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Not to be confused with genre.
Mercury symbol.svg
Venus symbol.svg
Three gender symbols: intersex or transgender (top), female (middle), male (bottom). From symbols for Mercury, Venus and Mars.
Gender is the wide set of characteristics that are seen to distinguish between male and female entities, extending from one's biological sex to, in humans, one's social role or gender identity. As a word, it has more than one valid definition. In linguistics, it refers to characteristics of words. In ordinary speech, it is used interchangeably with "sex" to denote the condition of being male or female. In the social sciences, however, it refers specifically to socially constructed and institutionalized differences such as gender roles.[1] The World Health Organization (WHO), for example, uses "gender" to refer to "the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women".[2] People whose gender identity feels incongruent with maleness or femaleness sometimes refer to themselves as "intergender." Not all cultures adhere to a binary gender system. Some cultures have separate sets of gender-related social roles (distinct from those for men and women) for certain types of intergendered people, such as those covering the hijra of India and Pakistan.
Many languages have a system of grammatical gender, a type of noun class system—nouns may be classified as masculine or feminine (for example Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic and French) and may also have a neuter grammatical gender (for example Sanskrit, German, Polish, and the Scandinavian languages). In such languages, this is essentially a convention, which may have little or no connection to the meaning of the words. Likewise, a wide variety of phenomena have characteristics termed gender, by analogy with male and female bodies (such as the gender of connectors and fasteners) or due to societal norms.
While the social sciences analyze gender as a social construct, especially gender studies, in the natural sciences, research links biological and behavioral differences in males and females as determining factors for gender (here meaning "the state of being male or female") in humans and other species; this is assisted by debate regarding the extent to which the various biological differences necessitate differences in gender identity, which has been defined as "an individual's self-conception as being male or female, as distinguished from actual biological sex".[3] Some scholars reject the framework of biological versus social determinism and advocate a deeper analysis of how interactions between the biological being and the social environment influence individuals' capacities.[4]


Etymology and usage

The historical meaning of gender is "things we treat differently because of their inherent differences".[5] It has three common applications in contemporary English. Most commonly, it is applied to the general differences between male and female entities, without any overt assumptions regarding biology or sociology. Sometimes, however, the usage is technical or overtly assumes a particular theory of human nature, which is usually made clear by the context. Finally, the same word, gender, is also commonly applied to the independent concept of distinctive word categories in certain languages. Grammatical gender has little or nothing to do with differences between men and women.

The word gender in English

As kind
The word gender comes from the Middle English gendre, a loanword from Norman-conquest-era Old French. This, in turn, came from Latin genus. Both words mean 'kind', 'type', or 'sort'. They derive ultimately from a widely attested Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root gen-,[6][7] which is also the source of kin, kind, king, and many other English words.[8] It appears in Modern French in the word genre (type, kind, also genre sexuel) and is related to the Greek root gen- (to produce), appearing in gene, genesis, and oxygen. As a verb, it means breed in the King James Bible:
  • 1616: Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind — Leviticus 19:19.
Most uses of the root gen- in Indo-European languages refer either directly to what pertains to birth (for example pre-gn-ant) or, by extension, to natural, innate qualities and their consequent social distinctions (for example gentry, generation, gentile, genocide and eugenics). The first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED1, Volume 4, 1900) notes the original meaning of gender as 'kind' had already become obsolete.
Gender (dʒe'ndəɹ), sb. Also 4 gendre. [a. OF. gen(d)re (F. genre) = Sp. género, Pg. gênero, It. genere, ad. L. gener- stem form of genus race, kind = Gr. γένος, Skr. jánas:— OAryan *genes-, f. root γεν- to produce; cf. KIN.]
1. Kind, sort, class; also, genus as opposed to species. The general gender: the common sort (of people). Obs.
13.. E.E.Allit. P. P. 434 Alle gendrez so ioyst wern ioyned wyth-inne. c 1384 CHAUSER H. Fame* 1. 18 To knowe of hir signifiaunce The gendres. 1398 TREVISA Barth. De P. K. VIII. xxix. (1495) 34I Byshynynge and lyghte ben dyuers as species and gendre, for suery shinyng is lyght, but not ayenwarde. 1602 SHAKES. Ham. IV. vii. 18 The great loue the generall gender beare him. 1604Oth. I. iii. 326 Supplie it with one gender of Hearbes, or distract it with many. 1643 and so on.
As masculinity or femininity
The use of gender to refer to masculinity and femininity as types is attested throughout the history of Modern English (from about the 14th century).
As a grammatical term
According to Aristotle, the Greek philosopher Protagoras used the terms "masculine," "feminine," and "neuter" to classify nouns, introducing the concept of grammatical gender.
τὰ γένη τῶν ὀνομάτων ἄρρενα καὶ θήλεα καὶ σκεύη
The classes (genē) of the nouns are males, females and things.[9]
— Aristotle, The Technique of Rhetoric III v
The words for this concept are not related to gen- in all Indo-European languages (for example, rod in Slavic languages).
The usage of gender in the context of grammatical distinctions is a specific and technical usage. However, in English, the word became attested more widely in the context of grammar, than in making sexual distinctions.
This was noted in OED1, prompting Henry Watson Fowler to recommend this usage as the primary and preferable meaning of gender in English. " a grammatical term only. To talk of persons...of the masculine or feminine g[ender], meaning of the male or female sex, is either a jocularity (permissible or not according to context) or a blunder."[10]
The sense of this can be felt by analogy with a modern expression like "persons of the female persuasion." It should be noted, however, that this was a recommendation, neither the Daily News nor Henry James citations (above) are "jocular" nor "blunders." Additionally, patterns of usage of gender have substantially changed since Fowler's day (noun class above, and sexual stereotype below).
As a sexual stereotype
The word sex is sometimes used in the context of social roles of men and women — for example, the British Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 that ended exclusion of women from various official positions. Such usage was more common before the 1970s, over the course of which the feminist movement took the word gender into their own usage to describe their theory of human nature. Early in that decade, gender was used in ways consistent with both the history of English and the history of attestation of the root. However, by the end of the decade consensus was achieved among feminists regarding this theory and its terminology. The theory was that human nature is essentially epicene and social distinctions based on sex are arbitrarily constructed. Matters pertaining to this theoretical process of social construction were labelled matters of gender.
The American Heritage Dictionary uses the following two sentences to illustrate the difference, noting that the distinction "is useful in principle, but it is by no means widely observed, and considerable variation in usage occurs at all levels."[11]
  • 2000: The effectiveness of the medication appears to depend on the sex (not gender) of the patient.
  • 2000: In peasant societies, gender (not sex) roles are likely to be more clearly defined.
In the last two decades of the 20th century, the use of gender in academia increased greatly, outnumbering uses of sex in the social sciences.[12] Frequently, but not exclusively, this indicates acceptance of the feminist theory of human nature. However, in many instances, the term gender still refers to sexual distinction generally without such an assumption.
  • 2004: Among the reasons that working scientists have given me for choosing gender rather than sex in biological contexts are desires to signal sympathy with feminist goals, to use a more academic term, or to avoid the connotation of copulation — David Haig, The Inexorable Rise of Gender and the Decline of Sex.
In fact, the ideological distinction between sex and gender is only fitfully observed.[12]

