Collating gender with sex – 200 words project


It was a dry week last week at Rope and Tire. A life-changing event left me with no mental energy to write anything. This week, I am back to writing again.

With that, here is this week’s 200 words project:


“People tend to conflate sex with gender and assume that all men are masculine and all women are feminine.”
“Sex is biology.”
“Gender is the collection of characteristics that constitute the social identity of men and women”

Joan Williams and Rachel Dempsey in What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know

We think that all men need to be masculine, and all women need to be feminine. As if all the men in the world have to fit this narrow bucket, and all the women in the world fit in this other opposite / complementary bucket, as if there can be no intermingling of the masculine and feminine characteristics. Indeed, almost as if it is not ok for women to exhibit masculine characteristics and men to exhibit feminine characteristics…

This is seen in the “pink-ification” and “cutifying” of anything targeted at girls and women. It is seen in the almost mono-chromatic styles of clothes available for men. It is seen in the curses and derogatory language we use to chide and correct and tease each other.

But the minute you realize that gender and sex are different and one does not absolutely imply the other, the whole world is looked upon with new eyes. Each characteristic – be it paying attention to how you look, or self ornamentation or espousing of self-decoration, of preferring dark leather or bright soft floral fabrics – each one can then be evaluated separately – as a quality and not confused with the biological sex of the person exhibiting the behavior. This separation provides us with a huge host of qualities to pick and choose from, which we tend towards or move away from – without getting enmeshed in the gender debates.

After all, masculine is defined as having the qualities or appearance traditionally associated with men, and feminine as having the qualities or appearance traditionally associated with women. This begs the question – which tradition? European? Asian? African? Aborigine? And what age are we talking about? And does everybody, when talking about masculine and feminine know absolutely which tradition and age are they referring to?

After all, Genghis Khan had long flowing hair, wore high heels (wooden ones at that). Does anyone think he was a girl?

About the 200 Words Project

Once every week, on Monday morning, I will post my ‘200 Words Project’ post where I will ruminate on some idea which caught my interest in the current book I’m reading, or maybe (sometimes) from a blog post or podcast – in 200 words or more, never less!

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