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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We could do very well to reduce the amount of significance we place on gender in society, though I don't think it's all bad or unuseful.

I'm sure there is a term for it such as 'typicalism' or 'normalism', but I think there is a drive for humans to have some sort of identity which ties us in with others. There is some desire to form subgroups within the broader population and those groups aren't strictly arbitrary. The division between male and female likely isn't strictly arbitrary, though perhaps some stereotypes for both groups respectively are rather contrived.

I don't think that's wrong in itself. I don't think it is wrong to give people things with which to identify, and gender does provide some shared experiences which make it a logical identity group.

What I do think is wrong is being too rigid or forceful with groupings. The inability to accept that some, or even many people don't fit comfortably within the established norms is problematic. We need to allow space for people to not feel wrong or ostracized for not being normal. It is, to my mind, as simple as recognizing two very simple things:

  1. There are certain trends which fall along gender lines.
  2. Not everyone does or needs to fall in line with those trends, and that's just fine.

What is interesting to me is that this issue comes up with trans and genderqueer issues quite a bit with an assumption that these individuals are the least serviced by gender norms. I don't think it is that simple. You will find cis and trans folk alike who are atypical for their gender, yet you will also find cis and trans folk alike who are highly typical. Setting aside that one trans woman I met was born male, in all other aspects was more the female stereotype than many women I have known. In her case, the existence of gender structures probably facilitated her exploration and eventual transition. I think that's great, provided we don't turn around and use stereotypical gender qualities to discourage those who do not identify with perceived norms.

So in short, no need to get rid of social gender constructs altogether, but neither is there a need to be so uptight about them or push people -- especially children -- into prescribed roles.

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.

Yes. Even a single individual can be feminine, masculine and androgynous with different aspects of their being.

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?"


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.

You're just trading other people's semantics for your own.

The OP stated "outside of the life sciences, why do we use gender," indicating we aren't talking about gender as it relates to biology, but rather we are talking about gender as a social/ cultural construct.

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

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

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

Not to mention the always tricky neutrino gender state. Fortunately, where grammatical gender is concerned, the Germans have those folks covered.


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