Concept in other languages

Urdu recognizes hijra as a third gender in India and Pakistan since the mid to late 2000s.[13][14]
Greek (distinguishes biological from sociological in adjectives)
In Greek, male biology and masculine grammatical inflection are denoted by arsenikos (αρσενικός), in distinction to sociological masculinity, which is denoted by andrikos (ανδρικός). Likewise, female biology and feminine grammatical inflection are denoted by thēlukos (θηλυκός); and sociological femininity is denoted by gunaikeios (γυναικείος, compare English gynaecology). This distinction is at least as old as Aristotle (see above). It is a different distinction to English, where 'male' and 'female' refer to animals as well as humans, but not to grammatical categories; whereas, 'masculine' and 'feminine' refer to grammatical categories as well as humans, but not properly to animals, except as anthropomorphism.
German and Dutch (no distinction in nouns — Geschlecht and geslacht)
In English, both 'sex' and 'gender' can be used in contexts where they could not be substituted — 'sexual intercourse', 'safe sex', 'sex worker', or on the other hand, 'grammatical gender'. Other languages, like German or Dutch, use the same word, de:Geschlecht or nl:geslacht, to refer not only to biological sex, but social differences as well, making a distinction between biological 'sex' and 'gender' identity difficult. In some contexts, German has adopted the English loanword Gender to achieve this distinction. Sometimes Geschlechtsidentität is used for 'gender' (although it literally means 'gender identity') and Geschlecht for 'sex'.[15] More common is the use of modifiers: biologisches Geschlecht for 'biological sex', Geschlechtsidentität for 'gender identity' and Geschlechtsrolle for 'gender role', and so on. Both German and Dutch use a separate word, de:Genus, for grammatical gender.
Swedish (clear distinction in nouns — genus and kön)
In Swedish, 'gender' is translated with the linguistically cognate sv:genus, including sociological contexts, thus: Genusstudier (gender studies) and Genusvetenskap (gender science). 'Sex' in Swedish, however, only signifies sexual relations, and not the proposed English dichotomy, a concept for which sv:kön (also from PIE gen-) is used. A common distinction is then made between kön (sex) and genus (gender), where the former refers only to biological sex. There are different opinions whether genus should involve biology but within the genusvetenskap which is strongly influenced by feminism it usually does not.[16] Sweden uses the words sv:könsroll and sv:könsidentitet (literally 'sex role' and 'sex-identity') for the English terms 'gender role' and 'gender identity'.
French (no distinction in noun sexe, distinction supplied by neologistic coinage genre)
In French, the word sexe is most widely used for both "sex" and "gender" in everyday contexts. However, the word genre is increasingly used to refer to gender in queer or academic contexts, such as the word transgenre (transgender) or the translation of Judith Butler's book Gender Trouble, Trouble dans le genre. The term identité sexuelle was proposed for "gender" or "gender identity," although it can be confused with "sexual identity" (one's identity as it relates to one's sexual life).

Sociological gender

Gender identity is the gender a person self-identifies as. The concept of being a woman is considered to have more challenges, due to society not only viewing women as a social category but also as a felt sense of self, a culturally conditioned or constructed subjective identity.[17] The term "woman" has chronically been used as a reference to and for the female body; this usage has been viewed as controversial by feminists, in the definement of "woman". There are qualitative analyses that explore and present the representations of gender; feminists challenge the dominant ideologies concerning gender roles and sex. Social identity refers to the common identification with a collectivity or social category which creates a common culture among participants concerned.[18] According to social identity theory,[19] an important component of the self-concept is derived from memberships in social groups and categories; this is demonstrated by group processes and how inter-group relationships impact significantly on individuals' self perception and behaviors. The groups to which people belong will therefore provide their members with the definition of who they are and how they should behave in the social sphere.[20]
Categorizing males and females into social roles creates binaries, in which individuals feel they have to be at one end of a linear spectrum and must identify themselves as man or woman. Globally, communities interpret biological differences between men and women to create a set of social expectations that define the behaviors that are "appropriate" for men and women and determine women’s and men’s different access to rights, resources, and power in society. Although the specific nature and degree of these differences vary from one society to the next, they typically favor men, creating an imbalance in power and gender inequalities in all countries.[21]
Western philosopher Michel Foucault claimed that as sexual subjects, humans are the object of power, which is not a institution or structure, rather it is signifier or name attributed to "complex strategical situation".[22] Because of this, "power" is what determines individual attributes, behaviors, etc. and people are a part of an ontologically and epistemologically constructed set of names and labels. Such as, being female characterizes one as a woman, and being a woman signifies one as weak, emotional, and irrational, and is incapable of actions attributed to a "man". Judith Butler said gender and sex are more like verbs than nouns. She reasoned that her actions are limited. "I am not permitted to construct my gender and sex willy-nilly," she said. "[This] is so because gender is politically and therefore socially controlled. Rather than 'woman' being something one is, it is something one does."[23] There are more recent criticisms of Judith Butler's theories which critique her writing for reinforcing the very conventional dichotomies of gender.[24]

