Gender Stratification

Social Construction of Gender

Definition of Sex and Gender

The term sex refers to biological characteristics of the body, whereas gender concerns the socially constructed differences between males and females.

While the terms sex and gender are often used interchangeably, each word has a distinct meaning. Sex is based on anatomical and biological differences between males and females. This term refers to the differences in the sexual anatomy of males and females. A human is considered a male when there is a penis and a scrotum present. A human is considered a female when there is a vagina, ovaries, and a uterus present. These differences are determined by genetic factors and biological components. The chromosomal pair XY and higher levels of the hormone testosterone are normally found in males, while the chromosomal pair XX and higher levels of the hormone estrogen are normally found in females. Intersex people have a combination of male and female sex characteristics, including chromosome combinations and anatomy that are not distinctly male or female.

Whereas sex is based on physical characteristics, gender is socially constructed. Gender is a social construction based on a set of attitudes, interests, behaviors, activities, and appearances that a society considers to be typically masculine or feminine. Gender stereotypes are generalizations about the attributes, differences, and roles of individuals based solely on gender.

Social Construction of Gender Norms and Roles

Social construction of gender refers to the way gender roles are learned through socialization and interaction with others.
Gender is a socially constructed concept. A social construction is an idea that is created and accepted by society. Social constructions are built and shaped through shared social understandings, experiences, and interactions with others. Gender is a concept defined by social meaning. This meaning is created through social interaction and shaped by social beliefs, values, and norms. Therefore, gender is a fluid and evolving concept rather than something that is fixed or innate. Societies define and redefine gender norms over time. A gender norm is a behavior or set of behaviors that are compatible with societal expectations of masculinity and femininity. For example, wearing dresses is a norm for girls and women, but not for boys and men. Gender norms are based on shared understandings of what behaviors, interests, and appearances are considered either masculine or feminine. Once people become aware of these expectations and norms, they begin to adopt behaviors that align with the gender they identify with. In other words, they take on or perform a gender role, a set of behaviors, attitudes, and personality characteristics. People are typically expected to perform gender roles based on their sex. However, gender identity does not necessarily align with biological sex. For example, a person with female biological traits might not identify as a woman.