Gender Equality – A much relatable term these days. Gender Equality signifies that all men and women are equal, having the same duties towards the society, in no way one is superior than the other and is equal in all other aspects. This is the literal definition for Gender Equality. Earlier, girls had absolutely no scope to pursue higher educations, were forced to marry at a very young age and they were basically the home markers and treated as care- takes of the Family, and that was a normalized situation that time. Is this the Reality even now? Or do we see emerging mindsets supporting Gender Equality around us? Or is it just preserved in bookish terms. Till this era, our core believes hasn’t changed much. We show ourselves as cool or modern every time, but what about the man-made rules or superstitions of local people? The Hypocrisy tells us that women should cook food for the family, look after the child and is bound to perform much more household chores, even if she is a Chartered Accountant or the IPS Officer. Now why this biasness? The Patriarchal society makes the norms that husbands shall perform the duty of “an earning member” or as “head of the family”. Why is that the female has to be a ‘home maker’, In spite of having a degree or proper education? Just for the sake of the family? or the child? or the society? These customs portrayed long back, cannot be revolutionized in just one day. These are the loopholes of our systems, and we need to identify these as soon as possible for the betterment. Days are changing, the women are going to work outside their homes, they are becoming corporate officials manager, along with being a wife. They are fighting for their freedoms throughout. They are earning for family as well, balancing both the duties. If a woman can do so much why is that a male member just has to earn to contribute to the family. “Gender- assigned” roles should not be followed anymore, The responsibilities shall be shouldered equally. It is not just the headache of the woman to be in charge of the Family. The husband can take his time out to help, to cook for the family, not just for a couple of days, but as a routine. Work should be divided and shared, the husband shall also perform his tasks to support the wife. This will increase the love and affection for the family, ensure that peace and harmony prevails. These are smaller steps taken against the never-changing prejudices of the society. It shows the maturity of the male members to serve their counterparts, the husband shall find happiness from these household chores, and this is the perfect “gentleman” trait. Nothing is impossible on this earth. This small step taken is capable of making a drastic change of things a lot in the long run and is inspiring for the upcoming generations. If the husband starts assisting his wife, all the workings becomes 10times easier, as the burden is not just on one in this case. Suppose, both the parents are working, the wife has to reach her office within a fixed time, she cannot head out before once she is done with family duties, or may even her child could be late for school. In this situation, the concept of being “late” is considered as unprofessional. Maybe she won’t be in a position to pack her own tiffin, which is so much wrongful. If she has her husband as an helping hand, she never has to sacrifice her time or food. Also, the child will also reach his school within a fixed time, really the best solution for any Family. The Child especially looks up to the Father as the Role Model. Not just for the wife, the male member can also do domestic tasks to help their parents, or sister or they can sit down to teach the child. There is no harm in doing something for the family, this will definitely strengthen the bond between all the members of a family.
It’s easy to fictionalize an issue when you’re not aware of the many ways in which you are privileged by it.
– Kate Bornstein
One can imagine many raised eyebrows at the idea of this distinction between sex and gender. Aren’t they the same; two names given to the same phenomenon? Yes, and No.
Yes, because these two terms are often used interchangeably by people at large. No, because thinking of the terms as meaning the same thing is an error. The terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are closely linked, yet they are not synonyms. There is a subtle difference between the two as stated by psychologists and anthropologists across the globe. Today, let us explore how they are different.
The word sex has its root probably in Middle English which means “section” or “divide”. If we go further back, sex means the number six in Latin. On the other hand, the word gender is derived from Middle English which in turn is derived from Old French which is ultimately derived from the Latin word genus. Genus means “kind” or “type” or “sort”.
If we quote from the Medilexicon’s medical dictionary, we find two definitions of sex and gender respectively:
Sex is “the biologic character or quality that distinguishes male and female from one another as expressed by analysis of the person’s gonadal (gonad is an organ in animals that produces gametes, especially a testis or ovary), morphologic (internal and external), chromosomal, and hormonal characteristics.”
Gender is “the category to which an individual is assigned by self or others, on the basis of sex.” To put it in a nutshell, sex refers to biological differences while gender refers to socio-cultural differences. This will become clearer by way of examples. Sex and gender have different characteristics. Some features related to sex are – while males have testicles, females have ovaries; while males have penis; females have vagina, females get pregnant while males do not; females can breastfeed their babies, males cannot; at the time of birth, males tend to weigh more than their female counterparts; generally, males have deeper voices than females.
Some features related to gender are – women have long hair and men short; women contribute more to household chores than men do ; some cultures expect their women to cover their heads when they step out of the house while there is no such injunction for men; up till the twentieth century women were not allowed to vote in a number of countries (UK granted female franchise in 1928) ; some professions, like teaching and nursing, are considered to be more suitable for women while others like, climbing the corporate ladders, are more appropriate for men (women are now breaking these barriers); men are regarded as bread earners and protectors of women in the majority of cultures.
This means while sex is a natural or biological feature, gender means a cultural or learned feature – the set of characteristics that a society or culture defines as masculine or feminine. As stated succinctly by the French writer and feminist, “one is not born a woman, but becomes one”. We can extend this to mean that one is not born a man but becomes one, too.
While a person is born with a sex, gender is dictated by socio-cultural norms in which he or she finds himself or herself. Gender is not about being born with a penis or vagina but how we feel about ourselves, or identify with a particular group, men or women. Some people are transgender which means their gender identity is not aligned with their biological sex. A person born with a man’s body might identify more with women and vice-versa. Sexual identity is about our attraction to people of a particular sex. While it is largely true that opposite sexes attract, people of the same sex also experience attraction and hence terms like gay, lesbian, bisexual.
Needless to say, cultural norms vary and so do the gender roles. For example in India, it is normal for Sikh men to have long locks while in some matriarchal societies in Africa, women are supposed to provide for the family while men take care of the kids and household.
Similarly, the sexual differences among people cannot be categorized into two binary opposites. While females have XX sex chromosomes, men have XY chromosomes. There are some babies who are born with XO chromosomes (Tuner Syndrome) or XXY chromosomes (Klienfelter’s Syndrome). They are intersex which may have sex organs that appear to be somewhat female or male or both. A lot of times surgeries are performed on such babies right after their births so as to assign a particular sex to them. However, psychologists advise that such surgeries should be postponed till the babies grow up and can decide for themselves which sex they identify with more, male or female, and accordingly go for sex change procedures. Otherwise, they may experience an identity crisis which may lead to depression or even suicides.
In our culture, gender education is given to kids on the basis of their sex from an early age. While men are told that they need to be aggressive and not emotional (men don’t cry), women are told that they have to be feminine (don’t laugh loudly, learn how to cook, don’t study too much else who will marry you). However, such roles can prove to be a disadvantage for both male and female. What about those men who are fragile? Or those women who do not want to marry and bear children but to make a career? Hence, it is stands to reason that such choices should be granted to different sexes irrespective of the expected gender roles in order to ensure the fullest developments of their personalities in accordance with their innate abilities or desires.
In a nutshell, sex is what lies beyond your legs. Gender is what lies between your ears.