The Meaning of Gender and Race


Outside the academic world, the term gender is usually used to refer to different sexes; male and female. Males refer to human beings who possess primary and secondary sex features and penis is the most significant. The female have different set of features and vagina and the uterus are the most significance. A philosophical view challenging the anatomical distinctions in academics however, should be taken into account when analysing the subject of gender and aspects relating to it. The two sexes not only vary anatomically, but also socially, that is why the term gender has various meanings. In addition the term race has racial distinctions which are more prominent in Americans life. Biologically there is no need to categorize human beings by race. There is increasing doubt to any socioeconomic consequences of classifying people according to their apparent physical appearance. This paper aims to give a better understanding of the meaning of gender and race in an epistemological way that allow for various definitions depending on different concerns. Some significant parallels as well as differences are also mentioned in this paper together with any valuable resources about a wide range of issues that may be learnt from it.

Based on priorities, three projects of different concerns can be developed in relation to gender and race; conceptual, descriptive and analytical. According to Riley (1988), a conceptual view of race or gender seeks employing reflective equilibrium method to articulate concepts of race and gender. The descriptive view does not focus on conceptual analysis. While relying on empirical methods, concentration is made on developing more accurate concepts. The concept is narrowed down to what is natural or physical without presupposing the biological nature of race and gender. An analytical approach according to Scott (1986), on race or gender takes the form of avoiding explicating our ordinary sense, or investigating the kind we may be tracking with conceptual apparatus. On an analytical point of view, the term gender or race would be used in the context we want the terms to fit in. in addition the discussion in this paper is on the intersection of gender and race based on analytical view of the terms. With reference to Emily Martin’s ‘the egg and the sperm’ and Donna Haraway’s ‘The Sexual Politics of a Word” in Simians’ I will look at the effects of opinions and attitudes on development of personality.

Critical theory

In the analytical view, focus is made on the area of concern in question. Although there may be argument that this should be easy we should concentrate on articulating the truth but there is an element of constraint that limits it. Unconstrained facts results into chaos instead of theories. The logic is that gathering of truth is easy and hence a lot can be collected on the subject. This does not necessarily lead into a theory; therefore the facts should be narrowed to what is relevant to the question and of significance (Anderson, 1995).

If we focus in a critical feminist, antiracist manner on concerns of what gender or race can do for us. According to Guess (1981) this provides reasons why feminist antiracists need the concepts of gender and race. For example anthropologists like Emily Martin, who is of the opinion that females are a weaker sex. This has an implication on the way we relate with people of the opposite gender.


Depending ones area of interest, gender has various differences in sex from psychological orientations, attributes of ideals, or masculinity and femininity. According to Emily Martin (5) the development of gender is quite not understandable with respect to the processes of spermatogenesis as well as the female reproductive process. The focal matter to be addressed is the structure of social relations that constitutes social classes where men dominate while women subordinate. in this definition the identities, norms and symbols that constitute gender in social relations are of great significance (Butler, 1990). The categories are defined in relation to one’s social position. This could be socially, economically, legally, or in any other social category rather than on intrinsic physical or psychological characteristics. Ones’ sex therefore can take various hierarchies depending on culture, place, time and culture of a given people


Scientifically, there are no genes responsible for the various physical appearances (racial patterns). The differences are drawn from various factors such as geographical location. For instance in the United States, one is either white or colored. The colored are further divided into Blacks, Latinos among others (Frye, 1983). While it is easy acknowledging that race is real even if it is a biological fiction but to understand the social meaning of culture however is cumbersome. A group of people can therefore be referred to as a race if they take a social position of being subordinates or privileged in certain socioeconomic, political or legal dimension. Some versions include that the group exhibit bodily features presumed above to be ancestrally linked to certain geographical region (Mischewski, 2005).

Commonality and normativity

In a thesis submitted for the award of PhD to the La Trobe University, Deborah Dempsey says that the sense of mystical commonality is often attributed to connection of biogenetic nature but may sometimes have a bearing on concerns about semen providers (p. 210). The commonality aspect of this seeks to view whether all females or males plausibly have something in common within their individual groups. For example a commonality question would ask if there are some intrinsic non anatomical characteristics that females share amongst themselves. These could be beliefs, experiences, psychological make up and values. Since women are subordinates, they take a specific social position in the society. it is argued that some women are not socially disadvantaged. According to Deborah, women tend to express strong opinions of paternal connections and how they should be socially expressed. Emily Martin however believes that women ought to be a weaker gender as compared to men.


There are several injustices related to gender or racial discrimination such as: unemployment opportunities, endemic poverty and segregation. In the world, Women do face familiar and similar injustice. For instance, they are paid less amount of money for equal work than their male counter parts, have poor or no access to healthcare and concerning literacy, they are more illiterate. Both race and gender causes inequality but discriminate in different manners. Mostly the two factors intersect resulting to higher discrimination for the victims. Factors such as color, race or nationality that are used in identifying women socially create various problems. These problems affect specific groups. In addition they make some women to be disproportionately affected relative to others. An example is the societal difficulties faced by Eastern Europe Roma ladies. In the Romanian population, ladies’s advocates are few even though hostility cases are constant. Ladies are marginalized both within the family set up and in the community at large. Marginalization is due to their gender and minority status respectively. Therefore women are left with no option of comfort within the society. This trend is similar to what Dalit women face in India, Australian aboriginal women, and female England asylum seekers, among others. Both gender and racial discriminations are faced by the women on regular basis hence they have adapted to it.

