Politics in Minutes (2016)

Sex and gender

By definition, feminism and gender politics have put sex and gender under the microscope to explore and challenge received notions about masculinity and femininity. While sex refers to biological, anatomical differences, gender is a social construct that describes and defines the emotional and psychological expectations of a given culture towards physical maleness or femaleness. This may be as simple as a widespread assumption that women are ‘naturally’ emotional, peaceful, caring and passive, while men are less emotional, independent, active and aggressive. Feminists argue that, based on these kinds of assumptions, patriarchal societies impose gender appropriate roles on women and men in all areas of life, from family roles through to schooling, work, sexuality and political activity – an imposition that has discriminated against women and trapped men, too. Feminist activists have fought traditional sexual roles, particularly heterosexuality and gender stereotyping, as a means of liberating women and enabling some men to challenge socially imposed roles as well.