Gender is about …
… how people become women and men
People are not born as women or men; they become them. To understand how this works, the concept of gender is the most important tool we have. The concept grew out of a critique of women’s and men’s living conditions otherwise are declared by simplifying references to bodily differences. Instead of drawing attention to the biological sex, gender has come to be used to describe the social, cultural and historically variation in what it means to be male or female.
Through the gender concept it is emphasized that women and men are not men and women of themselves, but will be in relation to the society they live in and to the culture they are a part of. It is a concept that highlights the social conditions that shape women’s and men’s opportunities and influence their behavior patterns. It stresses the importance of the myths, metaphors and stories that create expectations of women and men, and circumscribing their choice of values.
Gender is a concept that have been able to make visible that the differences between men and women on a more basic level are often differences in power; men as a group live their lives benefited by being male, while women as a group live their lives by overcoming the resistance they encounter because they are female.
When instead you are talking about gender at the individual level it may happen that a certain woman has more power than a man, or that a certain person is favored over another man, this has to do with that other identity categories than gender affects the power relations between people. On a structural level, there is an obvious difference between the sexes because men generally have more power than women. In a large part of gender research there is therefore a critical examination of power. Often studied, made visible and criticized are the power structures in society. This critical attitude permeates gender research environments, and creates numerous debates within and outside the field.
… More than gender
As the research has come to highlight the increasing complexity underlying how people become women and men the gender concept has changed, evolved and become more complex. Gender research shows that people’s gender is not entirely indistinguishable from their sexuality, ethnicity or class. The research has also highlighted the differences between women themselves and among men themselves. Here emerges a more complex system in which different power relations are crossed, not only so that they reinforce each other, but also in such a way that they challenge, disrupt and alter each other. This perspective and analysis of how other identity categories interact with gender is termed in gender research as intersectionality.