Gender 101


The terms and concepts presented here are grouped under two general headings: Gender Sensitivity and Gender Mainstreaming. The first grouping consists of basic concepts that a person preparing for GAD work should learn, while the second grouping includes concepts related to "doing GAD" work. They are annotated definitions gathered from different GAD resource materials listed as an annex at the end of the chapter. Most of these resource materials are also used as sources and references in the lecture-discussions.

Gender Sensitivity


  • A conscientization strategy concerned with increasing people's sensitivity to the implications of gender inequality, and demanding that problems of gender discrimination be identified and overcome in policies and programs.

  • Advocacy entails an activist and assertive form of gender awareness, vigilance that gender issues are not overlooked, and persistence that gender issues be addressed.

Affirmative Action

  • A policy action that favors marginalized groups in society, such as women. While it is a special measure, it is not considered discriminatory since it aims to accelerate the attainment of equality between the dominant and marginalized groups.

  • Affirmative action should not result in unequal or separate standards and must be continued even when the objectives of equality of opportunity and treatment have been achieved. An example of an affirmative action is allocating 50 percent of top positions in the bureaucracy to women as an acknowledgment that sociopolitical conditions exist which prevent women from ascending to those positions.

Biological Determinism

  • A theory that biological differences between women and men dictate a difference in social roles and personality, and that these differences reinforce the notion that men are superior and women are inferior.

Class vs Status

  • Class refers to the degree to which one has access to social and economic resources, with the upper class having the greatest access and the lower and middle classes having proportionately less. It is typically measured by a person's income or the relative status of her or his occupation. Status, or prestige, is the social value attached to one's position in the class hierarchy.

Condition vs Position

  • Condition refers to women's perceptible or objective state. It is the state of their relationship with their surroundings and immediate sphere of experience. Position refers to their social and economic standing relative to men.

If a woman is asked to describe her life, she would probably describe her condition through the kind of work she does, what her family's immediate needs are, such as clean water, food, and education for her children, and where she lives. Her position, on the other hand, is characterized by the disparities in wages and job employment between women and men, participation in political activities, economic, political and social status in society, vulnerability to poverty and violence, and so on.



Consciousness Raising

  • The process of making people aware of the lower status of women and the possibility of raising this status.

  • A practice, usually in the form of sharing sessions among women, that is helpful in politicizing them and premised on the perception that the "personal is political."

  • A way to enhance people's perception of unequal gender relations.

  • A process of creating awareness of women's issues and the disadvantaged status of women in society.

  • A group of activities, including gender sensitivity training, that results in greater awareness of a problem's roots and its macro and micro linkages and the need for collective action on gender issues.


Consciousness raising has three functions:

  • It provides women with both political insight and moral support in confronting gender issues affecting their lives.

  • It reveals to the women who take part, through a reappraisal of their personal experience, their common oppression by men, thereby fostering a new and militant solidarity among them.

  • It is a source of collective knowledge about women where they first come to understand the importance of gender issues.

Gender consciousness raising has tree subcomponents: conscientization, gender awareness, and gender sensitivity.


Disadvantaged Position of Women

  • Women's social status as a result of their being marginalized and subordinated.


  • Overt behavior in which people are given different and unfavorable treatment on the basis of their race, class, sex, and cultural status.

  • Any practice, policy or procedure that denies equality of treatment to an individual or group

  • In the terminology of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, it is any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex, which has the purpose or effect of denying equal exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields of human endeavor.

Double / Multiple Burden

  • A situation referring to the heavy workload of women and the many, overlapping tasks involved, which if computed in terms of hours would total more than 24 hours. This workload consists of unpaid reproductive work, paid productive work, community management, and all other work necessary for the survival of the family


Woman's traditional role, especially if she is a wife and mother, is to stay home, manage the household and take care of the family. However, because of economic realities, more and more women have joined the labor force. Yet, even as they spend essentially the same working hours as the men outside the home, housework and child care are still primarily women's concern. As a result, women carry a double burden in terms of longer hours and a wider scope of responsibility. They are also expected to participate in sociocultural activities such as in church and civic organizations, and other community involvement. Women's work in the home, in the labor force and in the community is a multiple burden that is not experienced by men.




