In today's society, gender and sex seem to draw two separate connotative definitions. Gender is socially determined; it carries a social tone and therefore, gender can be defined as the socio-cultural phenomenon of dividing people into categories based on their biological roles such as different clothing, career choices, activities, and societal positions people hold (Ember, 2003). Those people with male characteristics are perceived as men and boys while those depicting female characteristics are women and girls. On the other hand, Sex is more of a scientific term that refers to biological characteristics and differences such as hormonal profiles, sex organs, and chromosomes. From a psychology mindset, as Hockenbury (2013) delineates, the general perception is that sex explains the physiological and physical differences between males and females, sexual preferences, and physical traits. Therefore, sex can be defined as the distinguishing assemblage of properties or quality by which organisms are classified as male, female, or intersex on the basis of their reproduction functions and organs (Worell, 2001). It is important to realize that a person's sex as depicted by their biology does not always correlate with their gender. Therefore, the terms Sex' and Gender' are not identical (Ember, 2003). In a nutshell, the total sum of the physical characteristics that distinguishes men and women from each other is sex. Reproductive organs are the most distinctive difference in characteristics between males and females. Other common physiological and physical differences or traits include deep voices, facial hair, and muscular builds. In this perspective, it is not often that you see a lady who sounds or speaks like a man because they speak with soft voices. Social classifications that help determine the sex of an individual are known as gender. As seen, scholars have generally regarded gender as a social construct; it does not exist but is rather a concept created by our societal and cultural norms.
Research-based Differences between Men and Women
According to research by Pease (2006), brain scans depict that most women have the brain structure to out-communicate men. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) brain scans have shown that women have greater capacity in terms of communication than men. A man usually has four to six areas of the brain that evaluates other peoples behavior while a woman is between 14 and 16 areas. Pease further explains that the female brain is key in explaining the differences between men and them. The female brain is designed for multi-tracking; by this, it means that the average woman can juggle between many topics at the same time, and the same cannot be said for men. For example, a lady can watch television while on the phone and at the same time listen to a conversation behind her. Debate also exists as to if genetic gestures cause the differences between men and women. For example, Pease delineates that most men put on a coat with the right arm first while women begin with the left arm.
According to Ember (2003), research on gender stereotypes in the United States found that there are a large number of differential characteristics ascribed to both men and women. From the research, it was found that men are rational, frank, bold, straightforward, competent, and effective while women are generally emotionally concerned with social customs. The study also suggests that sex role ideologies are more traditional in some cultures than others globally. For example, female students in Arab nations are more liberal than male students. Additionally, the physical differences between men and women are immediately obvious. Men have heavier facial features as compared to women neotenic faces. In relation to Peases study, Ember also suggests that even though male brains are 15% larger than women, the distribution of traits are higher in women than men (Ember, 2003).
How Traditional Gender Roles and Gender Role Expectations Impact Men and Women today
Gender roles are those behaviors of women and men that are considered socially and culturally appropriate. Traditional gender roles can be defined as those conventional behaviors seen from men and women such as men financially taking care of the family while women do household duties. Television shows and old movies have often shown us that there is a certain way of portraying the family because men are considered bread winners in the family and women as mere housewives who take care of the children (Craighead and Nemeroff, 2004). Today, gender role expectations have left an ineffaceable impact on the society and men and women. Since these expectations are passed on from one generation to another, children are now aware of the gender differences based on their parent's actions and nature of the environment. For example, ladies are more aware and continually dress in pink and flowery outfits while men are given dull colors such as gray and black. As children grow, they become more aware of their gender role expectations. Nowadays, parents are encouraging their children to serve different roles in the world. Girls are often given more attention on how they present themselves while boys to exert themselves in physical activities.
Craighead, W., & Nemeroff, C. (2004). The concise Corsini encyclopedia of psychology and behavioral science. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons.
Ember, C. (2003). Encyclopedia of sex and gender. New York: Kluwer Academic.
Pease, A. (2006). The definitive book of body language (pp. 14-36). New York: Bantam Books.
Hockenbury, D. (2013). Discovering Psychology, sixth edition [by] Don H. Hockenbury, Sandra E. Hockenbury (6th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.
Worell, J. (2001). Encyclopedia of Women and Gender. Burlington: Elsevier.
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