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Title: Gender, Sex and Education
Contributor(s): Harrington, Ingrid  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2022-03-04
Early Online Version: 2022-02-02
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The terms 'sex' and 'gender' have in the past, been interchangeably used in the social sciences, despite their definitions being quite different. A better understanding is often formed if the terms are viewed in a more holistic manner. This chapter will identify and explore traditional definitions of 'sex' and 'gender' and highlight the legislative changes that have occurred to accommodate the diversity of gender and gender identity in the 21st century.

In order to gain a clear understanding of the meaning of sex and gender, the terms need to be viewed in relation to other key concepts of culture and communication. Culture refers to the overt and covert structures and networks in society that perpetuate the social norms and attitudes of male and female behaviours. One needs to understand the cultural networks that act as a framework for individual behaviours in order to understand how gender identity is formed and performed. Communication is a process and symbolic activity that individuals use to clarify and understand meaning allocated to behaviours, attitudes and cultures. It is important to note that communication is contextually based and inextricably linked to the cultures of the society. The concept of communication is central to how children come to understand the ways of being male or female in their society. This is especially true for the interpersonal and cultural theories of gender, as children come to understand their gender identity based on the relationships they have with individuals in their immediate environment, e.g. family and society. In other theories such as biological theory, children gain a clearer understanding of their gender identity based on their participation in and exclusion from activities, e.g., certain sports, which is determined by their biological and genetic differences.

This chapter will define the terms 'sex' and 'gender', and discuss the differences between the two concepts. The chapter explores a number of theories of gender formation including biological, interpersonal and cultural. Such theories underpin people's understanding of sex and gender, and motivate their actions, attitudes and perceptions of others. An overview of contemporary understanding of what it means to be masculine and feminine is also included, as well as the trend in global understanding and acceptance of what it means to be gender and sexually diverse in the 21st century. The chapter highlights the importance and ramifications of how certain theories of gender manifest in institutions such as schools, and what this may mean for students.

Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Interrogating Common Sense, p. 62-94
Publisher: Pearson Australia
Place of Publication: Melbourne, Australia
ISBN: 9780655705277
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 390406 Gender, sexuality and education
390202 History and philosophy of education
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: 160202 Gender aspects in education
160203 Inclusive education
HERDC Category Description: B3 Chapter in a Revision/New Edition of a Book
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Editor: Editor(s): Vegneskumar Maniam and Izabel Soliman
Appears in Collections:Book Chapter
School of Education

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