  • A worldwide movement that seeks to raise women's political, economic and social status and fights for gender equality in all aspects of life in all societies. The concepts underlying feminism continue to evolve according to the socioeconomic, political and cultural context in which the movement is taking place.


Feminism has four general streams:

  • Liberal feminism emphasizes social and legal reforms through policies designed to create equal opportunities for women, thereby assuming that changes in socialization practices and the reeducation of the public will result in more liberated and egalitarian gender relations. It underpins mainstreaming efforts that lead to extensive changes in women's legal rights and status.

  • Marxist feminism sees capitalism's class relations as the root cause of the oppression, exploitation and discrimination experienced by women. Under capitalism, the family system characteristic of modern societies can socialize or force women into unpaid domestic labor that benefits men. Marxist feminism, in contrast, does not see men per se as the "enemy" -- both working class women and men are exploited by capitalism, which must be overthrown to create a more equal and equitable society. It asserts that, except for their sex, working class women have more in common with working class men than with upper class women.

  • Socialist feminism sees the origins of women's oppression in the systems of patriarchy and capitalism. It underscores how the relations between capital and patriarchy bring about women's subordinate status. There is, therefore, a need to transform capitalism simultaneously with the struggle against male domination and to surface the gender perspective in all social, political, economic and cultural issues. Socialist feminism, especially for women in developing countries, has worked at overcoming gender blindness in the struggle for development and against shared oppression of women due to class, race, religion or citizenship.

  • Radical feminism looks at gender as the primary form of oppression and sees class and race as extensions of patriarchal domination. Most of its strategies are focused on reshaping consciousness and redefining social relations to create a woman-centered culture. Sometimes featuring a rigid rejection of men as a dominant class, radical feminism emphasizes the positive capacities of women by focusing on the creative dimensions of women's experiences. It also serves as the cutting edge of the women's movement, exploring vast tracks of unknown grounds in seeking women's liberation.

While theoretically there is a clear delineation among these four streams of feminism, in practice there is much interplay and sharing of common ground. Also, various "strands" of feminism have emerged over the past decades, some of which are:

  • Cultural feminism, which contends that there are fundamental personality differences between women and men, and that sexism can be overcome by celebrating women's special qualities, women's ways and women's experiences. Cultural feminists believe that women's ways are better, and that propagating these ways would make the world a better place. For example, there would be no more war if women were to rule nations, because women have a gentler, kinder nature.

  • Ecofeminism, which rests on the basic principle that patriarchy is harmful to women, children and other living beings, and often draws from parallelism between a male-dominated society's exploitative treatment of the environment and its resources, and its treatment of women.

  • Moderate feminism, a brand of feminism generally supported by younger women who have not directly experienced discrimination. It questions the need for further effort toward equality and thinks that feminism is no longer viable. Women of this group most likely espouse feminist thoughts and principles while denying that they are feminists.

  • Postfeminism, which relates to the principles and attitudes formed in the wake of the feminist ideas of the 1960s and subsequent decades. Some see the postfeminist period as the era in which women enjoy the fruits of their mothers' and elder sisters' struggles but ignore or reject the ideals from which they emerged. Others regard it as the period where women are freed from the shackles of doctrine, such as feminism, and where there is a reformed consciousness of women's rights on the part of men as well as women.

  • Prolife feminism, which does not support women's right to abortion and assails society's prejudice against mothers, especially single women, by giving a way out of motherhood. It maintains that women should have the tools they need to succeed financially and socially and be mothers as well. These tools include affordable, readily available child care, a workplace or school that addresses the needs of mothers, including flexible schedule and maternity leave, and welfare programs that actually work toward reintegrating mothers into the workplace.

Feminism is finally a continuous evolution of praxis based on one's concrete conditions and life experiences, and feminists journey from one side of the theoretical spectrum to the other, to make the struggle real and relevant to a particular time and space.


GAD Advocate

  • One who supports, defends, pleads or recommends active espousal of gender and development principles, objectives and processes.

