Wednesday, 08 June 2011 13:19

Exploring Gender: The Definition of Gender in the Media

Written by  Cael


When I begin thinking about what I want to write about for the week, I generally start by searching gender in the news databases to see if there are any recent articles about hate crimes, new laws and protections, or just the publishing of someone else’s story. A clear definition of gender, though, has not been reached by the news media. There are often two types of stories: those discussing gender as it is defined in the bounds of these articles, and then those discussing gender in regards to the social differences between men and women. How different are these definitions of gender?

When I discuss gender in these articles, it is always in regard not to the biological sex of an individual, but to the individual’s own perception and presentation of self. Gender is not the biological, but the inherent, however it is formed, be that through brain chemistry or social constructs. Gender is influenced by society and by the definitions of sex differences which are reinforced from birth. It is so hard to give a definition to gender in this sense because it means something different to every individual, as each person has their own personal gender presentation, whether it is something they are consciously aware of or not. People are driven by social pressures to wear the clothes they wear or by a need to feel comfortable. Either way, the clothes come to represent gender. In this way, there are two dynamics to gender construction: social pressure and individual comfort. So society does influence gender in a large way.

Sex discrimination includes the spectrum of looking at females as weak to paying women less to holding women up to impossible standards of beauty versus men. These differences are based on men versus women; basically, on sex. But can this kind of discrimination only be called sex discrimination, or are the journalists right to call it gender discrimination?

This spectrum I put forth, all of these factors of discrimination are influenced by society, by the perceptions of the general population, so following the logic of gender being defined as presentation of sex through the eyes of society, gender would fit here. Also, there is the fact that those who present as a different gender from their sex begin to experience these stereotypes or forms of discrimination related to that gender and not their biological sex.

I wasn’t quite planning on getting that technical, but the contrast has just struck me recently in the articles I find when searching the news. I was actually expecting to argue myself to the other side, to say any form of discrimination along this vein would be sex discrimination, not gender discrimination, because I perceive the definitions as different between the two forms of gender presented. But really, they are not all that different. What do you think of these questions? Have I left out any part of the argument? Let me know what you think.

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