015, and
although it would be a difficult task to reach them, they were all able to be monitored14. The
eight goals are: 1. Halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty at the 1990 level
by 2015. 2. Achieve universal primary education 3. Promote gender equality and empower
women 4. Reduce child mortality rates 5. Improve maternal health 6. Combat HIV/AIDS,
Malaria and other diseases 7. Ensure environmental sustainability 8. Global partnership
The MDGs have three goals specifically focused on women: Goal 3, 4 and 5 but women‘s
issues also cut across all of the goals. These goals overall comprise all aspects of women‘s
lives including economic, health, and political participation.
Gender Equality is also strongly linked to education. The Dakar Framework for Action (2000)
set out ambitious goals: to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education by
2005, and to achieve gender equality in education by 2015. The focus was on ensuring girls‘
full and equal access to and achievement in good quality basic education. The gender
objective of the Dakar Framework for Action is somewhat different from the MDG Goal 3
(Target 1): ―Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by
2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015‖. MDG Goal 3 does not comprise a
reference to learner achievement and good quality basic education, but goes beyond the
school level. Studies demonstrate the positive impact of girls‘ education on child and maternal
health, fertility rates, poverty reduction and economic growth. Educated mothers are more
likely to send their children to school.
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 Association for Progressive Communications
(APC) has developed a Gender Evaluation Methodology for planning and evaluating
development projects to ensure they benefit all sectors of society including women.
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. United Nations Development program
(UNDP) has introduced indicators designed to add a gendered dimension to the Human
Development Index (HDI).Additionally, in 1995, the Gender-related Development Index
(GDI) Gender-related Development Index and the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM)
Gender Empowerment Measure were introduced. More recently, in 2010 UNDP introduced a
new indicator the Gender Inequality Index (GII)Gender Inequality Index which was designed
to be a better measurement of gender inequality and to improve the shortcomings of GDI and
Gender and poverty
Main article: Feminization of 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 social and economic development. It is to
empower women and decrease the level of inequality between men and women.
In many countries, the financial sector largely neglects women even though they play an
important role in the economy, as Nena Stoiljkovic pointed out in D+C Development and
Further information: Gender and religion
This topic includes internal and external religious issues such as gender of God and deities
creation myths about human gender, roles and rights (for instance, leadership roles especially
ordination of women, sex segregation, gender equality, marriage, abortion, homosexuality)
According to Kati Niemelä of the Church Research Institute, women are universally more
religious than men. They believe that the difference in religiousity between genders is due to
biological differences, for instance usually people seeking security in life are more religious,
and as men are considered to be greater risk takers than women, they are less religious.
Although religious fanaticism is more often seen in men than women.
yin and yang
In Taoism, yin and yang are considered feminine and masculine, respectively. The Taijitu and
concept of the Zhou period reach into family and gender relations. Yin is female and yang is
male. They fit together as two parts of a whole. The male principle was equated with the sun:
active, bright, and shining; the female principle corresponds to the moon: passive, shaded, and
reflective. Male toughness was balanced by female gentleness, male action and initiative by
female endurance and need for completion, and male leadership by female supportiveness.
In Judaism, God is traditionally described in the masculine, but in the mystical tradition of the
Kabbalah, the Shekhinah represents the feminine aspect of God's essence. However, Judaism
traditionally holds that God is completely non-corporeal, and thus neither male nor female.
Conceptions of the gender of God notwithstanding, traditional Judaism places a strong
emphasis on individuals following traditional gender roles, though many modern
denominations of Judaism strive for greater egalitarianism.
In Christianity, God is described in masculine terms and the Church has historically been
described in feminine terms. On the other hand, Christian theology in many churches
distinguishes between the masculine images used of God (Father, King, God the Son) and the
reality they signify, which transcends gender, embodies all the virtues of both genders
perfectly, and is the creator of both human sexes. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is
treated with the neuter pronoun. Hebrew speaking Christians like the Ebionites used the
female gender for the Holy Spirit.
One of the several forms of the Hindu God Shiva, is Ardhanarishwar (literally
half-female God). Here Shiva manifests himself so that the left half is Female
and the right half is Male. The left represents Shakti (energy, power) in the
form of Goddess Parvati (otherwise his consort) and the right half Shiva.
Whereas Parvati is the cause of arousal of Kama (desires), Shiva is the killer.
Shiva is pervaded by the power of Parvati and Parvati is pervaded by the
power of Shiva.
While the stone images may seem to represent a half-male and half-female
God, the true symbolic representation is of a being the whole of which is Shiva
and the whole of which is Shakti at the same time. It is a 3-D representation of
only shakti from one angle and only Shiva from the other. Shiva and Shakti are
hence the same being representing a collective of Jnana (knowledge) and Kriya
Adi Shankaracharya, the founder of non-dualistic philosophy (Advaita–"not
two") in Hindu thought says in his "Saundaryalahari"—Shivah Shaktayaa
yukto yadi bhavati shaktah prabhavitum na che devum devona khalu kushalah
spanditam api " i.e., It is only when Shiva is united with Shakti that He
acquires the capability of becoming the Lord of the Universe. In the absence of
Shakti, He is not even able to stir. In fact, the term "Shiva" originated from
"Shva," which implies a dead body. It is only through his inherent shakti that
Shiva realizes his true nature.
This mythology projects the inherent view in ancient Hinduism, that each
human carries within himself both female and male components, which are
forces rather than sexes, and it is the harmony between the creative and the
annihilative, the strong and the soft, the proactive and the passive, that makes a
true person. Such thought, leave alone entail gender equality, in fact obliterates
any material distinction between the male and female altogether. This may
explain why in ancient India we find evidence of homosexuality, bisexuality,
androgyny, multiple sex partners and open representation of sexual pleasures
in artworks like the Khajuraho temples, being accepted within prevalent social
Natural languages often make gender distinctions. These may be of various kinds,
more or less loosely associated by analogy with various actual or perceived differences
between men and women.
Most languages include terms that are used asymmetrically in reference to men and
women. Concern that current language may be biased in favor of men has led some
authors in recent times to argue for the use of a more Gender-neutral vocabulary in
English and other languages.
Several languages attest the use of different vocabulary by men and women, to
differing degrees. See, for instance, Gender differences in spoken Japanese. The oldest
documented language, Sumerian, records a distinctive sub-language only used by
female speakers. Conversely, many Indigenous Australian languages have distinctive
registers with limited lexis used by men in the presence of their mothers-in-law (see
Several languages such as Persian are gender-neutral. In Persian the same word is used
in reference to men and women. Verbs, adjectives and nouns are not gendered. (See
Gender-neutrality in genderless languages)
Grammatical gender is a property of some languages in which every noun is assigned
a gender, often with no direct relation to its meaning. For example, the word for "girl"
is muchacha (grammatically feminine) in Spanish, Mädchen (grammatically neuter) in
German, and cailín (grammatically masculine) in Irish.
The term "grammatical gender" is often applied to more complex noun class systems.
This is especially true when a noun class system includes masculine and feminine as
well as some other non-gender features like animate, edible, manufactured, and so
forth. An example of the latter is found in the Dyirbal language. A system traditionally
called "gender" appears in the Ojibwe language, which distinguishes between animate
and inanimate, but since this does not exhibit a masculine/feminine distinction it might
be better described by "noun class." Likewise, Sumerian distinguishes between
personal (human and divine) and impersonal (all other) noun classes, but these classes
have traditionally been known as genders.