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Definitions of Gender and Sex: The Subtleties of Meaning

Abstract

Definitions of the word “gender” were collected from 137 participants, who also completed questionnaires designed to determine aspects of the usage of the words “gender” and “sex.” The majority of participants were European American (86.9%), followed by Latino/a (3.6%), Asian/Asian American (2.9%), African American (2.2%), Native American (1.5%), and West Indian (1.5%). Most participants (70.9%) had attended at least some college and occupations included students (43%), professionals (27.8%), health care workers (4.3%), technical workers (5%), sales and service workers (9.4%), maintenance workers (1.4%), and business owners (1.4%). Data were examined to see which common themes emerged from the free form “define gender” question, the amount of interchangeability of “sex” and “gender” in a sentence completion task, and the varieties of beliefs about the relation between the terms “gender” and “sex.” Results indicate a variety of understandings and beliefs about gender that range from the common response that “gender” is the same as ”sex” to some less common responses that associate gender with females or discrimination. Implications of the ambiguous meaning of “gender” are discussed with an emphasis on the responsibility of researchers to clarify their own understanding of the terms when they discuss gender or sex in their research and publications.

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Pryzgoda, J., Chrisler, J.C. Definitions of Gender and Sex: The Subtleties of Meaning. Sex Roles 43, 553–569 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007123617636

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Keywords

  • Health Care
  • Social Psychology
  • Health Care Worker
  • Common Theme
  • Free Form