Social assignment and idea of fluidity

There are two contrasting ideas regarding the definition of gender, and the intersection of both of them is definable as below:
Gender is the result of socially constructed ideas about the behavior, actions, and roles a particular sex performs. The beliefs, values and attitude taken up and exhibited by them is as per the agreeable norms of the society and the personal opinions of the person is not taken into the primary consideration of assignment of gender and imposition of gender roles as per the assigned gender. Intersections and crossing of the prescribed boundaries have no place in the arena of the social construct of the term "gender".
The assignment of gender involves taking into account the physiological and biological attributes assigned by nature followed by the imposition of the socially constructed conduct. The social label of being classified into one or the other sex is obligatory to the medical stamp on the birth certificate. The cultural traits typically coupled to a particular sex finalize the assignment of gender and the biological differences which play a role in classifying either sex is interchangeable with the definition of gender within the social context.
Gender can have ambiguity and fluidity.[25]
In this context, the socially constructed rules are at a cross road with the assignment of a particular gender to a person. Gender ambiguity deals with having the freedom to choose,manipulate and create a personal niche within any defined socially constructed code of conduct while gender fluidity is outlawing all the rules of cultural gender assignment. It does not accept the prevalence of two rigidly defined genders "Male and Female" and believes in freedom to choose any kind of gender with no rules, no defined boundaries and no fulfilling of expectations associated with any particular gender.
Both these definitions are facing opposite directionalities with their own defined set of rules and criteria on which the said systems are based.

Social categories

Mary Frith ("Moll Cutpurse") scandalised 17th century society by wearing male clothing, smoking in public, and otherwise defying gender roles.
Sexologist John Money coined the term gender role in 1955. "The term gender role is used to signify all those things that a person says or does to disclose himself or herself as having the status of boy or man, girl or woman, respectively. It includes, but is not restricted to, sexuality in the sense of eroticism."[26] Elements of such a role include clothing, speech patterns, movement, occupations, and other factors not limited to biological sex. Because social aspects of gender can normally be presumed to be the ones of interest in sociology and closely related disciplines, gender role is often abbreviated to gender in their literature.
"Rosie the Riveter" was an iconic symbol of the American homefront in WWII and a departure from gender roles due to wartime necessity.
Most societies have only two distinct, broad classes of gender roles—masculine and feminine—and these correspond with biological sexes male and female. However, some societies explicitly incorporate people who adopt the gender role opposite to their biological sex, for example the Two-Spirit people of some indigenous American peoples. Other societies include well-developed roles that are explicitly considered more or less distinct from archetypal male and female roles in those societies. In the language of the sociology of gender they comprise a third gender,[27] more or less distinct from biological sex (sometimes the basis for the role does include intersexuality or incorporates eunuchs).[28] One such gender role is that adopted by the hijras of India and Pakistan.[29][30] Another example may be the Muxe (pronounced [ˈmuʃe] "moo-shay"), found in the state of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, "beyond gay and straight."[31]
The Bugis people of Sulawesi, Indonesia have a tradition incorporating all of the features above.[32] Joan Roughgarden argues that in some non-human animal species, there can also be said to be more than two genders, in that there might be multiple templates for behavior available to individual organisms with a given biological sex.[33]

Feminism and gender studies

The philosopher and feminist Simone de Beauvoir applied existentialism to women's experience of life: "One is not born a woman, one becomes one."[34] In context, this is a philosophical statement. However, it may be analyzed in terms of biology — a girl must pass puberty to become a woman — and sociology, as a great deal of mature relating in social contexts is learned rather than instinctive.[citation needed]
Within feminist theory, terminology for gender issues developed over the 1970s. In the 1974 edition of Masculine/Feminine or Human, the author uses "innate gender" and "learned sex roles",[35] but in the 1978 edition, the use of sex and gender is reversed.[36] By 1980, most feminist writings had agreed on using gender only for socioculturally adapted traits.
In gender studies the term gender is used to refer to proposed social and cultural constructions of masculinities and femininities. In this context, gender explicitly excludes reference to biological differences, to focus on cultural differences.[37] This emerged from a number of different areas: in sociology during the 1950s; from the theories of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan; and in the work of French psychoanalysts like Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, and American feminists such as Judith Butler. Those who followed Butler came to regard gender roles as a practice, sometimes referred to as "performative".[38]
Hurst states that some people think sex will “automatically determine one’s gender demeanor and role (social) as well as one’s sexual orientation (sexual attractions and behavior).”[39] Gender sociologists believe that people have cultural origins and habits for dealing with gender. For example, Michael Schwalbe believes that humans must be taught how to act appropriately in their designated gender in order to properly fill the role and that the way people behave as masculine or feminine interacts with social expectations. Schwalbe comments that humans "are the results of many people embracing and acting on similar ideas".[40] People do this through everything from clothing and hairstyle to relationship and employment choices. Schwalbe believes that these distinctions are important, because society wants to identify and categorize people as soon as we see them. They need to place people into distinct categories in order to know how we should feel about them.
Hurst comments that in a society where we present our genders so distinctly, there can often be severe consequences for breaking these cultural norms. Many of these consequences are rooted in discrimination based on sexual orientation. Gays and lesbians are often discriminated against in our legal system due to societal prejudices.[citation needed] Hurst describes how this discrimination works against people for breaking gender norms, no matter what their sexual orientation is. He says that "courts often confuse sex, gender, and sexual orientation, and confuse them in a way that results in denying the rights not only of gays and lesbians, but also of those who do not present themselves or act in a manner traditionally expected of their sex".[39] This prejudice plays out in our legal system when a man or woman is judged differently because he or she does not present the "correct" gender. How people present and display their gender has consequences in everyday life, but also in institutionalized aspects of our society.
Recent critiques of feminist theory by Warren Farrell[41][42] have given broader consideration to findings from a ten-year study of courtship by Buss.[43] Both perspectives on gendering are integrated in Attraction Theory, a theoretical framework developed by Dr Rory Ridley-Duff illustrating how courtship and parenting obligations (rather than male dominance) act as a generative mechanism that produces and reproduces a range of gender identities.[44][45]

