Sex | Gender | 07th November 2021 | Virtual Wire
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“Sex” refers to the biological differences between men and women, while “Gender” indicates the vast range of cultural meanings attached to that former.
The establishment of distinction between gender and sex is important for feminists because the subordination of women is, often, justified on the grounds of biological differences between men and women. The main challenge to solve for feminists is biological determinism, which means various forms of oppression is legitimated by using natural (unchangeable) factors as a weapon. Feminists argue that there is no necessary correlation between the biology of men and women and qualities that are referred to be masculine and feminine. Moreover, the set of characteristics associated with masculine and feminine varies over different cultures. The child-rearing practices try to establish and perpetuate certain differences between the sexes.
Sometimes it involves punishments to bring about conformity. Sex-specific qualities and the value that society attribute to them (boys and girls) are produced by a range of institutions and beliefs that socialize boys and girls differently. In addition, societies value ‘masculine’ characteristics more highly than ‘feminine’ while at the same time ensuring that men and women who do not conform to these characteristics are continuously disciplined into ‘appropriate’ behaviour.
There is nothing ‘natural’ about the sexual division of labour. The fact that men and women Perform different kinds of work both within the family and outside has little to do with a biological difference and more to do with ideological assumptions. The sexual division of labour extends to the public space of paid work and this has nothing to do with sex (biology) and everything to do with gender (culture). Certain kinds of work are ‘women’s work’ and other kinds of men’s work, but more important fact is that whatever women
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do get lower wages and is less valued while when same work is mechanized, making it lighter and better paid, it is replaced by men.
Thus, it is clear that the resent subordination of women arises, not from the unchangeable biological differences (sex), but from the social and cultural values, ideologies, and institutions that ensure the material and ideological subordination of women (gender). Feminists question sex-differentiated work, the sexual division of labour, and more fundamentally the questions of sexuality and reproduction as issues to be extricated from the realm of biology – which is understood to be natural and unchangeable.
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The feminists’ agenda is to relocate these issue in the realm of “political” which suggest that these can and must be transformed. The feminist movements started with the First Wave of Feminism in 1848 have been able to ensure equality between the sexes to some extent but the fight isn't over until it achieves equality between the sexes in real terms.