Friday, February 27, 2015

Sex vs. Gender

When I was younger I'd often hanging out in groups with guys and girls mixed in.  We'd have dinner, coffee, drinks, or whatever.  What I would notice in those settings is that they only time in which both guys and girls would jointly participate in the conversation was if it had something to do with guys and girls, i.e. sex and gender.  Basically we'd have the whole "Men are from Mars, women are from Venus" kind of conversation.

Since then, the notion of sex and gender has fascinated me.  One major question that I wonder about has to do with the connection between the two concepts.  Before getting there, however, I should try to clarify how I understand the two independently.

Sex is supposed to be a biological concept.  The sex of an organism identifies certain biological features of that organism.  This might include the sorts of chromosomes that an organism possesses, organs had by an organism, reproductive capabilities, etc.

Gender is supposed to be a behavioral concept.  The gender of an organism identifies certain behavioral features of that organism.  This might include psychological dispositions, social structures, mating rituals, different ways of communicating, etc.

So are these two concepts connected?  In particular, does sex determine gender?  Let's say that you are a female, does that in some way determine certain behavioral facts about you?  If so, how?  Let's suppose that the two concepts are not connected.  Then where does our idea of gender come from?  Why is gender so closely associated with sex?

I'm sure that there are lots of books or articles written about this.  If anyone out there has any recommendations on scholarly work, let me know.

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