Sociology of gender

Sociology of gender is a prominent subfield of sociology. Since 1950 an increasing part of the academic literature, and of the public discourse uses "gender" for the perceived or projected (self-identified) masculinity or femininity of a person. The terms was introduced by Money (1955):: “The term "gender role" is used to signify all those things that a person says or does to disclose himself/herself as having the status of boy or man, girl or woman, respectively. It includes, but is not restricted to, sexuality in the sense of eroticism.”

A person's gender is complex, encompassing countless characteristics of appearance, speech, movement and other factors not solely limited to biological sex.

Societies tend to have gender systems in which everyone is categorized as male or female, but this is not universal. Some societies include a third gender role; for instance, the Native American Two-Spirit people and the hijras of India.

There is debate over to what extent gender is a social construct and to what extent it is a biological construct.

In feminist theory

During the 1970s there was no consensus about how the terms were to be applied. 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.

Other languages

In English, both "sex" and "gender" are used in contexts where they could not be substituted (sexual intercourse; anal sex; safe sex; sex worker; sex slave). Other languages, like German, use the same word "Geschlecht" to refer both to grammatical gender and to biological sex, making the distinction between "sex" and "gender" advocated by some anthropologists difficult. In some contexts, German has adopted the English loan-word "gender" to achieve this distinction. Sometimes 'Geschlechtsidentitaet' is used as gender (although it literally means "gender identity") and 'Geschlecht' as sex (translation of Judith Butler's "Gender Trouble"). More common is the use of modifiers: "biologisches Geschlecht" for "sex", "Geschlechtsidentität" for "gender identity" and "Geschlechterrolle" for "gender role" etc.

ee also

* Gender differences
* Gender role
* Sex segregation
* Sexism

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