Sex and gender

Many speakers of the English language tend to use the words sex and gender interchangeably not realizing that there are fundamental differences between them that are crucial and should be understood for the definition of social theory, feminism and sexual standards and values. Sex signifies a totally different thing from gender. Ideally, sex is established by the physical anatomy of an individual or rather his or her biological description (Monash University). The physical attributes that determine sex include the genitals, type and nature of facial hair, the physiological structure and any other that could lead to the conclusion that one is either male or female (Archer  Lloyd, 2002). Sex is not influenced by the cultural system of where one is born even though some cultures wrongly believe that certain practices or rituals when performed by or for a pregnant woman may determine whether she bears a son or a daughter. The fact however remains that sex is purely biological and cannot be influenced by external factors like culture, norms, diet and so on.
On the contrary, gender is determined by the social and cultural orientation of someones environment (Archer  Lloyd, 2002). It is exposure to external cultural values that brings about the exchange and absorption of these values, effectively defining the gender identity of an individual. It is with such an understanding that gender is usually described as a fluid identifier of a person since someone can challenge his or her gender affiliation as prescribed by the society he or she lives in (Sigel, 2006). For example, an individual who is female by sex, making her a woman, may have sexual desires characteristic or identical to a mans may sufficiently argue to being male and even want to have surgery to be made a man (Sigel, 2006). Such is an example suitable in demonstrating the difference between sex and gender.
The importance of appreciating and acknowledging the difference between sex and gender while realizing that they are two different entities is to better understand their impact on the society (Sigel, 2006). A young boy who shows a preference of toys normally meant for girls may be physically or emotionally targeted by his peers. The same holds for adults. Women who wear clothes that are not entirely feminine as per the cultural classification of their environment and may be like to attend and discuss sports may be described as queer as these traits are commonly found in men.
Aspects derived from sex do not vary significantly between different cultures while aspects derived from gender usually vary greatly. Since gender is a qualitative description of socially constructed roles and behaviors given as appropriate for the concerned sex, they result to stereotypes (Archer  Lloyd, 2002). For example in many cultures around the world, the women are expected to do most housework in not all. In the US and most other countries, women will earn less than men while working under the same capacity (Sigel, 2006). In African cultures, men are supposed to be their families breadwinners while women are expected to tend their families other needs and be their caregivers.
In other words, sex is an inherited characteristic while gender is an acquired one. It is therefore important to acknowledge the difference between the two because such an understanding can attract empathy for members of the society who do not demonstrate the norms expected of them by the society based on whether one is male or female.


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