There are various definitions for gender. They add up in two ways, one is a class or class system and the other is tied directly to the social and cultural performance that is required of a person due to their sex. Sex and gender are actually two different things that are commonly associated in specific ways.
Most of the time, a person whose sex is male is required by society and culture to act a certain way. The way he acts is indicative of his gender. It may be a subtle difference to most of us, but it is a significant one. What happens to people who reject or can’t adhere to those requirements? What happens when carrying out that performance requires us to hide our true selves? Where do these requirements even come from? Do they matter so much that we must hide who we are when we differ from those expectations?
The answer is usually yes. Gender means different things for different people and there is evidence of all kinds of things floating around about where the performance of each gender comes from. Women must be like this, men must be like that. We just think differently. Blah, blah, blah. Can we truly quantify it?
Some say yes, but I have my doubts. I can’t even find an essential element to what “woman” is when it comes to performance. Women do and are capable of plenty of things. The performace of being a woman can be done by males, as transgender women have proven. Males can be altered to have all the trappings of a woman with the current exceptions of DNA and having a uterus. But females can also be altered have all the trappings of a man and retain the uterus, or not. There are lots of reasons why not all females who are women have a uterus.
I consider the discussion of what a gender is important to feminism, though not all feminists do. If we’re going to argue over what a woman is and can do, shouldn’t we have a better of understanding of what makes one than having or lacking certain parts? Shouldn’t we at least ponder the question, even if there’s no clear solution at the moment? Feminism also has a place for the improvement of the lives of men, which means that everyone who falls between men and women in what is really a spectrum of gender should have a place too.
If you’re like me and want to question the expectations of gender, what gender even is and how many genders people can be, check out these books: Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference, Fragments of Gender: Second Edition, and The Other Genders: Androgyne, Genderqueer, Non-Binary Gender: Intergender, Mixed Gender, Agender, Neutrois, Bigender, Multigender, Fluid Gender, Third … Pangender, Pregender, Self-Defined Gender.
If you think gender is the only part of this that has ambiguities, try out: Between XX and XY: Intersexuality and the Myth of Two Sexes.
What is gender to you and have you read anything that helps you explain or quantify it?