A Basic Distinction - Sex and Gender

Sex refers to the biological characteristics between men and women, which are universal and do not change. These sets of biological characteristics are not mutually exclusive as there are individuals who possess both, but these characteristics tend to differentiate humans as males and females. As race, class, age, ethnic group, etc the notion of gender needs to be understood clearly as a cross-cutting socio-cultural variable. Gender refers to social attributes that are learned or acquired during socialisation as a member of a given community. Gender is therefore an acquired identity.

Care Work

Care work encompasses care provided to dependent children, the elderly, the sick and the disabled in care institutions or in the home of the person requiring care. Care policies and the provision of care services are intrinsically related to the achievement of equality between women and men. The lack of affordable, accessible and high quality care services and the fact that care work is not equally shared between women and men have a direct negative impact on women’s ability to participate in all aspects of social, economic, cultural and political life.

Care (Informal)

Unpaid care for dependent children, the elderly, ill or disabled persons carried out by family members or others. The responsibility of informal care work is taken up by women with major impact on their health and wellbeing. Informal care is largely invisible and the economic and social contributions of women carers unacknowledged. Over 75% of informal carers worldwide are women.

Customary Law

In many countries, a system of civil law runs parallel to indigenous and religious systems of customary law. Customary law often applies in matters concerned with family law, and thus as a great deal of impact on women’s everyday lives, as it deals with issues such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child custody.

Discrimination (Gender)

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), approved by the United Nations in 1979, states that “Discrimination against women shall mean distinction, exclusion, or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field’’.

Domestic Work

Work done primarily to maintain households. Domestic includes the provision of food and other necessities, cleaning, caring for children and the sick and elderly, etc. Domestic work is mostly performed by women and is therefore poorly valued in social and economic terms.


Refers to a revised term for 'Equal Opportunities'. It is based on the legal obligation to comply with anti-discrimination legislation. Equality protects people from minority groups from being discriminated against on the grounds of group membership, i.e. sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief or age.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Female genital mutilation comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

Female Infanticide

Killing of a girl child within weeks of her birth.


The killings of women and girls because of their gender. The causes and risk factors of this type of violence are linked to gender inequality, discrimination, and economic disempowerment and are the result of a systematic disregard for women’s human rights.


Feminism is, according to Merriam-Webster, “the theory of the social, political and economic equality of the sexes”


Gender refers to the roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society at a given time considers appropriate for men and women. In addition to the social attributes and opportunities associated with being male and female and the relationships between women and men and girls and boys, gender also refers to the relations between women and those between men. These attributes, opportunities and relationships are socially constructed and are learned through socialisation processes. They are context/ time-specific and changeable. Gender determines what is expected, allowed and valued in a woman or a man in a given context. In most societies there are differences and inequalities between women and men in responsibilities assigned, activities undertaken, access to and control over resources, as well as decision-making opportunities. Gender is part of the broader socio-cultural context, as are other important criteria for socio-cultural analysis including class, race, poverty level, ethnic group, sexual orientation, age, etc.

Gender discrimination

Gender discrimination is defined as: “Any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on the basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”

Gender-sensitive language

Gender-sensitive language is the realisation of gender equality in written and spoken language. Gender equality in language is attained when women and men and those who do not conform to the binary gender system are made visible and addressed in language as persons of equal value, dignity, integrity and respect.
Avoiding sex- and gender-based discrimination starts with language, as the systematic use of gender-biased terminology influences attitudes and expectations and could, in the mind of the reader or listener, relegate women to the background or help perpetuate a stereotyped view of women’s and men’s roles. There are number of different strategies that can be used to express gender relationships with accuracy, such as avoiding, to the greatest possible extent, the use of language that refers explicitly or implicitly to only one gender, and ensuring, through inclusionary alternatives and according to each language’s characteristics, the use of gender-sensitive and inclusive language.

Glass ceiling

The term “glass ceiling” is a metaphor that has often been used to describe invisible barriers (“glass”) through which women can see elite positions, for example in government or the private sector, but cannot reach them (coming up against the invisible “ceiling”). These barriers prevent large numbers of women and ethnic minorities from obtaining and securing the most powerful, prestigious, and highest-paying jobs in the workforce.

Honour Killings

Acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members who are perceived to have brought dishonour upon the family.


Mansplaining is the word for when a man explains something to a woman that she obviously already knows.

Multiple discrimination

Concept used to describe the complexity of discrimination implicating more than one ground, also known as “additive,” “accumulative,” “compound,” “intersectional,” “complex bias” or “multi-dimensional inequalities.” Though the terminology may seem confusing, it tends to describe two situations: (1) situation where an individual is faced with more than one form of grounds-based discrimination (i.e. sex plus disability discrimination, or gender plus sexual orientation). In such circumstances, all women and all persons with disabilities (both male and female) are potentially subject to the discrimination. (2) Situation where discrimination affects only those who are members of more than one group (i.e. only women with disabilities and not men with disabilities), also known as intersectional discrimination.


