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Gender Subgroup Self-Categorization And Gender Role Self-Concept Add in library

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With reference to selected feminist theories, critically discuss the argument that both ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are socially constructed. Is this a helpful way to understand how femininities and masculinities are constructed today?



Evolution of Femininities and Masculinities in the society:

This assignment is critically based on the argument that both the ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are socially created and their use in feminist work. This assignment also discusses the concepts of femininity and masculinity in analytical perspective. These concepts are used by the society to study the social behavior. The study of gender is having a wide range of framework that helps to research in the study of the behavior. The concept of gender was first developed by Iill Matthews (1984), in the research of ‘construction of femininity’. According to this research work, every community distinguishes between the men and women. Thus, the concept of gender determines the role of men and women in the society and selects a particular pattern in their relationship. The patriarchy concept clears the view of male dominance in the society. The concept of gender shows the difference in behavior of men and women in the society and basically analysis of their difference from the biological and social construction point of view (Athenstaedt, et. al., 2007). The concept of femininity and masculinity determines a particular male as masculine in behavior and a female as a feminine in behavior. The word gender and sex is used by various feminist writers and researchers to show the biological difference between female and male and social difference between woman and man. Many feminist sociologists convey that there is a need to understand the concept of sex and gender in a larger perspective.

Sex – The term sex determines the physiological and biological difference between female and male sex. The word sex shows the physical differentiation between the biological female and a biological male. Whenever a child is born, the label of boy or a girl is done on the basis of their sex. The basis of such characterization is the genital differentiation between the female and male. Most people are born with the biological differentiation with one sex or another, except some ambiguous cases. However, it had been evident that after being label as a boy or girl the new born child is socially characterized according to their gender with specific roles and expectations. The biological males are made to learn to act in masculine way and also socially act in that way. The biological female is also learned to act in a feminine way and also socially behave in that way. According to feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir “one is not born a man but becomes one. One is not born a woman but becomes one” (Beres, 2014).

Feminist writers like Judith Butler have criticized the views that there is no difference between the female child and male child at the time of birth except their reproductive organs and genitals. The gender construction is made by the society depending on their genitals. To some extent the psychological and social construction has been made by the biological difference. According to Judith Butler, the sex is natural thing but the gender is superimposed upon it by the society following some secondary constructions. Butler further said that sex is itself a social category. Therefore, from his point of view, the difference between female and male is made by the society and it is a social distinction. It is a specific way of dividing and perceiving the difference between female and male. Butler argues that though sex is biological, the term is made by social constructions (Beres, 2014).

The biological definition and meaning of sex helps to explain the basic difference in the sex. Butler was concerned about the fact that biology being a part of science shows a social system of representation, as there are many differences among various human beings and apart from that only some basic difference have create divisions between the human beings. In other words, this idea has divided the human beings into two parts, as even though there are differences in the two sexes, there is no rational or logical reason for this.

Judith Butler explains that sex is an analytical as well as a normative category. It determines what woman and men are and what they ought to do. It specifies the behavior of women and men. Therefore, Butler concludes that sex is social category but some feminist writers are against it and basically regard sex as a biological term in the nature (Boxer, 2007).

As per the research work in sociology, many researchers believe that each individual has one sex, sexuality and one gender. Often the sex means sexuality; it may refer to physiology or biology. A man is assumed to be masculine male and a woman a feminine female. When a child is born, they are categorized as per their gender, thus, is essential to have a clear idea of gender. 


Gender – The term gender became famous in the early 1970 from the feminist writings. In social term, gender describes the difference between the men and women, as what men can do and what women can do or cannot do. Thus, it can be said that gender is an analytical category in the society that is constructed upon the biological difference between men and women. Gender also differentiates the difference between men and women in terms of behavior that is masculine and feminine (Connell, 2005). Feminist writers consider gender as social construction rather than biological difference, which is made by the patriarchal society. Some researchers suggest that the physical and mental difference creates the biological difference in women and men. They also believe that men are biologically men are mentally and physically stronger than women. However, other researchers argue that the biological difference between women and men has been exaggerated and the difference is created by the patriarchal system that determines men superior to women. Thus, women become dependent on the men in the society.

