Modern Issues of Gender Studies

Background of the Study

Public responsibility in society and individual domestic set ups have been raising questions about gender. The general social evolutionary trend that has seen women rise up to take up roles that were previously played by men has also been a debatable issue in society. Arguments over stereotyping with respect to gender or sex also remain to be a dominant issue in every society. Decision of women to rise from their former passive role in the society that restricted them to domestic chores while men took care of every communal business outside home has also led to females’ desire to take positions that were previously reserved for men only.

Society also had a low regard for women and no attention was paid to them even concerning the duties they were in charge of, such as house keeping, among others. There was a movement for women in academic set ups to change this perception and generate attention to what they could offer to the society as well as the capacity they possessed. Such developments were realized in the third quarter of the twentieth century and formed the foundation of gender studies.

Studies were then established with specific interest to form the subject of women psychology. Later on, this issue developed into the general study of gender with psychology of men being incorporated. The study of gender, therefore, entails consideration of both men and women in the society. The subject also defines the notion of gender and how society has been shaping the concept of gender over the time (Wharton, 2011).

Statement of the Problem

The concepts of sex and gender are often confused and interchangeably used when their meanings are actually different. When an individual talks about sex, the impression that is supposed to be created is the identification of people as either male or female. Gender, on the one hand, is supposed to trigger the thought of either masculinity or feminism. Sex can be viewed to be the characteristics of an individual that relates to “biological difference including chromosomes, hormonal profiles, internal and external sex organs” (Nobelius, 2004).

Sex, therefore, defines an individual’s anatomy that is directly determined by body features. Gender, on the other hand, is defined as characteristics that are designated for individuals based on their cultural set up. Gender description may, therefore, differ in this or that society while sex definition remains unchangeable. Gender entails what a society expects of a male or a female representative in a particular situation.

The expectations may range from roles, behavior and responses that individual sexes are supposed to submit to the society. The definition of such roles together with sex definition is what helps in defining a man and a woman in any given particular society. This paper seeks to develop a literary review with respect to gender. It undertakes the research to establish the concept of gender and discuss the difference between gender and sex as viewed in the current society. A review of the findings and identification of recommendations based on the study are carried out.

Limitation of the Study

The review carried out in this paper is limited to secondary resources. The latter include books and online resources that have been established on the subject of gender and sexuality. The major limitation of the study is mainly the inability to conduct primary research into the society’s view on the subject of gender and sex. This is due to the nature of the assignment as well as the time frame within which the assignment is to be undertaken. The inability to carry out a primary research however enabled a thorough study of secondary resources available. It was noted that the secondary resources available gave enough information to be utilized effectively while working on the research.

Theoretical Framework

The study of gender has been undertaken over time for the past three decades. This witnessed a transformation of the study’s specific elements in gender especially among women in terms of the current research that is diverse when it touches upon the feminist population as well as incorporated works about masculinity. The study of gender has been applied, for example, for the development of understanding the aspects such as social relations and structures of societies. The study of gender and sexuality has, however, not been smoothly conducted due to applicable tools that at times lack a clear analytical procedure. Statistical analysis into relations between aspects of gender and sex has significantly been missing in analytical measures of studies. Thus, this work undertakes the application of the already existing literature to present a review of the topic.

Literature Review

Gender Roles

Gender roles have undergone a wide transformation over the last. Major changes in gender roles in societies have been realized among organized groups of women. The feminist movement that portrays the belief that there should be equal treatment of men and women has been the key to transformation of gender roles. Feminist organizations have established transformations to the roles of the females to harmonize them with those undertaken by the masculine gender. In the liberalized society, in terms of gender, “women and men have the same economic, social and political rights” (Crowe, Hill, & Hollingum, 2009, p. 256); feminist movement thus advocates for transformation of the indigenous set up in which women were utterly oppressed by men to a situation where women enjoy freedom just as men. There have been three particularly identified movements that have advocated for such changes. They have been identified as “the first wave, the second wave and the third wave” (Crowe, Hill, & Hollingum, 2009, p. 256). The first movement is reported to have started in the first half of the nineteenth century. The movement advocated for the position of women in the society and fought for women’s rights. The second wave of feminist movement began in the second half of the twentieth century along with the other movements that fought for general rights of individual citizens in society. The third wave of feminist movement was characterized by the struggle for equality between men and women in the global society (Crowe, Hill, & Hollingum, 2009).

