Gender Roles and Stereotypes

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GENDER AND HUMAN SEXUALITY
EXPLICATION OF VARIOUS CONCEPTS
Sex: refers to a person‘s biological/physiological characteristics Gender: refers to the social, cultural and economic attributes and opportunities associated with being male or female. In almost all societies, men and women differ in the activities they undertake, in their access and control over resources, and in their participation in decision-making. The nature of gender definitions (what it means to be male or female) vary among cultures and change over time. The use of the word gender highlights the insight that these differences are not innate or predetermined, and are not the same as the biological differences between men and women. Sex roles: refer to biological functions that are limited to one particular sex. For example, pregnancy is a female sex role because only women can bear children. Gender roles: are roles classified by sex, in which the classification is social and not biological. Child-rearing may be classified as a female role, but it is a female gender role rather than a female sex role, as child-rearing can be done by men or women. Productive activities: refer to the productions of goods and services for consumption or trade; for example, farming or fishing. When people are asked what they do, the response is usually related to productive work, especially work which generates income. Both women and men can be involved in productive activities but, for the most part, their functions and responsibilities will differ according to gender divisions of labor. Women‘s productive work is often less visible and less valued than that of the men‘s. Reproductive work: refers to the care and maintenance of the household and its members—including bearing and caring for children, preparing food, collecting water and fuel, shopping, housekeeping and family healthcare. Although reproductive work is crucial to human survival, it is seldom considered ‗real work‘. In poor communities, reproductive work is usually labor intensive and time consuming. It is almost always the responsibility of women and girls. Gender stereotypes: occur when men and women are regarded as different according to rigid thinking about the social and cultural expectations of their gender—rather than a more reliable consideration of their individual capacities and potentials. Practical gender needs: refer to resources or facilities that people need to perform their present roles more easily, effectively or efficiently. Such needs can usually be identified by the people themselves—for example, the obtaining of water or fuel. Measures to address these needs may preserve or reinforce traditional gender relations. Strategic gender needs: are designed to challenge women‘s subordinate positions in society, and to transform their existing roles and relations. Examples of strategic needs include reproductive rights, a greater political voice, and action on violence against women. In reflecting on the analysis of gender information, an important distinction needs to be made between ‗practical‘ and ‗strategic‘ gender needs. To address a practical gender need is to improve a person‘s situation by widening her or his access to resources. For example, a woman‘s situation will be made easier if she doesn‘t have to walk long distances to fetch water or do not travel longer to take her children to the health center. However, such improvements will not directly affect their roles and relationships, or their control. They are purely practical. Those changes that really empower people are called ‗strategic‘ ones. If a woman learns more about her rights with regard to divorce or inheritance, for example, this is addressing her strategic needs. Her relationships and her positions will thus be improved. In general, practical gender needs are likely to be related to survival through the...
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