What is the difference between sex and gender? How do you define gender roles and gender socialisation?

Sex is defined as biologically and physiologically determined differences between men and women, such as chromosomes or genitalia. 

Gender is different to sex. It is a social construct, and something we have to learn and perform, rather than what we were born with. Many sociologists believe that just because we are born with different chromosomes, this does not mean we are naturally programmed to act and behave in “masculine” or “feminine” ways. Gender is therefore how society constructs ideals of behaviour which are fundamentally different for men and women. It is important to look at gender because power and privilege is not equally distributed between the sexes: men often gain privilege at the expense of women, for instance, through the pay gap or earning the right to vote decades before their female counterparts.

Gender role is the role in society that we deem appropriate for a person to adopt, based on what characteristics we deem as desirable for men and women, usually “masculine” for men or “feminine” for women. For instance, in the past, childcare was seen to be the woman’s domain, based on conceptions of women and femininity as being more emotional and caring. Men were seen to be better suited to physical labour or decision making, due to ideas of men and masculinity being strong and dominant.

Gender socialisation is how children are taught to adopt the “appropriate” gender role. For instance, schools can be seen as an agent of gender socialisation. Girls are taught to wear skirts, and boys are taught to wear trousers. This cements in children’s minds that there are differences between the sexes. Another example is how in PE girls and boys play different sports. Girls play sports with less physical contact like netball whereas boys play rugby. This socialises children into accepting that boys should be more rough than girls.

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