The Sociological Concept of Gender

Gender is a social term that denotes the behaviour of man in the society. It is also a sex-role conduct that defines the relationship of a person with other people, including: friends, colleagues, classmates, parents, bystanders etc. In psychology and sexology the “gender” concept is used in a broader sense. It denotes some mental or behavioural characteristics of a person. The term “gender” is often associated with masculinity and femininity; as it denotes some features that distinguish men from women (before, they were called the sexual characteristics or sexual differences) (Nobelius A, 2004).

In the beginning, the “gender role” concept was borrowed from the grammar. It was later introduced as an independent science by a sexologist, John Money. In 1955, when studying transsexualism and intersexuality, Money faced the necessity to separate such terms as: gender and phenotype; sexually erotic and sexually procreative qualities. Then, Money’s results started widely use sociologists, lawyers, and American feminists. In some social sciences, the term “gender” has a more restricted meaning. It denotes “a social gender”. That means some social roles, identities and activities of men and women. These qualities are not dependent on biological sex differences but on the organization of the society. Today, many scientists agree that there are a lot of different problems in modern society, but the main one is the inequality between men and women.

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According to the World Health Organization, every society has its own constructed behavior, activities and roles that are appropriate for men and women. Thus, different roles and activities may cause some gender inequalities. As a result these inequalities may lead to inequities between men and women (WHO, 2012).

Scientists regard the term “sex” as some biological or psychological features differentiating men from women. On the other hand, “gender” refers mainly to some social roles, rules, activities and conducts. In fact, various social groups and cultures have totally different views on it.

The thing is that some sex features do not change greatly between various societies and cultures. Furthermore, many gender features may change drastically. What some cultures allow, others forbid.

According to the World Health Organization there are several examples of sex characteristics, including:

  • Women menstruate while men do not
  • Men have testicles
  • Women have breasts that are able to feed new-born children, while men have not
  • Men usually have bigger bone mass than women

Some examples of gender characteristics:

  • In the USA (and most other countries), women get less pay than men for the similar work
  • In Viet Nam, many men smoke. At the same time, it is not considered normal for a woman to smoke.
  • In Saudi Arabia women are forbidden to drive a car
  • In most of the world, women keep all housework on their own (WHO,2012)

The sociology of gender is a branch of sociology that studies the social roles of differentiation men from women. The subject of the gender sociology is historically formed unequal relationships between men and women.

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In the framework of the sociology of gender, there are many different theoretical and empirical approaches. However, all of them avow that the relations between men and women are the key principle in the organization of society.

The term “gender” is widely used in the Feminist sociology. This theory is a contradictory one, as it regards “gender” as a relation to power. It states that feminism can be a great source of strength. Due to this, a strained relationship has developed between feminist theory and sociology; since sociology paid mainly attention to the men’s point of view. In the basis of the feminist sociology lies a belief in a systematic oppression of women; and historical domination of men, in most societies. Nowadays there are a lot of different types of feminism, including:

  • Cultural feminism
  • Radical feminism
  • Erotic feminism
  • Liberal feminism
  • Psychoanalytic feminism (Rockler-Gladen N. ,2008)

Women as well as men have various kinds of mobility within the workplace. The majority of women tend to experience so called “glass ceiling”. The term denotes an invisible barrier that stops women from moving on the corporate ladder. On the contrary, men experience a “glass escalator” in such activities as teaching, nursing or other social work. It means, men can easier get promotion and become successful. According to the statistics males become managers and principals more often than women.

The gender pay gap is one more problem existing between men and women. It mainly appeared in the workplace. The thing is that men usually earn more money than women. The European Commission (2012) state:

Women have as good or better qualifications than men, but often their skills are not as valued as men’s and their career progression is slower. This results in an average gender pay gap of 17 % in the EU… Women’s earnings over a lifetime are on average 17 % lower than men’s. When women retire these lower earnings result in lower pensions. This leads to more women than men experiencing poverty in old age.”

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One more issue is the female sexuality. Thus, with the development of agriculture, men got a lot of control over women. Being very rich, the upper male class wanted their sons to marry only “pure” girls. As a result they subconsciously forced women control their sexuality. The thing is that women were taught to remain virgins until marriage. Females had also to be faithful to their husbands. Furthermore, women had to ruin all their plans and ambitions in order to raise children.

The gender-based violence is another topical problem. Nowadays, many women experience emotional, physical and sexual humiliation on the part of men.

Gender plays an important role in committing the majority of crimes, including rape, theft, sexual assault etc. All these crimes are mainly maid against women by men. According to the statistics, in 1998, almost 15 per cent of women were the victims of rape committed by males, and only 2.1 per cent of men. The Department of Justice also states that almost 99 per cent of people ever arrested for rape were men (The Duke University)

A lot of women experience violence at homes and work. In many societies a woman cannot even fully participate. They are forbidden to vote and show their faces. Nowadays, many feminists accuse male in committing the majority of crimes, including armed robbery (92%), rape (98%), family violence (83%) and murder (88%).

Thus, the sociology of gender is relatively new science. It studies many important issues. First of all, it is the participation of woman in the modern society, her role and conduct. Today many women are dissatisfied with the attitude to themes at work, family, culture and society.

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