The gender system is the scheme which recognizes the differences between individuals and places expectations on them based on sex or presumed sex. These expectations create disadvantages for all members of society in different ways. The idea of a gender system contrasts with similar social concepts such as patriarchy, which suggests only women are disadvantaged due to their sex.
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Society places several expectations on people based on their sex or presumed sex. Females are expected to give birth to children, be emotional, and dress in a feminine way, such as wearing skirts or dresses and using makeup. Males are expected to be ambitious, earn enough money to provide for a female partner and children, and be strong when faced with difficult circumstances. Heterosexuality is another expectation, with females expected to couple with males.
However, these expectations are not without consequences. People who do not conform to social expectations, such as homosexual people, bisexual people, transsexual and other gender non-conforming people, and cisgender people who simply don’t fit the accepted social norms are often made to feel inferior or isolated. Mental and even physical health can also be put at risk. Men can be put at risk when they accept dangerous jobs because they feel pressured to earn large salaries, as women can be put at risk when they couple up with men who are expected to behave in a more aggressive and dominant manner.
While the gender system differs from other social concepts such as patriarchy, because it recognizes the way all humans can be disadvantaged due to their sex or perceived sex, these concepts can work together. The gender system serves patriarchy by keeping men and women in their accepted social places.
The concept of the gender system has been praised by some people because it recognizes the struggles all humans face rather than victimizing just one group. However, the concept also has its critics. Skeptics say it’s difficult to prove whether a gender system exists because the concept presumes that sex or presumed sex plays a substantial part in the way people are judged and the way they interact with one another. It is difficult to determine how important sex or presumed sex is because so many other characteristics may impact interactions, such as race, age, status, and personality.