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As gender ([ dʒɛndɐ ]; loan word from English ) or social gender Gender aspects are summarized that a person in society and culture describe as opposed to its purely biological sex (english sex ). In the social sciences , gender studies have been investigating the relationship between the sexes, their different gender roles and the socio-cultural gender order since the end of the 20th century .


The English term gender role ( gender role ) was first time in 1955 by the British sexologist John Money in an essay on hermaphroditism used. The feminist Gayle Rubin established gender as a term in the 1970s, Judith Butler developed it further in the queer theory . The term gender was later adopted into German in order to introduce a linguistically expanded distinction between legal , social and biological gender , as was previously the case in the Anglo-American cultural area . In this context, the Anglicism gender is usually translated as “social gender” in the German-speaking world and is primarily used for analytical categorization . Appropriate approaches have recently been summarized in the research field of gender studies (“gender studies, gender research”).

Concept history and definitions

Breaking out of the gender role : the brigandess Michelina De Cesare in southern Italy (19th century)

Gender is an Anglicism, borrowed from the Latin language, in which genere natus means birth gender , which in turn is the grammatical ablative of genus , which means genus . "Gender" was originally used in the German or the origin belonging to a particular group, such as in the context of the caste system . The change in the meaning of the word to that of the Latin "Sexus" for the biological gender came later. The German word “gender” is etymologically based on genere natus .

In English, the terms gender and sex were historically used synonymously. The Oxford Etymological Dictionary of the English Language from 1882 gives the meaning alternatively with kind, breed, sex and refers to genere natus . Thereafter, the term was temporarily forgotten and was used almost exclusively for the grammatical gender ( gender ) until the 1950s , which is only rudimentary in English. With the beginning of the Sexual Revolution in the USA since the Kinsey Report , a need arose to linguistically separate the social gender issues from the word sex (sex gap vs. gender gap) , and gender was rediscovered. Now called gender in addition to the social sciences, the social gender role (English gender role ) or social sexual characteristics. So it relates to everything that is considered typical of a certain gender in a culture (for example clothing and occupation); it does not refer directly to physical sexual characteristics (sex) .

Attempt of scientific justification

The term was initially used in this meaning for people who, as intersex or transgender people, could not easily be classified as male or female. In this context, the American psychologist John Money (1921–2006) introduced the terms gender role and gender identity in 1955 in order to be able to discuss the discrepancy between the expected and actual behavior of such people. Previously, the terms sex role or sex identity were used, but these people in particular did not clearly have a physical-biological gender ( sex ). John Money used the following definition in 1955:

"The term gender role is used to describe all those things that a person says or does in order to identify themselves as someone who has the status of a man or a boy, a woman or a girl."

Doing gender was established in its present-day, social-constructivist connotation by Harold Garfinkel , who applied it to the case of nineteen-year-old Agnes , a patient of Robert Stoller at the University of California. Agnes' story was retraced by Garfinkel in the late 1950s through interviews with her and the doctors responsible and formed an important part of his Studies in Ethnomethodology , published in 1967 . While the sociological use of the term gender initially focused on deviations from gender norms, in the 1970s girls and women who corresponded to gender norms also moved into the focus of research. In this context, the gender concept was primarily discovered and further developed as a concept by feminist research. The distinction between sex as a natural, unalterable gender on the one hand and gender as a socially negotiated, changeable concept on the other formed the basis for criticism of the relationships between men and women. For example, the psychological and physical attributions on which the exclusion of women from certain occupations was based were questioned by showing the differences between individual countries in terms of gender and occupational profiles.