Gender Roles in the Nineteenth Century

In the earlier days, a woman in the society was accorded to the domestic role of taking care of and nurturing the family. An ideal woman was seen as a wife to her husband and a mother to her children. She was the link between the man and the domestic matters at home. In America, for example, the main aim of the woman in her life was considered to get married and have children. According to Wayne (2007), the industrial revolution that brought changes in the roles of women from house and farm’s tending to the industrial jobs caused a shift in women’s domestic role, but the responsibilities of child bearing and housekeeping were not compromised. Men, however, used to work away from homes. The roles were also altered when it came to courtship and marriage. The society evolved from parental decisions over their children’s spouses but the role of proposing for relationships and marriages remained predominantly for men. Religion, however, made its boundaries accessible to women participation in church activities. Females also started seeking education and were involved in the primary education of their children. Their education was, however, basic in order to prepare them to handling their families rather than for real jobs as it was in case with men (Wayne, 2007).

Gender Roles as Viewed Today


There was a shift in education in regard to gender. Women are currently pursuing education not just for bringing up their families but for developing careers. In his research, Sudha (2000) argued that education brings about changes in gender roles among women. According to his study, education greatly influences women’s attitude towards their rights, personal developments, social status and ability to criticize gender based oppressions. The research indicated that in all above mentioned aspects, more than eighty percent of the respondents agreed that education had positively influenced women in the above mentioned aspects (Sudha, 2000). Weiten et al. (2008) indicated that the gender roles had greatly changed over the years. Some of the roles that were unheard of among women are currently seen as normal practices for women. One of the roles that women have acquired is the participation in political activities in which they were previously prohibited to take part. Women have also assumed the roles of managing their own income. More interesting possibilities have been assumed by women such as high ranking career opportunities and political activities. One of the reasons for the change in gender roles, according to the authors, is the changing economic environments (Weiten et al., 2008).

Roles in Business

The role of women was also shifted into the business arena. In a study of small businesses conducted by Bird and Sapp (2004), it was revealed that ventures in small businesses run by women in the United States were increasing in the past decades. A comparison between nineteen seventies and the early years of the twenty first century indicated an improvement of female’s involvement in small business ventures. The statistics indicates that business activities that had only about twenty percent of women in the former years are now explored by close to forty percent of women. The emergence of females in business sphere is also identified with better employment and training opportunities offered to women in the present days. Another emerging factor about women enterprises that could in future give them an upper hand to even outnumber men in the business arena is their seemingly long term objectivity in business. The research by Bird and Sapp (2004) indicates that while men in business enterprises are more focused on the profit they make, women have their interest concentrated on building personal relations with their customers. In these trends, the female owned businesses will with time gain more stability than those owned by men. In addition, women are most likely to have a more stable mass of customers than men. This fact will give them the benefit in economy at large scale and a higher profitability as compared to men. The aspect of women partnerships in business is also increasing females’ venture and success in the field. The results were, however. slightly different in rural areas (Bird & Sapp, 2004).


An independent research by Russo, Kelly and Deacon (1991) on career success based on gender was similarly conclusive as the study by Bird and Sapp (2004). Women consider hard work and their capabilities in their positions to be their reasons for success. Women also have the opinion that men’s success is more driven by the professional contacts. Females also have a relationship between hard work and their capabilities and luck as well as personal attributes to luck. This ability is, however, not present in men. The wide connectivity of factors in the success of women gives them a better opportunity in climbing the career ladder than men. The advantage could be the reason for the career success of educated women who are seen to be a threat to men in the labor market (Russo, Kelly & Deacon, 1991).


According to the Norwegian equality ministry, the number of women in the political field has greatly increased in the country. With consideration to the national assembly, the number of women grew from about fifteen percent that was witnessed in the past thirty years to the current representation of about forty percent. It was also notable that the choice of political candidates with respect to gender was not based on the capacity of the candidates in terms of “competence, friendly attitude and good will” (Norwegian Ministry of Children and Equality, 2009, p. 1) but a sort of mentality that discriminates on women. The rise against this kind of discriminative treatment to beat men in elections and increase their number in parliament is an indication of their capacity to success. The report also indicates that in Norway, more women pursue higher education than men (Norwegian Ministry of Children and Equality, 2009).

Gender and Sex

Gender has developed to be identified as an independent institution in social structure. The institutional perception of gender elevates it to be more about individuals than about forces that shape people’s behavior in society. The structural understanding of gender reveals its capacity to shape individuals in terms of behavior and goals. According to Spade and Valentine (2010), gender must, therefore, be expressed in terms of observable aspects that are outside individuals and not controlled by what people feel or perceive.

