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Gender Studies FAQ's

What is gender?

The definition of gender is as fluid as gender itself...We can locate many diverse definitions of gender. Gender impacts everything and we all think we know what gender is…. Gender is not a matter of two opposite/other categories of people; female and male, but an array of social interactions among differently situated people. The word gender, as well as the categories “woman” and “man” have many valid meanings which we view from our location, history, and perspectives. Different genders, femininities, and masculinities are interconnected through social systems such as race, class, and culture.

One textbook definition follows: Gender is the practice of behaving in masculine or feminine ways as defined by the society in which one lives and as a component of one’s identity. Sex, in contrast is more related to physical form and function. In this sense, gender is a performance, something we do rather than something we are, and we learn it via the process of socialization (Donatelle, 2010). From birth, our gender identity development is impacted by our biology and our socialization, and combines to form our gender identity. How we are affected by our culture, geographic location, and overall environment will determine our gender.

Gender is biological and socially constructed and can be masculine, feminine, intersex, or even other categories that are not always so easily recognized. There are many names for the other categories and we may not list them all here, but just to name a few: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgendered, metrosexual, ubersexual, mems, fems, hermes, and perhaps others.

Last Published: January 31, 2013 10:11 AM
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