The conceptual separation between biological gender (sex) and social gender (gender) has appeared - and still appears - to be central in the sociological-feminist discourse since the 1980s. Judith Butler rejects the separation between sex and gender, however, because this is purely artificial and goes back to the Cartesian dualism, namely the philosophical view founded by Descartes that body and mind exist independently of one another, side by side. The separation between sex and gender implies that the human being exists, just as Descartes opens up the dichotomy between body and mind, firstly from his biological gender, i.e. his sex, his biological, unquestionable, naturally given body, and secondly from his social gender, that is, its gender, its gender, which is almost freely selectable, independent of the body. According to Butler, not only gender appears as a construction, but also biological gender as a questionable truth or as a cultural interpretation of the physical. What one can live as a gender ultimately depends on what physical possibilities one has. And these physical possibilities, in turn, would already be interpreted culturally.

It is also controversial whether the definition of gender as a cultural state of mind has practical consequences or just a renaming, since this determination of individuals cannot be manipulated at will and cannot be overcome through self-reflection alone, but is only accessible to long-term changes.

Joan Wallach Scott defines gender as a constitutive element of social relationships that is based on perceived differences between the sexes and in which power relationships are given an essential meaning. According to Scott, it comprises four elements:

  • Symbolic representations (such as "Eva" and "Maria", myths of purity and pollution)
  • Normative concepts that limit the interpretation of symbols and the choice of alternatives (such as the Victorian conception of "domesticity")
  • References to social institutions (marriage, family, education, labor market, politics, etc.)
  • Subjective identity formation - in this area the reproduction of the social sex takes place.

David Reimer

John Money tried to prove his theory that the gender of a person did not develop until he was about three years old and that it could be changed at will beforehand, in 1966 in the then 22-month-old Bruce Reimer , who lost his penis after an unsuccessful genital cutting by doctors. Money recommended that parents undergo sex reassignment surgery and then raise the child as a girl, Brenda, along with estrogen treatment. Despite this upbringing, Brenda acted and felt like a boy and was teased at school for her masculine gait, preferences and behavior. When Brenda learned of her story at age 14, she took the name David and had the alignment reversed. He married and adopted his wife's three children. David Reimer committed suicide in 2004 at the age of 38. The experiment is considered to have failed, even if John Money interpreted it as a resounding success in the sense of his theory of gender-neutral birth with a subsequent educational orientation towards men / women. The sex researcher Gunther Schmidt points to a comparable case where a boy was brought up as a girl after a penis loss and now works as a bisexual woman in a profession that is more considered male.

Gender and biological sex in gender studies

According to the gender researcher Paula-Irene Villa , in the course of scientific and scientific insights, the strict opposition of biological sex ( sex: nature) and social sex ( gender: culture) has proven to be untenable. In gender studies, the recognition of the mutual bracketing and constitutional forms of biological, experience-related, historical and other dimensions of gender is considered plausible, whereby different versions of the “sex / gender” distinction are used in the gender studies.

At the end of the 1970s, the first beginnings of a feminist anthropology emerged , because many women hope that anthropology (“human studies”) will provide answers about the origin of their lower social status . In 1990, the basic font appears Gender Trouble (German: Gender Trouble ) of the feminist philosopher Judith Butler , in which they discussed the problems of appreciation and the reproduction of bipartite gender relations arise. Subsequently, a feminist ethnology (ethnic research) also develops , which “compares cultures and examines the significance of the category gender in everyday life, in research and in theories”.

Examples of cultures with more than two sexes

  • The inhabitants of the city of Amarete in Bolivia know ten gender categories, in which, in addition to biological gender, the gender of the farmland and the position held play a role. The ten genders are subject to a strict social hierarchy.
  • The Bugis ethnic group on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi traditionally has five designated social genders, where, in addition to the biological (two) genders, there are three social gender identities (calalai, calabai, bisu) . Bisu, who combine the aspects of men and women, are highly valued , mostly in their function as shamans .
  • Muxes and marimachas aresocially recognizedas cross-gender among the inhabitants of the southern Mexican city of Juchitán de Zaragoza .
  • The Femminiellos in Naples take as gay a position between masculine and feminine men with explicitly female gender expression.