Gender and Sex

  • Sex refers to the natural distinguishing variable based on biological characteristics of being a woman or a man. It refers to physical attributes pertaining to a person's body contours, features, genitals, hormones, genes, chromosomes and reproductive organs. Gender refers to roles, attitudes and values assigned by culture and society to women and men. These roles, attitudes and values define the behaviors of women and men and the relationship between them. They are created and maintained by social institutions such as families, governments, communities, schools, churches and media. Because of gender, certain roles, traits and characteristics are assigned or ascribed distinctly and strictly to women or to men.


The term gender, as it is now used in gender training, was first used as a phrase, "the social relations of gender," which later evolved simply into gender. The social relations of gender seeks to explain the unevenness in male/female relations - noted worldwide -- in terms of sex roles in power sharing, decision making, the division of labor, and return to labor both within the household and in society, among others. It focuses on the attributes acquired in the process of socialization: our self and group definitions, our sense of appropriate roles, values and behaviors, and, above all, expected and acceptable interactions in relationships between women and men.


Gender Awareness

  • The ability to identify problems arising from gender inequality and discrimination, even if these are not evident on the surface and are "hidden," or are not part of the general and commonly accepted explanation of what and where the problem lies. Gender awareness means a high level of gender conscientization.

Gender Division of Labor

  • The allocation of differential tasks, roles, responsibilities and activities to women and men according to what is considered socially and culturally appropriate.


The production/reproduction divide, or the public/private dichotomy, illustrates the gender division of labor. Production, which is paid work done outside the home and in the public arena, is usually attributed to men because of their role as primary breadwinner for the family. Reproduction, on the other hand, is unpaid, domestic work assigned primarily to women and may include such tasks as managing the household, doing household chores, taking care of and nurturing children and other family members. This is mostly done within the private domain of the home.


Gender Equality vs Gender Equity

  • Gender equality means that women and men enjoy the same status and conditions and have equal opportunity for realizing their potential to contribute to the political, economic, social and cultural development of their countries. They should also benefit equally from the results of development. Gender equity moves beyond a focus on equal treatment. It means giving to those who have less on the basis of needs, and taking steps to compensate for historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from otherwise operating on a level playing field. Equity can be understood as the means, and equality is the end. Equity leads to equality.


The Philippine Constitution provides: "The State recognizes the role of women in nation building and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men." Strategic measures have been adopted to ensure this. Laws enshrining women's right to equality have been enacted. However, laws alone do not guarantee gender equality. For example, Republic Act 6752 prohibits discrimination with respect to terms and conditions of employment. But in work requiring physical effort, the usual practice is to favor male applicants. Because of this unequal condition, equity should be applied to open this particular work opportunity to women. Another example of an equity measure is affirmative action that assigns women a specific share of high positions in government or scholarships and training grants. Gender equity, as a goal requires that specific measurements and monitoring are employed to ensure that, at a minimum, policies, programs and projects do not leave women worse off than other sections of the population, especially the men in their peer group and families.


Gender-Fair Society

  • A society where women and men share equally in responsibilities, power, authority and decision making.

Gender Gap

  • The gap between women and men in terms of how they benefit from education, employment, services, and so on.

Gender Ideology

  • Ideology is a complex structure of beliefs, values, attributes, and ways of perceiving and analyzing social reality based on religious doctrines, pseudoscientific theories, and political aims. It serves two distinct purposes: a) to justify the existing social order; and b) to co-opt and obtain the consent and participation of all members of society, including the oppressed, in their predetermined purposes. Gender ideology is based on the pseudoscientific theory of biological determinism.


Gender ideology plays an effective role in legitimizing inequality and perpetuating the unjust power structure of patriarchy that has constructed culture-specific justifications for the subordination of women. By co-opting women and making them instruments of their own subordination, patriarchy has penetrated virtually every society, and survived largely unchallenged for thousands of years. Gender ideology is widely disseminated and enforced through a complex web of social institutions such as the family, the educational system, religion, culture and the media, and economic and political structures like the market, the state and its bureaucracy, law enforcement mechanisms, and the military.


Gender Roles vs Sex Roles

  • Gender roles are culturally defined attitudes, behaviors and social positions that are based on sex. Sex roles are those that are based on an occupation, such as being a housewife, or a biological function, such as motherhood.


Child rearing is generally considered a woman's role. It is actually a gender role because child rearing must involve both women and men. Pregnancy, on the other hand, is a sex role because only women have the ability to bear children.