Biological gender

The biology of gender became the subject of an expanding number of studies over the course of the late 20th century. One of the earliest areas of interest was what is now called gender identity disorder (GID). Studies in this, and related areas, inform the following summary of the subject by John Money, a pioneer and controversial sex and gender researcher.
The term "gender role" appeared in print first in 1955. The term "gender identity" was used in a press release, November 21, 1966, to announce the new clinic for transsexuals at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was disseminated in the media worldwide, and soon entered the vernacular. The definitions of gender and gender identity vary on a doctrinal basis. In popularized and scientifically debased usage, sex is what you are biologically; gender is what you become socially; gender identity is your own sense or conviction of maleness or femaleness; and gender role is the cultural stereotype of what is masculine and feminine. Causality with respect to gender identity disorder is subdivisible into genetic, prenatal hormonal, postnatal social, and postpubertal hormonal determinants, but there is, as yet, no comprehensive and detailed theory of causality. Gender coding in the brain is bipolar. In gender identity disorder, there is discordancy between the natal sex of one's external genitalia and the brain coding of one's gender as masculine or feminine.[46]
Money refers to attempts to distinguish a difference between biological sex and social gender as "scientifically debased", because of our increased knowledge of a continuum of dimorphic features (Money's word is "dipolar") that link biological and behavioral differences. These extend from the exclusively biological "genetic" and "prenatal hormonal" differences between men and women, to "postnatal" features, some of which are social, but others have been shown to result from "postpubertal hormonal" effects[citation needed]
Prior to recent technology that made study of brain differences possible, observable differences in behaviour between men and women could not be adequately explained solely on the basis of the limited observable physical differences between them. Hence the then-plausible theory that these differences might be explained by arbitrary cultural assignments of roles. However, Money notes concisely that masculine or feminine self-identity is now seen as essentially an expression of dimorphic brain structure[citation needed] (Money's word is "coding"). The new discoveries have an additional advantage over the theory of cultural arbitrariness of gender roles, as they help explain the similarities between these roles in widely divergent cultures (see Steven Pinker on Donald Brown's Human Universals, including romantic love,[47] sexual jealousy,[48][49][50] and patriarchy).[51]
Although causation from the biological — genetic and hormonal — to the behavioural has been broadly demonstrated and accepted[citation needed], Money is careful to also note that understanding of the causal chains from biology to behaviour in sex and gender issues is very far from complete. For example, the existence of a "gay gene" has not been proven, but such a gene remains an acknowledged possibility.[52]

Gender taxonomy

The following systematic list (gender taxonomy) illustrates the kinds of diversity that have been studied and reported in medical literature. It is placed in roughly chronological order of biological and social development in the human life cycle. The earlier stages are more purely biological and the latter are more dominantly social. Causation is known to operate from chromosome to gonads, and from gonads to hormones. It is also significant from brain structure to gender identity (see Money quote above). Brain structure and processing (biological) that may explain erotic preference (social), however, is an area of ongoing research. Terminology in some areas changes quite rapidly to accommodate the constantly growing knowledge base. An interactive, animated display of early development is available online.

Sexual reproduction and differentiation

Sexual reproduction

  • Sexual differentiation demands the fusion of gametes which are morphologically different. — Cyril Dean Darlington, Recent Advances in Cytology, 1937.
Hoverflies mating
Sexual reproduction is a common method of producing a new individual within various species. In sexually reproducing species, individuals produce special kinds of cells (called gametes) whose function is specifically to fuse with one unlike gamete and thereby to form a new individual. This fusion of two unlike gametes is called fertilization. By convention, where one type of gamete cell is physically larger than the other, it is associated with female sex. Thus an individual that produces exclusively large gametes (ova in humans) is said to be female, and one that produces exclusively small gametes (spermatozoa in humans) is said to be male.
An individual that produces both types of gametes is called hermaphrodite (a name applicable also to people with one testis and one ovary). In some species hermaphrodites can self-fertilize (see Selfing), in others they can achieve fertilization with females, males or both. Some species, like the Japanese Ash, Fraxinus lanuginosa, only have males and hermaphrodites, a rare reproductive system called androdioecy. Gynodioecy is also found in several species. Human hermaphrodites are typically, but not always, infertile.
What is considered defining of sexual reproduction is the difference between the gametes and the binary nature of fertilization. Multiplicity of gamete types within a species would still be considered a form of sexual reproduction. However, of more than 1.5 million living species,[53] recorded up to about the year 2000, "no third sex cell — and so no third sex — has appeared in multicellular animals."[54][55][56] Why sexual reproduction has an exclusively binary gamete system is not yet known. A few rare species that push the boundaries of the definitions are the subject of active research for light they may shed on the mechanisms of the evolution of sex. For example, the most toxic insect,[57] the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex, has two kinds of female and two kinds of male. One hypothesis is that the species is a hybrid, evolved from two closely related preceding species.
Fossil records indicate that sexual reproduction has been occurring for at least one billion years.[58] However, the reason for the initial evolution of sex, and the reason it has survived to the present are still matters of debate, there are many plausible theories. It appears that the ability to reproduce sexually has evolved independently in various species on many occasions. There are cases where it has also been lost, notably among the Fungi Imperfecti.[59] The blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus), flatworm (Dugesia tigrina) and some other species can reproduce either sexually or asexually depending on various conditions.[60]

Sexual differentiation

Sexual differentiation in peafowl
Although sexual reproduction is defined at the cellular level, key features of sexual reproduction operate within the structures of the gamete cells themselves. Notably, gametes carry very long molecules called DNA that the biological processes of reproduction can "read" like a book of instructions. In fact, there are typically many of these "books", called chromosomes. Human gametes usually have 23 chromosomes, 22 of which are common to both sexes. The final chromosomes in the two human gametes are called sex chromosomes because of their role in sex determination. Ova always have the same sex chromosome, labelled X. About half of spermatozoa also have this same X chromosome, the rest have a Y chromosome. At fertilization the gametes fuse to form a cell, usually with 46 chromosomes, and either XX female or XY male, depending on whether the sperm carried an X or a Y chromosome. Some of the other possibilities are listed above.
In humans, the "default" processes of reproduction result in an individual with female characteristics. An intact Y chromosome contains what is needed to "reprogram" the processes sufficiently to produce male characteristics, leading to sexual differentiation (see also Sexual dimorphism). Part of the Y chromosome, the Sex-determining Region Y (SRY), causes what would normally become ovaries to become testes. These, in turn, produce male hormones called androgens. However, several points in the processes have been identified where variations can result in people with atypical characteristics, including atypical sexual characteristics. Terminology for atypical sexual characteristics has not stabilized. Disorder of sexual development (DSD) is used by some in preference to intersex, which is used by others in preference to pseudohermaphroditism.
Androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) is an example of a DSD that also illustrates that female development is the default for humans. Although having one X and one Y chromosome, some people are biologically insensitive to the androgens produced by their testes. As a result they follow the normal human processes which result in a person of female sex. Women who are XY report identifying as a woman — feeling and thinking like a woman — and, where their biology is completely insensitive to masculinizing factors, externally they look identical to other women. Unlike other women, however, they cannot produce ova, because they do not have ovaries.
The human XY system is not the only sex determination system. Birds typically have a reverse, ZW system — males are ZZ and females ZW.[citation needed] Whether male or female birds influence the sex of offspring is not known for all species. Several species of butterfly are known to have female parent sex determination.[61] The platypus has a complex hybrid system, the male has ten sex chromosomes, half X and half Y.[62]

