Handout 8 - Sex And Gender

Sex is biological – that is, we are born with male or female reproductive organs and hormones. It refers to the natural physical differences in men and women’s bodies. These differences are necessary for reproduction but these should not give rise to differential treatment of men and women in society.

However, society has attributed certain attitudes and behaviours to individuals and this social/cultural construct is Gender. Gender is how we are socialized – that is, how attitudes, behaviour and expectations are formed based on what society associates with being a woman or being a man. Such as: men are expected to be ‘strong’, ‘brave’, ‘breadwinners’, etc. and women are expected to be ‘homely’, ‘simple’ and ‘domesticated’, etc. Some of these traits are seen to be ‘masculine’ and some ‘feminine’ on the basis of which men and women are judged by society.

These characteristics can be learned from family members, friends, cultural and religious institutions and the workplace.