Gender Sensitivity

  • The ability to recognize gender issues and to recognize women's different perceptions and interests arising from their different social position and gender roles.


Gender sensitivity is often used to mean the same as gender awareness. But it is actually the beginning of gender awareness, which is more analytical and critical, questions gender disparities, and motivates one toward actions to address gender issues.


Gender Stereotyping

  • Society's perceptions and value systems that instill an image of women as weak, dependent, subordinate, indecisive, emotional and submissive. Men, on the other hand, are strong, independent, powerful, dominant, decisive and logical. Unexamined images, ideas or beliefs associated with a particular group that have become fixed in a person's mind and are not open to change. For example, women's roles, functions and abilities are seen to be primarily tied to the home.

Gender Subordination

  • Submission, sometimes due to force or violence, or being under the authority of one sex. It often results in women having no control over available resources and having no personal autonomy.


  • Women being considered a nonessential force in the economy despite their crucial role in production. Their contributions to development remain unrecognized or undervalued.


Certain approaches promote women's participation in development through traditional programs and projects. Some of these are: improving maternal and child care, setting up day care centers, and carrying out nutrition activities. This perspective maintains women's concerns within these traditional areas so that their needs and potentials in other areas, particularly in the economic sector, remain undervalued. Hence, women's full development as a distinct resource of society is not achieved.


Multiple Roles of Women

  • The reproductive, productive, community management and constituency-based politics roles assigned to women. The reproductive role involves childbearing, child rearing, and household management. The productive role involves income-earning activities whether in the formal or informal sector. Community management roles, most of which are performed on a voluntary basis, deal with activities done by women to maintain the community to which they belong. Women's role in constituency-based politics includes participation in decision making and organizations at all political levels of government and civil society.


  • The "rule of the father," or a universal political structure that favors men over women. It was originally used by anthropologists to describe the social structure in which one old man, the patriarch, has absolute power over everyone else in the family.

  • Male domination of political power and domination that maintains an unjust system for the benefit of the rulers at the expense of the ruled.


In a patriarchal system, men occupy positions of dominance and control over women. Men, as husbands and fathers, rule with unchallenged authority the lives of women and children in their family. Sexual differentiation pervades all activities, experiences and opportunities.


"The Personal is Political"

  • A phrase invented by the women's liberation movement to describe its basic approach: "We regard our personal experience, and our feelings about that experience, as the basis for an analysis of our common situation." It affirms the notion that people themselves make an analysis of their situation that will lead them to action.

  • A slogan reflecting how women discovered that problems they had once thought to be personal and private were shared by women in general, setting in train a process of placing women's shared experiences in a political framework that challenged existing power relations between women and men.

Public/Private Dichotomy

  • A distinction that serves to maintain the division of the economy into production and reproduction functions. Production work occurs in the public arena and is given value. Goods and services in this sector are fully recognized, remunerated, and reflected in official statistics. Outputs in the reproductive or domestic sphere, however, do not have any value and are considered as merely sustaining the requirements of those in the productive sector.


The public sphere is usually regarded as the domain of men, who are perceived to have a primary status in society because they perform what are considered major functions. Men's exposure in the public sector makes them the dominant gender in all spheres of life. They are able to participate fully in economic, political and cultural endeavors. Women, however, are relegated to the private arena of the home. They take on reproductive functions which are regarded as secondary pursuits.



  • The system and practice of discriminating against a person on the basis of sex.

  • Prejudice against women, regarding women as stereotypes, defining them with regard to their sexual availability and attractiveness to men, and all conscious or unconscious assumptions which lead to the treatment of women as being not fully human.

Violence Against Women

  • Any act of gender-based violence that results 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 private life.


Violence against women may be any of the following:

  • physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, incest, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, violence by a person other than one's spouse, and violence related to exploitation;

  • physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, and trafficking in women and forced prostitution;

  • physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, such as custodial rape and torture done to women prisoners;

  • violation of women's human rights in situations of armed conflict, in particular murder, systematic rape, sexual slavery, and forced pregnancy; and

  • acts of violence such as forced abortion, coercive or forced use of contraceptives, female infanticide, and prenatal sex selection in which the fetus is aborted if tests reveal it to be female.



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