Topic: Demographic Structure Of Society

While often conflated, the terms “sex” and “gender” are distinct.

Sex versus gender

Sex refers to a person’s assignment as male or female as determined by a person’s genotype (genetic makeup) and phenotype (observable traits, for example reproductive anatomy or sex hormones). The 23rd pair of chromosomes determines the development of male or female sex-specific traits – males most frequently have XY sex chromosomes and females most frequently have XX sex chromosomes. There are also intersex individuals, who are born with genotypes or phenotypes that do not conform to the definitions of “male” or “female”.

Gender, however, is the division of groups of people by associate roles, expectations, and stereotypes in a culture that is shaped by religious, political, legal, philosophical, linguistic, and other traditions. Gender is therefore defined as a social construct. Where “male” and “female” are considered sex assignments, “man” and “woman” are considered genders.

When examining gender, it is separated into the gender that a person identifies as and the gender they express. However, it is important to remember that gender is a spectrum with many different combinations but the most common are:

Cis-gender – When biological sex assignment and gender identity match

Trans-gender – when biological sex assignment and gender identity do not match

Genderqueer – do not identify as either gender (“man” or “woman”)

The social construction of gender

A social constructionist view of gender looks beyond categories and examines the intersections of multiple identities and the blurring of the boundaries between essentialist categories. This is especially true with regards to categories of man and woman or masculine and feminine, which are viewed typically as binary and opposite. Gender is internalized and acquires significance for the individual. We are aware that others evaluate and characterize our behavior on the parameter of gender. Social constructionists would say that gender is interactional rather than individual; it is developed through social interactions.

Gender segregation

Gender segregation is the division of sexes by society based on its values and expectations. It begins from an early age as gender roles dictated by society inform how males and females should behave. This extends to the workplace where sex informs the roles that society believes we should have.

Practice Questions

Khan Academy


MCAT Official Prep (AAMC)

Online Flashcards Sociology Question 12

Section Bank P/S Section Question 97

Key Points

• Sex is the biological features that an individual is born with which identifies them as male, female or intersex

• Gender is a social construct which is used to categorize peoples expression of their sexuality and their orientation

• Gender Segregation involves the enforcement of societal norms and expectations on an individual of a gender that is defined by society’s views of that gender.

Key Terms

social construct: social constructs are generally understood to be the by-products of countless human choices rather than laws resulting from divine will or nature

gender: the socio-cultural phenomenon of the division of people into various categories such as male and female, with each having associated roles, expectations, stereotypes, etc

sex: either of two main divisions (female or male) into which many organisms can be placed, according to reproductive function or organs

cisgender: identifying with or experiencing a gender the same as one’s biological sex or that is affirmed by society, e.g. being both male-gendered & male-sexed

transgender: not identifying with culturally conventional gender roles and categories of male or female; having changed gender identity from male to female or female to male, or identifying with elements of both, or having some other gender identity

gender segregation: the division of sexes by society based on its values and expectations

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