General studies


Chromosomes were likened to books (above), also like books they have been studied at more detailed levels. They contain "sentences" called genes. In fact, many of these sentences are common to multiple species. Sometimes they are organized in the same order, other times they have been "edited" — deleted, copied, changed, moved, even relocated to another "book", as species evolve. Genes are a particularly important part of understanding biological processes because they are directly associated with observable objects, outside chromosomes, called proteins, whose influence on cell chemistry can be measured. In some cases genes can also be directly associated with differences clear to the naked eye, like eye-color itself. Some of these differences are sex specific, like hairy ears. The "hairy ear" gene might be found on the Y chromosome[63], which explains why only men tend to have hairy ears. However, sex-limited genes on any chromosome can be expressed and "say", for example, "if you are in a male body do X, otherwise do not." The same principle explains why chimpanzees and humans are distinct, despite sharing nearly all their genes.
The study of genetics is particularly inter-disciplinary. It is relevant to almost every biological science. It is investigated in detail by molecular level sciences, and itself contributes details to high level abstractions like evolutionary theory.


Human brain
"It is well established that men have a larger cerebrum than women by about 8–10% (Filipek et al., 1994; Nopoulos et al., 2000; Passe et al., 1997a,b; Rabinowicz et al., 1999; Witelson et al., 1995)."[64][65] However, what is functionally relevant are differences in composition and "wiring", some of these differences are very pronounced. Richard J. Haier and colleagues at the universities of New Mexico and California (Irvine) found, using brain mapping, that men have more than six times the amount of grey matter related to general intelligence than women, and women have nearly ten times the amount of white matter related to intelligence than men.[66]
Gray matter is used for information processing, while white matter consists of the connections between processing centers. Other differences are measurable but less pronounced.[67] Most of these differences are known to be produced by the activity of hormones, hence ultimately derived from the Y chromosome and sexual differentiation. However, differences arising from the activity of genes directly have also been observed.
A sexual dimorphism in levels of expression in brain tissue was observed by quantitative real-time PCR, with females presenting an up to 2-fold excess in the abundance of PCDH11X transcripts. We relate these findings to sexually dimorphic traits in the human brain. Interestingly, PCDH11X/Y gene pair is unique to Homo sapiens, since the X-linked gene was transposed to the Y chromosome after the human–chimpanzee lineages split.[68]
Language areas of the brain      Angular Gyrus      Supramarginal Gyrus      Broca's Area      Wernicke's Area      Primary Auditory Cortex
It has also been demonstrated that brain processing responds to the external environment. Learning, both of ideas and behaviors, appears to be coded in brain processes. It also appears that in several simplified cases this coding operates differently, but in some ways equivalently, in the brains of men and women.[69] For example, both men and women learn and use language; however, bio-chemically, they appear to process it differently. Differences in male and female use of language are likely reflections both of biological preferences and aptitudes, and of learned patterns.
Two of the main fields that study brain structure, biological (and other) causes and behavioral (and other) results are brain neurology and biological psychology. Cognitive science is another important discipline in the field of brain research.

