This piece was originally published in Sightings by the The Martin Marty Center for the Public Understanding of Religion. Last month the New York Times reported that the Trump administration may seek to legally define sex as “a person’s status as male or female…
Feminism made the first strides in separating out gender and sex as different ideas. When we compare different cultures or even the same culture over a period of time, it is easy to see that the ideals for behavior and gender expectations change in various contexts.
The way a person carries him- or herself, whether it is appropriate to touch others of the same or opposite gender in the course of a conversation, whether one looks another in the eye or looks away–these behaviors are sometimes regulated by gender expectations and vary from culture to culture. A behavior that is considered masculine or feminine in one culture may not map in the same way to another culture.
In this section we'll review two contributions by theorist Judith Butler to the ongoing discussion of gender, sexualities, and biological sex.