How to think about… Gender | Innovation Tech
Men are more active than women, and women are better talkers. So says society, but biology suggests boundaries between the sexes are more blurred
AT FIRST it seems straightforward. After a brief inspection of its genitals, a baby is assigned a gender.
But look more closely, and this simple idea begins to unravel. For a start, biological sex isn’t always clear-cut. Around 1 in 2000 people are born intersex, with reproductive organs or sexual anatomy that don’t fit the typical male/female pattern.
Beyond biological sex, gender as a concept is also tough to pin down. The term originates from the Latin word genus, meaning “type” or “kind”. Before the 1950s, it was only really used to describe different classes of nouns in certain languages. It acquired a new meaning largely due to sexologist John Money, whose work with people who are intersex led him to distinguish between a person’s sex, as determined by genes and hormones, and their gender. For him, gender meant the social, psychological and behavioural aspects of being male or female. In the 1970s, work by feminist anthropologist Gayle Rubin helped to morph this into the idea of gender as a social construct, a socially imposed division of the sexes.
Today, the terms “gender” and “sex” are often used interchangeably, and for many people they are synonymous – someone is born female and identifies as a woman, for instance. But some people, often from a young age, have a strong sense of being a different gender to the sex they were designated at birth: a study in 2016 concluded that 0.6 per cent of US adults …