Society and behaviors

Many of the more complicated human behaviors are influenced by both innate factors and by environmental ones, which include everything from genes, gene expression, and body chemistry, through diet and social pressures. A large area of research in behavioral psychology collates evidence in an effort to discover correlations between behavior and various possible antecedents such as genetics, gene regulation, access to food and vitamins, culture, gender, hormones, physical and social development, and physical and social environments.
A core research area within sociology is the way human behavior operates on itself, in other words, how the behavior of one group or individual influences the behavior of other groups or individuals. Starting in the late 20th century, the feminist movement has contributed extensive study of gender and theories about it, notably within sociology but not restricted to it.
Spain's desperate situation when invaded by Napoleon enabled Agustina de Aragón to break into a closely-guarded male preserve and become the only female professional officer in the Spanish Army of her time (and long afterwards).
Social theorists have sought to determine the specific nature of gender in relation to biological sex and sexuality,[citation needed] with the result being that culturally established gender and sex have become interchangeable identifications which signify the allocation of a specific 'biological' sex within a categorical gender.[citation needed] The second wave feminist view that gender is socially constructed and hegemonic in all societies, remains current in some literary theoretical circles, Kira Hall and Mary Bucholtz publishing new perspectives as recently as 2008.[70]
Contemporary socialisation theory proposes the notion that when a child is first born it has a biological sex but no social gender.[citation needed] As the child grows, "society provides a string of prescriptions, templates, or models of behaviors appropriate to the one sex or the other"[71] which socialises the child into belonging to a culturally specific gender.[citation needed] There is huge incentive for a child to concede to their socialisation[citation needed] with gender shaping the individual’s opportunities for education, work, family, sexuality, reproduction, authority,[citation needed] and to make an impact on the production of culture and knowledge.[72] Adults who do not perform these ascribed roles are perceived from this perspective as deviant and improperly socialised.[73]
Some believe society is constructed in a way in which gender is split into a dichotomy by social organisations which constantly invent and reproduce cultural images of gender. Joan Ackner (The Gendered Society Reader) believes gendering occurs in at least five different interacting social processes:[74]
  1. The construction of divisions along the lines of gender, such as those which are produced by labor, power, family, the state, even allowed behaviors and locations in physical space
  2. The construction of symbols and images such as language, ideology, dress and the media, that explain, express and reinforce, or sometimes oppose, those divisions
  3. Interactions between men and women, women and women and men and men which involve any form of dominance and submission. Conversational theorists, for example, have studied the way in which interruptions, turn taking and the setting of topics re-create gender inequality in the flow of ordinary talk
  4. The way in which the preceding three processes help to produce gendered components of individual identity. i.e. the way in which they create and maintain an image of a gendered self
  5. Gender is implicated in the fundamental, ongoing processes of creating and conceptualising social structures.
Looking at gender through a Foucauldian lens, gender is transfigured into a vehicle for the social division of power.[citation needed] Gender difference is merely a construct of society used to enforce the distinctions made between that which is assumed to be male and female,[citation needed] and allow for the domination of masculinity over femininity through the attribution of specific gender-related characteristics.[citation needed] "The idea that men and women are more different from one another than either is from anything else, must come from something other than nature… far from being an expression of natural differences, exclusive gender identity is the suppression of natural similarities."[75]
Gender conventions play a large role in attributing masculine and feminine characteristics to a fundamental biological sex.[citation needed] Socio-cultural codes and conventions, the rules by which society functions, and which are both a creation of society as well as a constituting element of it, determine the allocation of these specific traits to the sexes. These traits provide the foundations for the creation of hegemonic gender difference. It follows then, that gender can be assumed as the acquisition and internalisation of social norms. Individuals are therefore socialised through their receipt of society’s expectations of ‘acceptable’ gender attributes which are flaunted within institutions such as the family, the state and the media. Such a notion of ‘gender’ then becomes naturalised into a person’s sense of self or identity, effectively imposing a gendered social category upon a sexed body.[76]
The conception that people are gendered rather than sexed also coincides with Judith Butler’s theories of gender performativity. Butler argues that gender is not an expression of what one is, but rather something that one does.[77] It follows then, that if gender is acted out in a repetitive manner it is in fact re-creating and effectively embedding itself within the social consciousness. Contemporary sociological reference to male and female gender roles typically uses masculinities and femininities in the plural rather than singular, suggesting diversity both within cultures as well as across them.
From the 'evidence', it can only be concluded that gender is socially constructed and each individual is unique in their gender characteristics, regardless of which biological sex they are as every child is socialised to behave a certain way and have the ‘proper’ gender attributes. If individuals in society do not conform to this pressure, they are destined to be treated as abnormal; therefore it is personally greatly beneficial for them to cooperate in the determined ‘correct’ ordering of the world. In fact, the very construct of society is a product of and produces gender norms. There is bias in applying the word ‘gender’ to anyone in a finite way; rather each person is endowed with certain gender characteristics. The world cannot be egalitarian while there are ‘assigned’ genders and individuals are not given the right to express any gender characteristic they desire.
The difference between the sociological and popular definitions of gender involve a different dichotomy and focus. For example the sociological approach to "gender" (social roles: male versus female) will focus on the difference in (economic/ power) position between a male CEO (disregarding the fact that he is heterosexual or homosexual) to female workers in his employ (disregarding whether they are straight or gay). However the popular sexual self-conception approach (self-conception: gay versus straight) will focus on the different self-conceptions and social conceptions of those who are gay/straight, in comparison with those who are straight (disregarding what might be vastly differing economic and power positions between male and female groups in each category). There is then, in relation to definition of and approaches to "gender", a tension between historic feminist sociology and contemporary homosexual sociology.[78]

Legal status

A person's sex as male or female has legal significance — sex is indicated on government documents, and laws provide differently for men and women. Many pension systems have different retirement ages for men or women. Marriage is usually only available to opposite-sex couples.
The question then arises as to what legally determines whether someone is male or female. In most cases this can appear obvious, but the matter is complicated for intersexual or transgender people. Different jurisdictions have adopted different answers to this question. Almost all countries permit changes of legal gender status in cases of intersexualism, when the gender assignment made at birth is determined upon further investigation to be biologically inaccurate — technically, however, this is not a change of status per se. Rather, it is recognition of a status which was deemed to exist, but unknown, from birth. Increasingly, jurisdictions also provide a procedure for changes of legal gender for transgendered people.
Gender assignment, when there are indications that genital sex might not be decisive in a particular case, is normally not defined by a single definition, but by a combination of conditions, including chromosomes and gonads. Thus, for example, in many jurisdictions a person with XY chromosomes but female gonads could be recognized as female at birth.
The ability to change legal gender for transgender people in particular has given rise to the phenomena in some jurisdictions of the same person having different genders for the purposes of different areas of the law. For example, in Australia prior to the Re Kevin decisions, transsexual people could be recognized as having the genders they identified with under many areas of the law, including social security law, but not for the law of marriage. Thus, for a period, it was possible for the same person to have two different genders under Australian law.
It is also possible in federal systems for the same person to have one gender under state law and a different gender under federal law.
The first person of "neutral" gender (that is, neither man or woman in legal terms) is Norrie May-Welby, from Australia, whose status was set on March, 2010.

Gender and development

Gender, and particularly the role of women is widely recognized as vitally important to international development issues.[citation needed] This often means a focus on gender-equality, ensuring participation, but includes an understanding of the different roles and expectation of the genders within the community.[citation needed]
The Overseas Development Institute has highlighted that policy dialogue on the Millennium Development Goals needs to recognise that the gender dynamics of power, poverty, vulnerability and care link all the goals.[79]
As well as directly addressing inequality, attention to gender issues is regarded as important to the success of development programs, for all participants.[citation needed] For example, in microfinance it is common to target women, as besides the fact that women tend to be over-represented in the poorest segments of the population, they are also regarded as more reliable at repaying the loans.[citation needed]
Some organizations working in developing countries and in the development field have incorporated advocacy and empowerment for women into their work. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization adopted in November 2009 a 10-year strategic framework that includes the strategic objective of gender equity in access to resources, goods, services and decision-making in rural areas, and mainstreams gender equity in all FAO's programmes for agriculture and rural development.[80] The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) has developed a Gender Evaluation Methodology for planning and evaluating development projects to ensure they benefit all sectors of society including women.[81]
The Gender-related Development Index (GDI), developed by the United Nations (UN), aims to show the inequalities between men and women in the following areas: long and healthy life, knowledge, and a decent standard of living.