The issue of sex is equally important in each and every society we live. The most commonly raised question or issue about new born babies is their sex. People are keen to know whether their yet unborn child is a boy or a girl. The early life of the child is also shaped along his/her identified sexes. Parents, for instance, adopt different parenting styles for their infants that include the colors of clothes that the young children are dressed in and playing items that are available for the child. The gender issue is then introduced to people as they grow. Children are molded to the identification of their sexes upon which they are taught the general norms of their society. Societies ensure that at a very tender age, there is a personal identification among children in regarding to their sexes. It is upon this knowledge of their sex that the children are developed to align themselves to the gender roles that are expected from them in the society. Gender roles that are also, to some extent, associated with sex are then introduced to the children. Girls are, for example, molded to have the motherly response that is expected of them in future. Qualities of a good wife that will help them to bring up their families are incorporated in values such as being “kind, nurturing, cooperative and sensitive to the needs of others” (Shaffer, 2008, p. 241). Boys are also molded to adopt “dominant, assertive, independent and competitive” (Shaffer, 2008, p. 241) traits of character that will enable them to develop into responsible men who will take good care of and protect their families.

According to Gross et al. (1982), sex roles are also critical in the development of children in a given society. Children are, therefore, exposed to environments, both at home and at school that urge them to adopt roles that are expected from them in their future lives. The background set up upon which children are brought up is also realized to be based on their sex. A review of literature resources from different geographical areas such as Arab world, Europe and America, for instance, reveals restrictive roles for women (Gross et al., 1982). Weinraub et al.(1984) explained the fact that at least five years ago, societies have molded children into sex stereotypes to a significant level as mature people are.


Societies have established set ups with defined structures into which an individual is molded. The subject of gender and sexuality is one of the areas in every society that is clearly defined. Though the concepts of gender and sex are occasionally confused, they are not actually the same with sex based on the biological and physical aspects of an individual, while gender is more of a society based aspect. Gender and sex definitions combine to give the binary classification of a man and a woman in society. A man represents male sex in combination with the masculine definition of roles and responsibilities in a given society, while a woman corresponds to female sex together with the feminine definition of roles and responsibilities in various societies. Societies of the previous generations had more of general gender roles that defined women to be mothers and house keepers, while men were recognized to be providers and heads of their families. Perceptions of oppressiveness of the social set up, however, led to revolutions that changed gender roles in societies. The fight is still ongoing as women are fighting for recognition in political and leadership roles in societies.


The review of gender and sex in terms of their definitions and recognition reveals an obvious difference between the two issues. Sex remains more a definition that is universally agreed upon regarding body features. Gender, on the other hand, gains its concept from developed sex and moulds each sex to a certain amount of responsibility in society. Sex, therefore, defines bodily features of an individual, while gender defines the roles of the individual in his or her society.


Though the topics of gender and sexuality have been exhausted, there still remains an incomplete study relating to the two due to the lack of statistical tools for analysis.


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Crowe, F., Hill, E., & Hollingum, B. (Eds.). (2009). Sex and Society. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish.

Gross et al. (1982). Sex role attitudes and cultural change. Dordrecht: Reidel Publishing Company.

Nobelius, A. M. (2004). What is the difference between sex and gender? In Medicine Curriculum at Monash. Web.

Norwegian Ministry of Children and Equality. (2009). Women in Politics. Web.

Russo, N., Kelly, R., & Deacon, M. (1991). Gender and success-related attributions. Sex Roles, 25(5-6), 331-350. doi: 10.1007/BF00289760.

Shaffer, D. (2008). Social and Personality Development (6th ed.). CA: Wadsworth Publishing.

Spade, J & Valentine, C. G. (2010). The kaleidoscope of gender: Prisms, patterns, and possibilities (3rd ed.). CA: Pine Forge Press.

Sudha, D. (2000). Gender roles. New Delhi, India: APH Publishing.

Wayne, T. (2007). Women’s roles in nineteenth-century America. New York, NY: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Weinraub, M. et al. (1984). The development of sex role stereotypes in the third year: Relationships to gender labeling, gender identity, sex-typed toy preference, and family characteristics. MI: Society for research in child development, Inc. Web.

Weiten, W. et al. (2008). Psychology applied to modern life: Adjustment in the 21st century (9th ed.).CA: Wadsworth Publishing.

Wharton, A. (2011). The Sociology of Gender: An Introduction to Theory and Research. Malden, MA: John Wiley and Sons.

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