Ann Oakley in the book ‘Sex, Gender and Society’ explored the word gender. Oakley said that in the Western culture the role of women in the society has been determined as ‘mother’ and ‘house wife’, and this role is given to them because of their biological structure. The Western Culture also believes that if these traditional roles are changed, it could cause damage to the basic framework of the society. Thus, Oakley concluded that these views of roles of women help the patriarchal society to maintain their basic values (Folbre, 2009).

Simon de Beauvoir in the book ‘The Second Sex’ explained that the gender difference in the patriarchal society makes the men superior to women through their role as bread winner. The men are given a power in the family as well as in the society. The gender difference is created in such a way that the men are superior and women are always dependent on them.  Women position in the society is always as an outsider and the civilization is highly masculine (Mirchandani, 2006).

Shulamith Firestone in the book ‘The Dialectics of Sex’ stated that patriarchy society had exploited the capacity of women to reproduce and determined it as their weakness. The writer further suggested women that in order to break away these traditional barriers technological advances way should be used to free them from the burden of childbirth. The writer advocated breaking down the biological bond between child and mother by creating communes where nuclear family and monogamy does not exists. Some feminist accepts the suggestions of Firestones mainly because the use of technology is still in the hands of men (Fox, 2011). However, the cultural feminist disagrees, and asks whether the difference between women and men are only cultural or it also has a biological perspective. These feminist prefers the value of motherhood as the evidence of natural disposition and would to relinquish it.

Ann Oakley said that there is constant link between the sex and gender, and gave the example that in the application forms, people are asked to mention their gender instead of sex. In feminist writing, it is inevitable that there is close connection between gender and the biology or the nature. Recent writings on gender and sex have mentioned that feminist has very much dependent on polarizing gender and sex, determining that they are socially created and could be changed. This discussion is totally based on the fact that how every individual understands various consequences of biological facts with their own cultural values. This also argues that biology contributes to be behavior characteristics of any individual.

Movia Gatens has said, “The male body and the female body have quite different social value and significance and cannot but help have a marked effect on male and female consciousness” (Fox, 2011). The body structure of women have huge role in citing one’s gender. The writer gave the example of menstruation and said that women are considered weak due to this factor. The masculinity is not valued unless it is biologically male. Therefore, the male body considers them to be superior in our traditional culture.

Judith Butler explained that gender introduces the idea involuntarily functions in the dominant discourses of hetero reality. The writer further states “Sex or gender distinction suggests a radical discontinuity between sexed bodies and culturally constructed gender” (Fox, 2011). This view asks the question the procedure of constructing gender identity.

It is very difficult to accept the rigid difference between gender and sex, whether it is entirely cultural or biological. There is a constant change is the concept of individuals as the gender or sex is a social or biological forces. The debate of gender and sex will continue in favor of biological differences, whereas feminist writers will continue to claim gender and sex as socially created by the institution of religion, family marriage, caste and etc. It has been noted that in past few decades the role of women in the society as well their position in the society has drastically changed and gave new dimensions to feminist writers in terms of gender and sex discussions (Jo, 2014). 


Deconstructing Sex and Gender

It is needed to rethink the concept of sex and gender distinctly in order to determine gender categories as they are socially constructed in various ways. Gender is a vital category that determines the major social life of an individual all aspects of social life. Thus, society has created various bodies and major institutions of society like economy, polity, ideology, family and etc. For any individual, the sex is categorized at the time of birth depending upon the individual’s genital. Every gender has its own gender identity, marital and procreative status, gendered sexual orientation, a gendered personality structure, gender at work, gender attitudes and beliefs and respective family responsibility or roles (Jongryul Choi, 2010). These social factors are congruent and consistent with the biological structure of any individual. The normal combination could not be consistent with one another and also with the components of sex and gender; however, these factors could not match up with each other and have a binary divide.

