Three Short Descriptions of Gender

Something light to get me back into the swing of serious blogging: I was tasked to write a half-page on the following question:

According to [Hilde] Lindemann and other feminist philosophers, “gender” is not just a case of biological characteristics. Briefly explain three other factors related to “gender”

Gender establishes an identity we can claim as our own to guide our interactions with others and with society. It establishes certain norms that we can try to live up to in order to fill our niche: certain descriptors such as “wears frilly clothes” or “has calloused hands” we can take to sketch out an identity.

Gender gives us a way of classifying others. If we accept that gender parallels sex exactly, and that sex is easily identifiable, we can assume a wide range of characteristics for someone as soon as we meet them. Whether they actually possess any of the qualities we ascribe them is secondary: gender gives us a framework for knowing things about people.

Gender provides socially defined and acceptable ways of interacting. If we accept gender as a useful thing it is possible to interact, even with strangers, in complex and socially useful1 ways by following the scripts and guidelines gender lays out for us.

So how would you characterize gender? How would you describe, in a couple of sentences, what it is and what it does?

This is cross-posted to Feminist Allies. If you wish to leave a comment, please do it there.

1 Thanks to Jake for the phrase “socially useful”.