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5.4: Sex and Gender

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    What is the Difference between Sex and Gender?

    By far, sex and gender has been one of the most socially significant social factors in the history of the world and the United States. Sex is one's biological classification as male or female and is set into motion at the moment the sperm fertilizes the egg. Sex can be precisely defined at the genetic level by looking at the 23rd pair of chromosomes, with XX being female and XY being male. Believe it or not, there are very few sex differences based on biological factors. Even though male and female are said to be opposite sexes, biologically there is no ‘opposite sex’. Look at Table 1 below to see sex differences.

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): Differences in male and female sexes

    Male

    Female

    Penis

    Vagina

    Testicles

    Uterus

    Sperm

    Ovaries/Eggs

    Breast dormant

    Breast development

    Cyclical hormones

    More aggressive

    Less aggressive

    Runs slightly faster

    Runs slightly slower

    More upper body strength

    Less upper body strength

    Lifespan 3 years shorter, worldwide

    Lifespan 7 years longer, in developed countries

    For the sake of argument, ignore the reproductive differences and you basically see taller, stronger, and faster males. The real difference is the reproductive body parts, their function, and corresponding hormones. The average U.S. woman has about two children in her lifetime. She also experiences a monthly period. Other than that and a few more related issues listed in Table 1, reproductive roles are a minor difference in the overall daily lives women, yet so very much importance has been placed on these differences throughout history. We have much more in common than differences. There is a vast number of similarities common to both men and women. Every major system of the human body (e.g., respiratory, digestive, nervous, immune systems, etc.) functions in very similar ways to the point that health guidelines, disease prevention and maintenance, and even organ transplants are very similar and guided under a large umbrella of shared guidelines.

    True, there are medical specialists in treating men and women, but again the similarities outweigh the differences. Today you probably ate breakfast, took a shower, walked in the sunlight, sweated, slept, used the bathroom, was exposed to germs and pathogens, grew more hair and finger nails, exerted your muscles to the point that they became stronger, and felt and managed stress. So did every man and woman you know and in very similar ways. Answer this question: which sex has Estrogen, Follicle Stimulating Hormone, Luteinizing Hormone, Prolactin, mammary glands, nipples, and even Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (at times)? Yes, you probably guessed correctly. Both males and females have all these hormones, plus many others, including testosterone.

    Not only are males and females very similar, but science has also shown that we truly are more female than male in biological terms. So, why the big debate of the battle of the sexes? Perhaps it’s because of the impact of gender (the cultural definition of what it means to be a man or a woman). Gender is culturally-based and varies in a thousand subtle ways across the many diverse cultures of the world.

    Gender has been shaped by political, religious, philosophical, language, tradition and other cultural forces for many years. Gender roles are also socially and culturally/based and are that set of norms that are attached to a specific gender. Gender identity is our personal internal sense of our own maleness or femaleness.

    Every society has a slightly different view of what it means to be male/masculine and female/feminine. Masculine traits are those we associate with being male, such as aggressiveness, directness, independence, objectiveness, and leadership. Feminine traits are being talkative, submissive, nurturing, emotional, and illogical. Androgyny is when a person shares both masculine and feminine traits. They fit the behavior to the situation; so an androgynous person might cry at a wedding or funeral, but can also change the tire on a car.

    To this day, in most countries of the world women are still oppressed and denied access to opportunities more than men and boys. This can be seen through many diverse historical documents. When reading these documents, the most common theme of how women were historically oppressed in the world’s societies is the omission of women as being legally, biologically, economically, and even spiritually on par with men. The second most common theme is the assumption that women were somehow broken versions of men. Biology has disproven the belief that women are broken versions of men. In fact, the 23rd chromosome looks like XX in females and XY in males and the Y looks more like an X with a missing leg than a Y. Ironically, science has shown that males are broken or variant versions of females and the more X traits males have the better their health and longevity.

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    5.4: Sex and Gender is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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