The official needs of categorizing of infants in the society into a clear label of being a girl or a boy, soon after the time of birth is sometimes considered as unwanted sex assignment. Sex change operations are common in infants who have anomalous genitalia. Feminist are aware of many cases of physiological and biological sexes. The importance of the society in categorizing the sex of infants as female or male shows the practice of clear sex differentiation. Apart from these critical explorations, the difference in sex could be considered as natural process that is in reality constructed by the society (Lucal, 2012).


Masculinity and Femininity

The gender or sex differences raises the issues of female and male, feminine and masculine, female linked with femininity and male linked with masculinity. These biological constructions create difference between women and men that further rises to social descriptions. Feminist writers believe that biological difference increases the social descriptions of femininity and masculinity. The difference in the individual’s character is observed by patters of difference that either feminine or masculine. For example, pink is regarded as a feminine color and blue is regarded as masculine color. Masculine is also regarded as tough and strong. The feminine character is associated with soft and weak character and various other traits that categorize the feminine and masculine gender. The social outcome of being male or female is determined by the masculinity and femininity respectively (Paltasingh and Lingam, 2014). The characteristics and traits that describes difference in women and men, gives more advantage to men over women. Moria Gatens stated that masculinity is not valued until and unless it is performed by biological male. Thus, the male body has certain characteristics and traits of maleness or masculinity. Thus, in human being, male is determined as the supreme. In the same way, femininity is categorized to biological female. The female body has certain characteristics and traits of femaleness or femininity. As per the research of Judith Butler, any concept gives idea about gender performance in terms of femininity and masculinity. Therefore, the performance of gender has entered the society and the dominance of patriarchy gender has evolved at different levels of society as well as in the families. Every individual enters into this gender category of feminine and masculine right from the time of birth (Lucal, 2012). The concept of femininity and masculinity has emerged in the feminist writings showing the difference between women and men. Some of the researchers states that the difference between women and men are biologically created, whereas some of the researchers disagrees and states that women and men differences are socially constructed. Thus, the body structure of men and masculinity acquires the characteristics of male. The body structure of female and femininity acquires the characteristics of female.

In modern writings, there is a concept that the social construction of femininity and masculinity are less distinct. There is wide shift in human beings about the control of gender by social or biological forces. In the present days, women lives have changed rapidly along with their expectations and their responsibilities or roles have broadened. Therefore, it shows how flexible is the category of femininity (Richardson, 2010).

The feminist activists are concern about the status of women across the society and try to improve their present conditions. They are committed to understand the traditional aspects of the society and analyze the women’s position in the society. However, there are different approaches given by the feminist activists to improve the status of women in the society, they are:

Liberal feminism

Socialist feminism

Radical feminism

Eco feminism

Marxist feminism

New-wave feminism

Condition feminism

Liberal feminism – The liberal feminism was started in the 18th century and it was called the Enlightenment period. In this period there was a strong believe in the individuality and rationality and also known as the time of reason. The period was rejected the religious dogmas and automatic government. Many topics aroused at that time and the crucial topic was status of women in society. Individuality means the freedom of doing what one wishes to without interference from others. Feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft said “Women are first and foremost human being rational creatures and not sexual being. They are capable of governing themselves by reason. Hence, if women are to be denied natural right, then it must be proved that they are not rational creatures” (Richardson, 2010).

Socialist feminism – The socialist feminism is having three types, the Marxian, radical and phenomenological. From the Marxian thoughts social feminism was started and was connected with the radical feminism. Social feminism is also stressed to improve status of women in the society and thus, it also phenomenology describing women’s perspective. The main goal of social feminism is to get combination of precision and breadth, and achieve all forms of oppression to explore women’s experiences. Hence, the stress is on finding problems of women and then solving them by developing a common agenda for the improving their status in the society (Mazur and McBride, 2007).