See also


  • Mechthild Bereswill : gender. In: Nina Baur, Hermann Korte, Martina Löw, Markus Schroer (eds.): Handbuch Soziologie. Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2008, ISBN 978-3-531-15317-9 , pp. 97-116.
  • Judith Butler : The Discomfort of the Sexes. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt / M. 1991, ISBN 3-518-11722-X (original 1990: Gender Trouble ).
  • Anne Conrad, Johanna E. Blume, Jennifer J * Moos (eds.): Women - Men - Queer: Approaches and perspectives from historical gender research. Röhrig University Press, St. Ingbert 2015, ISBN 978-3-86110-574-9 .
  • Ulrich Enderwitz: The Sexualization of the Sexes: An Exercise in Negative Anthropology. Ça Ira, Freiburg / Br. 1999, ISBN 3-924627-60-6 .
  • Astrid M. Fellner, Anne Conrad, Jennifer J * Moos (Ed.): Gender everywhere !? Contributions to interdisciplinary gender research. Röhrig Universitätsverlag, St. Ingbert 2014, ISBN 978-3-86110-559-6 .
  • Anne Fleig (Ed.): The Future of Gender: Concept and Diagnosis of Time. Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2014, ISBN 978-3-593-50084-3 .
  • Genus - Münster Working Group for Gender Studies (Ed.): Culture, Gender, Body. Agenda, Münster 1999, ISBN 3-89688-061-6 .
  • Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz : Woman - Man - Human: Between Feminism and Gender. Butzon & Bercker, Kevelaer 2009, ISBN 978-3-7666-1313-4 .
  • Marlis Hellinger, Hadumod Bußmann (Eds.): Gender Across Languages: The Linguistic Representation of Women and Men. Volume 3. John Benjamin, Amsterdam 2003, ISBN 1-58811-210-1 .
  • Sabine Koloch: Science, gender, gender, terminology work. Epodium, Munich 2017, ISBN 978-3-940388-65-0 ( download page ).
  • Claudia Koppert, Beate Selders (ed.): Hand on the deconstructed heart: Attempts at understanding in times of the political-theoretical self-abolition of women. Ulrike Helmer, Königstein / Ts. 2003.
  • Judith Lorber: Gender Paradoxes. 2nd Edition. Leske & Budrich, Opladen 2003, ISBN 3-8100-3743-5 (first edition: 1999; translated from English by Hella Beister).
  • John Money, Anke A. Eberhardt: Man and Woman, Boy and Girl: Gender Identity from Conception to Maturity. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 1972, ISBN 0-8018-1405-7 (English).
  • Matthias Morgenstern : Judaism and Gender. Lit, Berlin a. a. 2014, ISBN 978-3-643-12699-3 .
  • Ursula Pasero, Christine Weinbach (Eds.): Women, Men, Gender Trouble. Systems theory essays. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt / M. 2003, ISBN 3-518-29237-4 .
  • Paula-Irene Villa : Sexy Bodies: A Sociological Journey through the Sex Body. Leske & Budrich, Opladen 1999, ISBN 3-8100-2452-X .

