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The Sex/Gender Debate

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Although there are ongoing debates and critiques around gender stereotypes, the world to date seems to be pretty comfortable with the idea of there being just two discrete biological sexes. But emerging evidence suggests this simple binary is nothing more than the result of a human need to organise our world into uncomplicated categories.A core issue in this debate too often overlooked is the distinction between the definition of sex as opposed to the definition of gender.Perhaps we want to limit the term ‘sex’ to fundamental biology – genes, genitals and gonads – and the term ‘gender’ to social processes. But it’s not so easy to separate the scientific and social context of these discussions.Biological essentialism holds that social gender is driven by biological characteristics, to the extent that we need only use the term ‘sex’. On the other hand, discussions of gendered environments emphasise their powerful brain-changing effects, to the extent that gender has replaced sex as the c...

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