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Difference Between Sex and Gender

Sex vs Gender

What is the difference between the terms sex and gender? Both terms are very closely related and it is quite difficult to distinguish the exact meaning of the terms. However, by no means is sex and gender the same though people use these two words thinking that they are synonyms. Gender is a set of characteristics that are seen to distinguish between male and female, whereas sex is either of two divisions, male and female. Sex is usually determined by the anatomy of a person. If you delve deeply into the concepts sex and gender, you will find out that a female who is named thus due to the anatomy of the body could have male characteristics such as preferring rough sports, body strength, etc. While sex is biological gender is posed by the society. 

What does Gender mean?

The American Heritage® Dictionary describes gender as a sexual identity, especially in relation to society or culture/ The condition of being female or male. The American Heritage® Dictionary further explains that gender as a word was used primarily to refer to the grammatical categories of “masculine,” “feminine,” and “neuter.” However, in recent years the word has become well established in its use to refer to sex-based categories, as in phrases such as gender gap and the politics of gender. This usage is supported by the practice of many anthropologists who use gender to refer to social or cultural categories.

For example, one would say,

In peasant societies, gender (not sex) roles are likely to be more clearly defined.

This distinction is useful in principle, but it is by no means widely observed, and considerable variation in usage occurs at all levels.

According World Health Organization (WHO), gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. To explain simply, masculine and feminine are gender categories.

Gender characteristics can vary greatly between different human societies. Some examples of gender characteristics:

In the United States (and most other countries), women earn significantly less money than men for similar work.

In Viet Nam, many more men than women smoke as female smoking has not traditionally been considered appropriate.

In Saudi Arabia, men are allowed to drive cars while women are not.

In most of the world, women do more housework than men.

Difference Between Sex and Gender

What does Sex mean?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary sex is described as the property or quality by which organisms are classified as female or male on the basis of their reproductive organs and functions. Many anthropologists reserve sex for reference to biological categories only.

For example,

The effectiveness of the medication appears to depend on the sex (not gender) of the patient.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), sex refers to biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women. To explain it simply, male and female are sex categories.

Sex characteristics do not vary substantially between different human societies. WHO gives some examples of sex characteristics:

Women menstruate while men do not.

Men have testicles while women do not.

Women have developed breasts that are usually capable of lactating, while men have not.

Men have more massive bones than women.

What is the difference between Sex and Gender?

• Sex depends on the anatomy. Gender depends on the society or culture.

• Male and female are sex categories. Masculine and feminine are gender categories.

• Sex characteristics do not vary substantially between different human societies. Gender characteristics do vary greatly between different human societies.


Further Reading:

  1. Difference Between Sex and Making Love
  2. Difference Between Love and Sex


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