Sex and Gender

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Sex and Gender The terms employed most frequently to describe the differences between men and women are 'sex' and 'gender'. Sex refers to the differing physical attributes of women and men (Lee, Shaw). The categories of sex are male and female. In every society sex differences are given social meanings. Social identity, which is confessed on the basis of assumed sexual differences, is called "gender" (Lee, Shaw). People are born female or male, but learn to be girls and boys, who grow into men and women. Males are supposed to be masculine, strong, and macho, while females are attributed to be feminine, fragile, and nurturing. To be born a man or a woman in any society is more than a simple biological fact. It is a biological fact with social implications. "Gender" is the term now widely used to refer to those ways in which a culture reformulates what begins as a fact of nature (Lee, Shaw). The biological sexes are redefined, represented, valued, and channeled into different roles in various culturally dependent ways. For most people, gender and physical characteristics are the same, unchangeable and 'natural', and there is also a general perception that gender refers to women only. But this is not the case. Gender differences refer to culturally formed traits of masculinity and femininity, that is, the characteristic forms of behavior expected respectively of men and women in any given culture (Lee, Shaw). Gender differences are by no means determined by sex differences. They are social and cultural rather than biological differences. Thus, gende... ... middle of paper ... ... female. While it is important to focus on the way in which gender is created anew in individuals as they respond to social processes and practices, this process of creation needs to be read in the context of broader social processes. Gender is also a vital element of the social structures such as the economy, government, mass media and schooling (Lee, Shaw). The everyday actions of individuals are shaped by their position in relation to these broader social structures. The most important point about all this is that individuals are not passively socialized into a gendered identity. It is, in general, a great deal more fluid and unpredictable than that. However, even though individuals make active choices, these choices are still constrained by gender boundaries, which may be different in different circumstances.

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