Web links

Commons : Gender  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b c John Money, Joan G. Hampson, John Hampson: An Examination of Some Basic Sexual Concepts: The Evidence of Human Hermaphroditism. In: Bulletin of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Volume 97, No. 4, October 1, 1955, pp. 301-319 (English; PMID 13260820 ).
  2. Hannelore Bublitz : Judith Butler for an introduction. 3rd, completely revised edition. Junius, Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-88506-678-1 , pp. 58–59 (first published in 2002; excerpt in the Google book search).
  3. ^ Paula-Irene Villa : Judith Butler: An Introduction. 2nd updated edition. Campus, Frankfurt / M. 2012, ISBN 978-3-593-39432-9 , p. 99 ( page preview in the Google book search).
  4. ^ Walter William Skeat: An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language . Clarendon Press, Oxford 1882, pp. 230 ( ).
  5. origin Dictionary of Where does sex. Retrieved December 22, 2015 .
  6. ^ Walter William Skeat: An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language . Clarendon Press, Oxford 1882, pp. 230 ( ).
  7. ^ John Money: Man & woman, boy & girl . In: ISI (Ed.): This Week's Citation Classic . No. 11 . University Press, Baltimore March 16, 1987, pp. 12 ( [PDF]).
  8. ^ Regine Gildemeister: Doing Gender: Social Practices of the Differentiation of the Sexes. In: Ruth Becker, Beate Kortendiek (Hrsg.): Handbook women and gender research: theory, methods, empiricism. Wiesbaden 2010, p. 139.
  9. Susanne Schröter : FeMale. About boundaries between the sexes. Fischer paperback, Frankfurt / M. 2002, ISBN 3-596-15716-1 , p. 39.
  10. ^ Judith Butler : Variations on the subject of sex and gender. Beauvoir, Wittig and Foucault. In: Nunner-Winkler: Female morality. The gender ethics controversy. Campus, Frankfurt / Main 1991, ISBN 3-593-34338-X .
  11. ^ Joan W. Scott: Gender. A useful category of historical analysis. In: Nancy Kaiser (Ed.): Self-conscious. Women in usa. Leipzig 1992, pp. 27-75; here: pp. 52–55.
  12. John Colapinto: Gender Gap: What were the real reasons behind David Reimer's suicide? Ed .: Slate. June 3, 2004 ( ).
  13. ^ Gunter Schmidt: Sexuality: Tragedy as a villain piece. In: Der Spiegel . October 2, 2000, accessed March 14, 2020.
  14. ^ Paula-Irene Villa : Sex - Gender: co-constitution instead of opposition. In: Beate Kortendiek, Birgitt Riegraf , Katja Sabisch (eds.): Handbook for interdisciplinary gender research. Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2019, ISBN 978-3-658-22311-3 , pp. 23–32, here p. 31 ( doi: 10.1007 / 978-3-658-12496-0_4 ).
  15. Kathleen Sterling: Man the Hunter, Woman the Gatherer? The Impact of Gender Studies on Hunter-gatherer Research (a Retrospective). In: Vicki Cummings, Peter Jordan, Marek Zvelebil (Eds.): The Oxford Handbook of the Archeology and Anthropology of Hunter-gatherers. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2014, ISBN 978-0-19-955122-4 , pp. 151–173, here p. 156 (English; page previews in the Google book search); Quote: “The late 1970s marks the beginning of feminist anthropology. [...] many women looked to anthropology seeking the origins of women's lower status (Reiter 1975a). "
  16. Paula-Irene Villa and Tatjana Schönwälder in conversation with René Aguigah : 30 years of “Gender Trouble” by Judith Butler: an explosive classic in gender research. In: Deutschlandfunk Kultur . March 1, 2020, accessed on March 14, 2020 (with audio: 38:43 minutes).
    Ines Kappert : 30 years of Judith Butler's “Gender Trouble”: Questioning certainties. In: . March 14, 2020, accessed March 14, 2020.
  17. ^ Margrit E. Kaufmann: Thematizing Gender: Feminist Approaches in Ethnology. In: Journal Ethnology . 2004, accessed on March 14, 2020 (Bremer Institut für Kulturforschung bik, University of Bremen).
  18. Ina Rösing : A culture is skiddling: Dangerous side effects of a "World Heritage Site" nomination by UNESCO. In: Uniulm intern. No. 277, December 2005, pp. 22-25 ( PDF: 1.3 MB at ).
  19. ^ Sharyn Graham Davies: Challenging Gender Norms: Five Genders among Bugis in Indonesia. Thompson Wadsworth, Boston 2007, ISBN 978-0-495-09280-3 (English).
  20. Stefanie Graul (ethnologist) in conversation: Transsexuality in Mexico: Muxe - a third social gender. In: Deutschlandfunk Nova . November 21, 2019 (with audio: 6:12 minutes; the original task of the muxe is to help the mothers).
  21. Jeff Matthews: The "Femminiello" in Neapolitan Culture. ( Memento from May 15, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) In: November 2009, accessed April 13, 2020.