Gender and poverty

Gender inequality has a great impact especially on women and poverty. In poverty stricken countries it is more likely that men have more opportunities to have an income, have more political and social rights than women. Women experience more poverty than men do due to gender discrimination.
Gender and Development (GAD) is a holistic approach to give aid to countries where gender inequality has a great effect of not improving the social and economic development. It is to empower women and decrease the level of inequality between men and women.[82]


In Taoism, yin and yang are considered feminine and masculine, respectively.
In Judaism, God is traditionally described in the masculine, but in the mystical tradition of the Kabbalah, the Shekhinah represents the feminine aspect of God's essence. However, Judaism traditionally holds that God is completely non-corporeal, and thus neither male nor female. Conceptions of the gender of God notwithstanding, traditional Judaism places a strong emphasis on individuals following traditional gender roles, though many modern denominations of Judaism strive for greater egalitarianism.
In Christianity, God is described in masculine terms and the Church has historically been described in feminine terms. On the other hand, Christian theology in many churches distinguishes between the masculine images used of God (Father, King, God the Son) and the reality they signify, which transcends gender, embodies all the virtues of both genders perfectly, and is the creator of both human sexes. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is treated with the neuter pronoun. Hebrew speaking Christians like the Ebionites used the female gender for the Holy Spirit.
One of the several forms of the Hindu God Shiva, is Ardhanarishwar (literally half-female God). Here Shiva manifests himself so that the left half is Female and the right half is Male. The left represents Shakti (energy, power) in the form of Goddess Parvati (otherwise his consort) and the right half Shiva. Whereas Parvati is the cause of arousal of Kama (desires), Shiva is the killer. Shiva is pervaded by the power of Parvati and Parvati is pervaded by the power of Shiva.
While the stone images may seem to represent a half-male and half-female God, the true symbolic representation is of a being the whole of which is Shiva and the whole of which is Shakti at the same time. It is a 3-D representation of only shakti from one angle and only Shiva from the other. Shiva and Shakti are hence the same being representing a collective of Jnana (knowledge) and Kriya (activity). Adi Shankaracharya, the founder of non-dualistic philosophy (Advaita–"not two") in Hindu thought says in his "Saundaryalahari"—Shivah Shaktayaa yukto yadi bhavati shaktah prabhavitum na che devum devona khalu kushalah spanditam api " i.e., It is only when Shiva is united with Shakti that He acquires the capability of becoming the Lord of the Universe. In the absence of Shakti, He is not even able to stir. In fact, the term "Shiva" originated from "Shva," which implies a dead body. It is only through his inherent shakti that Shiva realizes his true nature.
This mythology projects the inherent view in ancient Hinduism, that each human carries within himself both male and female components, which are forces rather than sexes, and it is the harmony between the creative and the annihilative, the strong and the soft, the proactive and the passive, that makes a true person. Such thought, leave alone entail gender equality, in fact obliterates any material distinction between the male and female altogether. This may explain why in ancient India we find evidence of homosexuality, bisexuality, androgyny, multiple sex partners and open representation of sexual pleasures in artworks like the Khajuraho temples, being accepted within prevalent social frameworks.[83]

Other uses

The word gender is used in several contexts to describe binary differences, more or less loosely associated by analogy with various actual or perceived differences between men and women.


Natural languages often make gender distinctions. These may be of various kinds.
  • Grammatical gender is a property of some languages in which every noun is assigned a gender, often with no direct relation to its meaning. For example, the word for "girl" is es:muchacha (grammatically feminine) in Spanish, de:Mädchen (grammatically neuter) in German, and ga:cailín (grammatically masculine) in Irish.
  • The term “grammatical gender” is often applied to more complex noun class systems. This is especially true when a noun class system includes masculine and feminine as well as some other non-gender features like animate, edible, manufactured, and so forth. An example of the latter is found in the Dyirbal language. A system traditionally called “gender” is found in the Ojibwe language which distinguishes between animate and inanimate, but since this does not exhibit a masculine/feminine distinction it might be better described by “noun class”. Likewise, Sumerian distinguishes between personal (human and divine) and impersonal (all other) noun classes, but these classes have traditionally been known as genders.
  • Several languages attest the use of different vocabulary by men and women, to differing degrees. See, for instance, Gender differences in spoken Japanese. The oldest documented language, Sumerian, records a distinctive sub-language only used by female speakers. Conversely, many Indigenous Australian languages have distinctive registers with limited lexis used by men in the presence of their mothers-in-law (see Avoidance speech).
  • Most languages include terms that are used asymmetrically in reference to men and women. Concern that current language may be biased in favor of men has led some authors in recent times to argue for the use of a more Gender-neutral vocabulary in English and other languages.