Radical feminism – The radical feminism is a type of philosophy that emphasizes on the roots of patriarchal inequality between women and men or mainly social domination of men over women. The radical feminism believes that patriarchy society has divided the rights, power and privileges by gender and thus, has privileged men and oppressed women. The radical feminist rejects the social organization as it is patriarchy in origin. However, the radical feminism is not against the men but opposes patriarchy. Therefore, they want to change the culture of the society that eradicates the patriarchal society (Vashisth and Kumar, 2014). 



The concept of gender and sex are used by socialist or feminist writers to study the social behavior of the society. The concept of sex, gender, femininity and masculinity and patriarchy are essential words in gender studies. In this assignment the discussion was about the concept of sex and gender studies. The concept of sex determines the physiological and biological difference between female and male. The feminist writers accept the basic biological difference between women and men but argue that the characteristics and traits of biological female and biological male is constructed by the society. The gender defines the social construction difference between female and male that created by the patriarchal society. In recent feminist writings they accept that the rigid difference between gender and sex as entire cultural or biological is difficult.

The gender or the sex are terms that raises the issues of female or male, feminine or masculine, female connected with femininity and male connected with masculinity. These constructions show the biological differences between women and men into social descriptions. Feminist writers state that a biological difference raises the social descriptions of femininity and masculinity and they used the term patriarchy society to refer the social system that is dominated by the men over women. They had given various theories that show the dependence of women upon men in the patriarchy society. The feminist approaches are concerned about the dependence of women in the society and are intended to develop strategies to establish equality and independence of women in the society.

Therefore, from this assignment it can be said that the concept of sex and gender was merely constructed by the society on the basis of biological differences between women and men.



Athenstaedt, U., Heinzle, C. and Lerchbaumer, G. (2007). Gender Subgroup Self-Categorization and Gender Role Self-Concept. Sex Roles, 58(3-4), pp.266-278.

Beres, M. (2014). Rethinking the concept of consent for anti-sexual violence activism and education. Feminism & Psychology, 24(3), pp.373-389.

Boxer, M. (2007). Rethinking the Socialist Construction and International Career of the Concept "Bourgeois Feminism". The American Historical Review, 112(1), pp.131-158.

Connell, R. (2005). Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept. Gender & Society, 19(6), pp.829-859.

Folbre, N. (2009). Varieties of Patriarchal Capitalism. Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, 16(2), pp.204-209.

Fox, M. (2011). Prototype theory: An alternative concept theory for categorizing sex and gender?. NASKO, 3(1).

Jo, J. (2014). Haraway's Cyborg Feminism from the Perspective of Practice Theory : On the Concept of Material-Semiotic Practices. jstc, 30, p.1.

Jongryul Choi, (2010). A Society of Unconditional Expenditure 2 : Implosion of the Patriarchal Family and Eroticization of Society. 문화와 사회, 8(1), pp.128-173.

Lucal, B. (2012). Book Review: Sex, Drag and Male Roles: Investigating Gender as Performance. Gender & Society, 26(4), pp.678-680.

Mazur, A. and McBride, D. (2007). State Feminism since the 1980s: From Loose Notion to Operationalized Concept. Pol Gender, 3(04).

Mirchandani, R. (2006). "Hitting is not Manly": Domestic Violence Court and the Re-Imagination of the Patriarchal State. Gender & Society, 20(6), pp.781-804.

Paltasingh, T. and Lingam, L. (2014). 'Production' and 'Reproduction' in Feminism: Ideas, Perspectives and Concepts. IIM Kozhikode Society & Management Review, 3(1), pp.45-53.

Richardson, J. (2010). Feminism, Property in the Person and Concepts of Self. British Journal of Politics & International Relations, 12(1), pp.56-71.

Vashisth, A. and Kumar, A. (2014). The Evolution of Feminism: Comparison of Adaptation and By-Product Concepts. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 24(3), pp.267-280.


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