Before we start our conversation, we need to define some terms.
Sex is a biological reality. It is how animals reproduce. Our sex is determined at the time of conception. In all mammalian species, including ours (homo sapiens sapiens) members come in one of two sexes: female or male. Normal, healthy mammals have the capability to reproduce sexually. That is, we have the capacity to either bear live young from our bodies (females) or else we have the capacity to fertilize ovum (males.) This isn’t something we choose. Our sex is determined for us at conception as a result of two billion years of evolutionary biology on planet Earth.
Gender is sometimes used as a euphemism or as a synonym for a human being’s sex. I am not going to use it that way in this blog. In this blog, gender is the term I will use to refer to the social constructs which gendered societies overlay on reproductive sex, for example: masculine for biological males or feminine for biological females.
Sex is real. It is grounded in biological reality. It’s how we make babies. Sex is menstruation. Sex is ovulation of ovum. Sex is ejaculation of sperm. Sex is bone structure, hormones, organs, height, musculature, puberty, menopause, etc.
Gender is a social invention, something societies make up as we go along. Gender is pink for girls and blue for boys. Gender is high heels for wealthy males in the Versailles court of Louis XIV vs. high heels for female models on the runways of Paris in 2014. Gender is mascara for trans-women and motorcycle jackets for trans-men. Gender is “girls like dolls and boys like trucks”. Gender is “boys are good at math” in the United States and “girls are good at math” in Japan.
Sex propagates the species. Gender – for thousands of years – has been used as a tool for creating and maintaining a social hierarchy with men in a dominant role (“the head of the family”, “the man in charge”, “the king”, “the president”, “the chairman of the board”) and women in a subservient role (“the little woman”, “the helpmeet”, “the woman behind the throne”, “the housewife”.) Gender puts women into harems and gives men the key. Gender makes women and children chattel and men the chattel owners.
Patriarchal societies use gender to enforce a hierarchy with men in the role of patriarchs and women in the role of subservients.
For simplicity, I will refer to these societies collectively and the males who dominate women in them as the patriarchy.