Privilege is the idea that we all have advantages over other people, and it's important to acknowledge this.

Reproductive rights

Reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.

Sex-disaggregated data

Sex-disaggregated data is data that is cross-classified by sex, presenting information separately for men and women, boys and girls. Sex-disaggregated data reflect roles, real situations, general conditions of women and men, girls and boys in every aspect of society. For instance, the literacy rate, education levels, business ownership, employment, wage differences, dependants, house and land ownership, loans and credit, debts, etc. When data is not disaggregated by sex, it is more difficult to identify real and potential inequalities. Sex-disaggregated data is necessary for effective gender analysis.
Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminists. SWERF believe that sex workers cannot be feminists as the sex industry harms all women.


Tranmisogyny is a combination of transphobia (hatred of transgender people) and misogyny (hatred of women and feminine attributes).

Trans exclusionary radical feminists

Trans exclusionary radical feminists believe that transgenderism doesn't exist and that transgender people cannot be feminists. Some suggest that transgender men are misogynists who don't want to be women any more, and that transgender women are trying to infiltrate women's groups because it turns them on. Many feminists disagree with them.

Victim blaming

‘Victim-blaming’ exists to a certain degree with all forms of violence. In order not to question the safety of the world around us when we hear of a violent incident, we may examine the behaviour of the victim and assure ourselves that if we avoid such risks and behaviour (e.g. being out late alone, venturing into certain areas, leaving our door unlocked, dressing in a ‘provocative’ way) we will avoid violence. This natural act of psychological self-defense, however, focuses our attention on the perceived responsibility of the victim, and may neglect to fully question the conduct of the perpetrator. By shifting the blame to the victim in gender-based violence, the focus is on the victim, often a woman, and her behaviour, rather than on the structural causes and inequalities underlying the violence perpetrated against her.

Violence against women

Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. Violence against women shall be understood to encompass, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, intimate partner violence, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation;
  • Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment in public spaces and sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution;
  • Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs.

Recommendations & links

Terminology recommendations

  • Practice gender sensitive language and inform yourself about the terminology that appear to have a different public perception from what they actually mean (feminism, sex, gender, homophobia etc)
  • Think about the usage of terms like “strong” or “passionate” (when you stress that a particular woman is strong, what that says about other women?).

Research recommendations

  • Search for statistic information disaggregated by gender when a topic is investigated. This will allow us to start an analysis under the gender perspective, that is, to be able to broaden our approach to a topic by knowing how it impacts each gender group.
  • Dedicate time to go through resources about gender issues.
  • Attend gender-related seminars, inform yourself.

Recommendations concerning sources and content

  • Use expert databases, do not always use the same experts on the same topics and try to differentiate the gender of experts
  • Do not report about gender issues as if it’s only a female problem.
  • If possible, give gender an angle.
  • Bring stories that go against “standard” gender roles.
  • Do not ask questions about superficial things.
  • Avoid using phrases such as: “as a woman it is very hard to”.
  • Ask the same questions to men and women, it is interesting to know how anyone – man or woman – manage for instance career and family.
  • Do not only connect attributes such as “strong” only to men, do not make men “manly”.
  • Being gender sensitive is important, but also to be aware of other interests as well. Do not exclude important information even if there is a risk of not being gender-sensitive.
  • Do not emphasize people’s gender, but rather their leadership qualities and achievements.
  • Female leaders are policy-makers, and how they look should not matter in your article.
  • Think about who is not present in this story, who is invisible?

Ethical and systemic recommendations

  • Tackle the issue of gender balance and positive discrimination in reporting on other areas (not only exclusively in “gender” stories).
  • Always be aware that you are a creator of public opinion.
  • Try to always represent genders equally in your articles (role, gender of interviewed people).
  • Avoid clichés and assumptions. Ask about them but do not suggest them.
  • When writing about people in power, focus rather on their work than their life choices.
  • When interviewing Abuse survivors, start with general questions to ease into a testimony, let people speak as much as they want to and finish their story. Once people have finished their testimony, you can go deeper.
  • Always respect if the person does not want to talk about something.
  • Rape is a trauma in itself. When combined with other circumstances such as war it doubles the sensitivity of people.
  • Be / remain curious about issues that are not generally found in the media.
  • Remember: male discrimination also exist.
  • Criticise advertisements that are discriminatory and do not support them in your media outlets if possible.

Bibliography / Links

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