This question came to me when I was designing the culture of a fictional country.  I was wondering outside of the life sciences, why do we use gender, and should we keep it in our daily lives.  In my own view the division of people by physical gender is pointless and serves only to create conflict.

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Well said Kris. I'd like to add, there is difference between masculine and male, and between feminine and female. I think a society that recognises that not all males are necesserily masculine and can be feminine, and vice versa for females, would be quite good.

Some people can't get over gender, the idea that one is allowed to do some things and not other things beyond the real differences, on how they behave, what they do, how they dress, what kind of car they drive, social & business interactions. Some people seem to go to extremes on this, people tend to go with what is expected of them, not what they really want to do and gender certainly has an influence on that.

"What is the purpose of gender?"

Reproduction.

Bacteria have no sex, yet still reproduce... I think you will find the purpose of the sexes is to increase genetic variability in reproduction.

Gender is another topic entirely...

Human Reproduction.

I didn't think it was necessary to specify.

Human sexual reproduction requires a male and a female.   One of each gender, ergo the purpose of gender in the human species is reproduction.

Some like to differentiate between "gender" and "sex." Sex is the biological label (i.e., what's between your legs), but gender is more of an identity (why some who are biologically male can identify as female, vice versa, and other variants thereupon.) I think what Christopher is talking about is gender or gender roles, not necessarily biological sex. I am of the belief that gender is a spectrum, much like sexuality, and your biological sex has very little (or nothing) to do with your entire identity.

The question was "the purpose of gender" not "the purpose of gender roles".

A person's gender is determined by one's biological role in reproduction (ie. a male cannot give birth) regardless of their personal desire to identify sexually.

Gender roles are a social/cultural matter and are not the "purpose" of gender, gender roles reflect a society's structure.  The purpose of gender is reproduction, without this purpose of the word itself has no meaning.

'Gender', in English, refers to both biological and social definitions.

We really need to change that... too many people exist in quantum gender states.

@kris:

Clearly my point is that one cannot separate "gender" from the life sciences since core to the concept is sexually reproduction.

And I am agreeing with that point, when some people talk about gender they actually mean to talk about gender roles within a particular cultural setting, people should quit using the word gender alone when they are wanting to talk about gender roles. 

The words sex and gender are indeed employed differently in the sciences and sociology, and in all of my classes. There's even a separate major called "Gender Studies".

A good book to read on this is "the human zoo" by Desmond Morris

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