Connectors, pipe fittings, and fasteners

In electrical and mechanical trades and manufacturing, and in electronics, each of a pair of mating connectors or fasteners (such as nuts and bolts) is conventionally assigned the designation male or female. The assignment is by direct analogy with mammalian genitalia; the part bearing one or more protrusions, or which is inserted into the other, is designated male and the part containing the corresponding indentations or fitting over or outside the other is female.
This kind of male-female distinction is known as gender (not sex) of connectors and fastners. It provides an example of a technical use of the term gender that evokes association with the physiology, rather than sociology, of male-female differences. Extension of the analogy results in the verb to mate being used to describe connecting two ends together.
Although the gender of tubing and plumbing fittings is usually obvious, this is not true of electrical connectors because of their more complex and varying constructions. Instead, connector gender is conventionalized and thus can be somewhat obscure to the uninitiated. For example, the female D-subminiature connector extends outward from the body, and this protrusion could be erroneously construed as male. Instead, the masculinity of the D-subminiature connectors is defined by specific presence of pins, rather than by the protrusion of the connector, which is also true for many other pin-based connectors like XLR. The male/female distinction is more obvious with ring connectors which are placed around a post, but again with spade or split ring connectors the end alone is not obviously female. Finally, some connectors are hermaphroditic and include both male and female elements in a single unit, such as the IBM token ring connector and the SAE connector; hermaphroditic connections also exist in some specialized tubing fittings.
Devices used for mating two connectors of the same gender have a wide variety of terms, including for example: "gender changer", "gender mender", "gender bender", "gender blender", "sex changer", and the somewhat officious sounding "homosexual adapter".[84] A specific gender changer can be referred to by either the gender of its connectors, or the gender for which it is designed to connect to. Thus a "male gender changer" might have female connectors to mate two male ends, or male connectors to mate two female ends.
The standard letters "M" and "F" are commonly used in part numbers to designate gender. For example, in Switchcraft XLR microphone or hydrophone connectors, the part numbers are denoted as follows:
  • A3F = Audio 3-pin Female connector;
  • A3M = Audio 3-pin Male connector.
A cable that has A3F on both ends or A3M on both ends is sometimes referred to as a "gay cable" or "gay cord". The term "homosexual" is also sometimes encountered, generally with humorous intent.
In plumbing fittings, the "M" or "F" usually comes at the beginning rather than the end. For example:
  • MIP denotes Male International Pipe thread;
  • FIP denotes Female International Pipe thread.
A "gay" male pipe (for example, a short length of pipe having an MIP at both ends) is sometimes called a "nipple".[85]
  • MIP sometimes stands for Male Iron Pipe- it is tapered pipe thread with open end narrow, back end bigger.
  • FIP sometimes stands for female Iron Pipe fitting, that goes into MIP. It is not as tapered as MIP. As FIP fitting is inserted into MIP fitting, as the nut is turned, the FIP will pinch into MIP at closed end, making a tight seal. This sometimes is contrast to Compression fitting. The difference is in the tapering of the thread.
A compression fitting has a normal thread (like a screw) and relies on an olive style ferret (soft copper which compresses) or more commonly a tap washer (fibre or rubber) to provide a watertight seal. So for attaching to most taps (plastic or steel) you'd use this, and remember to put a washer on! Normally the male threaded member has a blund end that the washer sits against. Or if it's to fit to a copper pipe, you stick on an olive, which then squashes against two bevelled edges and holds the pipe watertight.
A female iron connection has a tapered thread - which thins out to the end of the pipe. As you tighten against it, the ever-decreasing thread depth means that the connection becomes watertight. You'd not use an olive or washer here - instead you use a bit of ptfe tape Telfon tape wrapped around the thread. So for attaching to radiator bodies you normally have this sort of joint, where you have a hard (non-malleable) material to join to.


In western music theory, keys, chords, and scales are often described as having major or minor tonality, sometimes related to masculine and feminine.[citation needed] By analogy, the major scales are masculine (clear, open, extroverted), while the minor scales are given feminine qualities (dark, soft, introverted). German uses the word Tongeschlecht ("Tone gender") for tonality, and the words Dur (from Latin durus, hard) for major and moll (from Latin mollis, soft) for minor. See Major and minor.

See also



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  84. ^ Jargon File: gender mender
  85. ^ Chrome Fittings & Nipples
Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Thinking Gender. New York & London: Routledge, 1990.

Further reading

  • Chafetz, JS. Masculine/Feminine or Human? An Overview of the Sociology of Sex Roles. Itasca, Illinois: F. E. Peacock, 1974 (1st ed.), 1978 (2nd ed.). ISBN 0875812317. OCLC 4348310. 
  • Lepowsky, Maria. Fruit of the Motherland: Gender in an Egalitarian Society. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. ISBN 0231081200. OCLC 28183522. 
  • Lerro, Bruce "Power in Eden: The Emergence of Gender Hierarchies in the Ancient World", 2005, Trafford Publishing . ISBN 1412021413. 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote


  • "...our notions of what a human being is problematically depend on there being two coherent genders. And if someone doesn't comply with either the masculine norm or the feminine norm, their very humaness is called into question."
  • "As far as I'm concerned, being any gender is a drag." ~ Patti Smith, quoted in Levine, Martin P. (1998). Gay Macho, New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0814746942.
  • "Women forgive but never forget; men forget but never forgive." ~ Robert Jordan, in the Wheel of Time series
  • "The real problem between the sexes is that for men, sex is a gender-underliner, they need it for their egos. We don’t need sex to make us feel we are the person we need to be." ~ Carol Clewlow, British authoress. From her interview in The Observer newspaper, 19th February 1989
  • People are born female or male but learn to be girls and boys who grow into women and men. This learned behaviour makes up gender identity and determines gender roles. ~ Taken from the World Health Organisation Website, The Dept. of Gender, Women and Health (GWH), ‘Integrating gender analysis and actions into the work of WHO.’
  • "For the female of the species is more deadly than the male." ~ Rudyard Kipling ‘The Female of the Species’, Rudyard Kipling’s Verse (1919)
  • "Man is a ribald—Man’s a rake,
    Man is Nature’s sole mistake!" ~ W. S. Gilbert, Princess Ida, Act II


  • "You have got to be a man—or else you are a woman!"
    • Swami Raj
  • "...modelling is a form of pornography. The beauty shows have been a major platform for the reduction of women from full human beings into mere objects to be admired".
    • Asher Mutsengi, They reduce women into objects.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

Nuvola apps biology.png Subject classification: this is a biology resource .
Psi2.png Subject classification: this is a psychology resource .
Gender previously was refered to as the nonpysiological aspects of being female or male - the cultural expectations for femininity or masculinity.
Today, gender is used to discuss male-female differences that may be caused by any combination of environment and biology. Also, it is used as a label for the system of expectations held by societies with respect for feminine and masculine roles.
It is only appropriate to disclose the definition for sex, as it pertains to gender, in order to allow an indiviudal to grasp the full meaning of gender. Hence, sex used to refer to a person's biological maleness or femaleness. Today, sex encompasses and is rather reserved for discussions of anatomy, as well as the classification of indiviudals based on their anatomical category.
What is more, gender and sex together, as well as their stereotypes are an intriguing topic, which is further evaluated at the following link: SexandGender.

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|The gender symbols often used to represent a female (left) or male (right)]] Gender means 'type'. It is a word commonly used for a person's sex (male or female). When people use the word gender in this way, it is often because sex has many other meanings, making it easy to misunderstand.

In social sciences, there is a difference between 'sex' and 'gender':

  • The word 'sex' describes someone's body. It says whether someone is physically male or female.
  • The word 'gender' describes someone's personality or character. It says if someone feels or acts more like a female (feminine) or more like a male (masculine).

Other pages

Citable sentences

Up to date as of November 30, 2010

Here are sentences from other pages on Sex, which are similar to those in the above article.

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