Sex and gender, sex-role stereotypes. Androgyny and measuring androgyny including the Bem Sex Role Inventory

Sex or Gender? – AO1, Description:

Why is it important to make the distinction? In everyday life, the terms sex and gender are often used interchangeably suggesting they are one and the same. Sex and gender are however, distinct and separate concepts.


  • Biological status
  • Chromosomes (influencing hormonal differences)
  • Innate/Genetic
  • Nature
  • Fact cannot be changed without surgery



  • Psychosocial concept
  • Masculine / feminine
  • Can be influenced by social norms & culture
  • At least partly environmentally determined
  • Fluid open to change


Sex-Role Stereotypes

  • Sex-role stereotypes are a set of shared expectations that people within a society/culture hold about what is acceptable or usual behaviour for males and females.
  • These expectations are communicated throughout society and may be reinforcement by family, friends, media, schools etc.
  • Few sex-role stereotypes contain any truth; in fact, they are much more likely to lead to sexist assumptions e.g. women don’t have the capacity to hold jobs high in responsibility because they may become ‘over-emotional’ and men shouldn’t be the main carer for a child because they aren’t nurturing.


Research investigating sex-role stereotypes – AO1, Descripion:

Furnham & Farragher (2000) conducted research on TV adverts. They found that men were more likely to be shown in autonomous roles within professional contexts, whereas women were often seen occupying familial roles within domestic settings.

This research can also be used as evaluation (AO3) to support the idea of sex-roles and stereotyping.


Sex-role Stereotype – Evaluation, AO3:


(1) Point: Real-life evidence indicates the existence of sex-role stereotypes Evidence: For example, Sood et al (2014) reported that only 12% of primary school teachers and 3% of nursery staff in Britain are male, due to early years teaching being seen as a female profession, their nurturing abilities and unsuitability of males thanks to their perception as intimidating and threatening. Elaboration: This is a strength because it shows that sex-role stereotypes exist, even today, and that they might be impacting on individuals’ job choices, this has a significant impact on society as these created ‘suitable job’ categories place restrictive barriers on positive roles both males and females could play.


(1) Point: There are difficulties in challenging negative sex-role stereotyping. Evidence: For example, illustrations of stereotypes tend to be over-emphasised as ‘typical behaviour’, for instance, girls crying, while similar behaviour in males is under-stressed as non-typical. Such ‘typical’ behaviours are then perceived as ‘natural’ differences. Elaboration: This means that sex-role stereotypes exist, and the perception of ‘natural’ differences reinforces the stereotype and makes it harder to break down.


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