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BEDI Resources

Definitions & Key Terms

Feminism: The concept of feminism is not universal and has many forms (e.g., liberal, radical, womanism) and definitions. However, there are three characteristics that are shared by most, if not all, forms of feminism. First is the recognition that women are treated differently than men, and are in the subordinate role in society. Second, feminists view gender and gender roles as socially constructed (and thus capable of change) and as differentially valued within society. Third, feminism holds that women can be autonomous and self-reliant. The main goal of feminism is gender equality. Encyclopedia of Group Processes and Intergroup Relations

Gender: Gender is a “social category” (like race, social class, and sexual orientation) with characteristics that are constructed, represented, and interpreted within the context of various cultures and societies. Just as discourses of race, class, and sexual orientation have certain social meanings, historical contexts, and consequences, so do discourses about gender. Mass culture, for example, generates images and interpretations of masculinity and femininity that are reinterpreted by people in everyday conversations and social institutions, such as schools, workplaces, and communities, which have a gendered character to their formal and informal operations. Encyclopedia of Diversity and Social Justice

Gender Identity: Gender identity refers to an individual's belief regarding what gender they are. In a culture in which gender is considered dichotomous, individuals are believed to be either masculine or feminine. Many cultures seem to allow for a greater range of possible gender identities. The International Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality

Gender Roles: Gender role refers to the public behaviors considered appropriate for a given gender. Appropriate gender roles vary greatly across cultures, societies, and historical periods. The International Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality

Misogyny: Misogyny literally means the hatred of women. Feminists have shown that misogyny exists at numerous social levels as well as at individual levels. Individually we can point to men or women, though obviously we are more likely to point to men, as misogynists. Social institutions can be misogynistic through the laws, policies and practices they put forth. Feminist Philosophies A-Z

Patriarchy: Originally meaning the passage of one's lineage through the paternal line, patriarchy has come to mean the entire male-dominated sociopolitical and economic system of institutions, laws, and customs that privilege heterosexual males and oppress women, gay men, and lesbians. Patriarchal societies are inherently sexist, since patriarchy involves rule by men. They are also hierarchical and based on tradition, and they exclude members of the underclasses from full citizenshipHistorical Dictionary of the Lesbian and Gay Liberation Movements

Sex: The concept of sex is commonly taken to refer to natural or essential properties of an individual as male or female that derive from biological characteristics of the body such as hormones, genitals and the reproductive system. As such the concept of sex is often contrasted with the more culturally oriented idea of gender which alludes to the cultural assumptions that govern the practices of men and women.  The Sage Dictionary of Cultural Studies

Sexism: Sexism is a system of oppression that privileges men and discriminates against women. Sexism requires prejudice plus power. Like racism, sexism is not about isolated incidents but about patterns. The institutions of government, law, religion, education, and the media—as well as language and social mores—long perpetuated sexism, keeping females inferior and subordinate. Even though a female can discriminate against a male and do him harm to the point of taking his life simply because he is a male, such discrimination is different from systemic oppression. The societal problem is sexism, not males, and the movement to end sexism, sex exploitation, and oppression is feminism. Encyclopedia of Social Problems

Sex, Gender & Gender Identity

Sexism & Gender Discrimination