According to United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) report, women are far from achieving equality status with men irrespective of their racial background. This shows that women do not meet the main progress indicators that measure improvements in women empowerment and gender inequality. With women’s literacy rate of seventy one percent relative to men’s which eighty four percent. Among the nine hundred and sixty million illiterate adults, two thirds of them are women. Gender differences in earnings also is high because women worldwide on average, earn about seventy eight percent of what their male counterparts earn in the service industry. Majority of the women are not in decision making positions. In addition, when we consider world’s poor population, sixty eight percent constitute of women.Moreover, if in the burden gender, we factor out racial discrimination, evidences of related intolerance would be eminent. There are many areas of discriminations which include discrimination in the labour market, violence that is based on race and woman trafficking among others. In several societies, indigenous women and minority immigrants have limited access to employment opportunities and majority of those who may have been lucky enough to get jobs are either in unregulated sectors or informal employment. According the UN, Black women earn the lowest income; they work under an unhealthy working conditions such as working for long hours and face highest rates of discrimination.

Trafficking of women is another aspect of gender discrimination against women. The trafficked immigrants live under conditions in which the marginalized laws do not protect them. For instance, after being shipped from one region to another, the immigrants find themselves living in far countries illegally, jobless with no source of income and with anyone to help them. As a result, women continue to be discriminated and violated in terms of forced labour, arbitrary execution, rape, deprivation of liberty and torture. Blame in most situations goes to governments for lack of strict anti- immigration policies and creation of employment opportunities for women. This situation, coupled with equal unequal educational opportunities makes women more vulnerable compared to the male counterparts. The most popular example of intersectional discrimination is race based violence on women. Documented evidences in areas such as Bosnia, Burundi, Rwanda, and Kosovo explicitly depict intentional gender based violation of women in magnitudes and vast proportions. Ethnic and civil conflicts have negative impact to the society as they cause many people to be left as refugees. The vulnerability of these refugees to sexual harassment and other gender related violence are very high. For instance, in Bosnia and Rwanda, rape against women picked up due to ethnic and or religious origins.

For a long period of time, the intersection of gender and racial atrocities together with the consequences had been subjected to minimal considerations. The major problem was to categorize such manifestations as either gender based or racial based but not both for example in a case where the violations did not fully fit in each setting. This negligence on stakeholders’ part culminated in the problem developing to full scope without adequate effective remedies. The situation though is changing with several bodies acknowledging the various ways that gender roles and relations influence both sexes access to resources, rights and opportunities with an aim of achieving gender equality.

During the World Conference against Racism, Xenophobia, Racial Discrimination, and Related Intolerance in Durban, many of the gender and race based issues were discussed by concern organisations in which it was recognized that modern patterns of racism were worrying and very different in nature (Haraway, 1981). An agreement on paying attention to racism and double discrimination that occur as a result of coupling it with gender challenges especially on women was passed. For example, a lot of attention was paid to the major International problems that is women trafficking and irregular migration during a seminar for experts involved in preparing main World conference that was held in Asia-Pacific. In their deliberations, the seminar reached a consensus that gender, ethnic and racial discrimination were the core causes of illegal migration and human trafficking. This led to the recommendation for specific focus in gender issues and related discrimination specifically comp have suffered for a long time but they always look forward to the time that the human rights and legal bodies will formulate and implement solid and realistic proposals to cub the problems they inevitably face. With the current call for actions, victims wait with high expectations that some one somewhere is concerned with what is happening to them. The International Criminal Court of Justice (ICC) has already recognized gender and racial discrimination as a criminal offence and prosecutes perpetrators of the crime.


It is evident that gender has developed over time having various aspects depending on the approach that one looks at it. The term man and woman are used to distinguish individuals on the basis of sex. Gender or race would be used in the context of considering the work we desire the concepts to perform. We should approach the issue on a more factual point of view so that we don’t seem to contradict the very own principles by which we stand.

On the other hand the intersection of gender and racial atrocities together with the consequences that had been subjected to minimal considerations. In conclusion there is a recommendation for specific focus in gender issues and related discrimination specifically compounded jeopardy due to intersection of gender, race, class, and ethnicity.

Reference List

  1. Anderson, E. (1995). Knowledge, Human Interests, and Objectivity in Feminist Epistemology. Philosophical Topics, 22(2):27-58
  2. Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble. New York: Routledge.
  3. Frye, M(1983). The politics of reality. Freedom, C.A: Crossing Press.
  4. Guess, R. (1981). The idea of a critical theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  5. Haraway, D. (1991). Gender’ for a Marxist Dictionary: The Sexual Politics of a Word. in Simians, Cyborgs and Women. New York: Routledge.
  6. Mischewski, A. (2005). Making your Hair stand on end: The meaning of Sperm. in Sperm Wars: the Rights and Wrongs of Reproduction. Sydney: ABC Books
  7. Riley, D. (1988). Am I that name? Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
  8. Scott, J. (1986). Gender: A useful category of historical analysis. American historical view.