The word sex and gender are often used interchangeably, but it is totally incorrect.
Gender is implied when we compel the girl child to chose soft colours like pink and play with a doll and encouraging boys to opt for blue or similar dark colours and play with toys guns.
If any girl behaves like a boy, we mostly consider it as tomboy or Manish, whereas if the boy cries, society teases him to be behaving like a girl or being effeminate. The assigning of unique and separate characteristics and responsibilities to male and female sexes impose certain expectations and regulations on both sexes.
The biological difference of separate male and female genitalia and reproduction organs is undeniable and their bodies have distinct hormonal and chromosomal make-ups, but gender construction of special characteristics of expecting male characteristics to be commanding, impatient, adventurers, and macho, whereas females suppose to be kind, tolerant, obedient and patient.
Immense pressure is implied by the norms created by society to observe them and teach them to both the sexes. This op-ed tries to examine the concept of gender and sex and its implications.
What are Gender and Sex?
‘Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men, and gender diverse people. It influences how people perceive themselves and each other, how they act and interact, and the distribution of power and resources in society’ where sex is defined as ‘to a set of biological attributes in humans and animals.
It is primarily associated with physical and physiological features including chromosomes, gene expression, hormone levels and function, and reproductive/sexual anatomy (https://cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/48642.html).
Gender implication force both sexes to behave in certain ways, that creates an immense pressure to live in a water-tight compartment of gender roles. Society determines both boys and girls behaviour, attributes, duties, roles, rights and even looks. This is a part of a wider social system.
Thus the biological determining is mainly used to justify gender stereotypes, as boys are considered better in choosing subjects like math, engineering and physics, whereas girls should choose teaching, nursing or perform domestic duties. Gender behaviour of both sexes is imposed by society as they are not inherent by sex.
These roles are imposed by family and peers. The extension of this approach is noticed in a division of labour, distribution of power and rights. Thus different roles, relations and identities are constructed in the society that defines expectations, values, roles, rights and responsibility, distribution of resources for both sexes.
Both the sexes have to accept these norms, some try to adapt by negotiating, where others resist the social implications. It is a competition of power to sustain patriarchy and resistance shown by matriarchy. The first section expects the status quo, while the other wants to make a transformation in society.
Gender roles are defined by parents, peers and other sources. These differences can be seen in physical behaviour, style of interaction, behaviour, academic motivation and choices. It is the family, neighbours, community and the state who has a profound influence on a child.
Gender roles are taught to both sexes since birth and these are determined by the parents and the ones to take care of kids, while during adolescence the girls been more associated with beauty and charming traits while boys are considered to be the development characteristics of masculinity.
Children are gender detectives, able to identify signals regarding gender, such as who should or should not participate in a certain activity, who may play with whom, and why girls and boys are different. During adulthood, both sexes develop work roles, as girls to raise children and do domestic jobs, whereas boys are expected to do higher studies in order to get a job and be the breadwinner of the house. Women in the role of mothers and men to protect the other sex.
Although the terms Gender and sex is associated as to be similar, their implications are quite different. Gender roles affect a wide variety of human behaviour, including the clothes one wears, the career one selects, and the personal relationships one joins.
But with changing society, there have been changes in these thoughts where both sexes opt for any profession, clothes moving towards unisex dress, relationship based on equality. The demand for equal rights in the power struggle of opposite sexes, and it shall continue under the equilibrium is not established.
Author: Dr Sakul Kundra, A.HOD Department of Social Science, College of Humanities and Education, Fiji National University.