Sociology of gender is a branch of sociology concerned primarily with the roles of gender and sex in society. Typically, the focus of this type of sociology is on the ways in which gender roles play out in a given society and the relevant categories relating to gender in that society. In most cases, sociology focuses not only on describing elements of various societies, but also on the reasons those categories and situations exist. Studies of gender in a sociological lens may focus on the distribution of power as it relates to gender, as well as the ways in which gender stratification occurs.
One complicated aspect of the sociology of gender is the use of the term gender in this discipline. In the social sciences, there is typically a distinction made between biological sex and social gender. This distinction is not recognized in all sociological texts, and it is important to figure out what type of gender, either biological or social, is being discussed in a given sociological theory. There are also debates within this field of sociology questioning whether gender, even when discussed as a social construct, is entirely free from biological input. In most cases, sociology of gender studies primarily social aspects of gender, which at least partially relate in most cases to physical sex.
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The development of the sociology of gender is closely related to feminist theories and other types of sociology with highly important gender roles. For example, the sociology of the family is closely related to the sociology of gender because of the way in which families often play out gendered roles. Feminist theory often gives this type of sociology a focus on systematic oppression of women, both in commonly recognized and often obscured ways. Sociology of this type may focus on how people learn gender roles, but this type of study often blurs the line between sociology and, for example, psychology.
In many cases, sociology of gender is concerned with the ways in which societies create gender. The idea that genders are not the same across cultures is often difficult for beginners to understand, but this is clearly demonstrated by the fact that there are some cultures with three genders and two biological sexes. By looking at how genders are created socially, it is reasoned, it is possible to elucidate ways in which gender stratification leads to inequalities or hidden disadvantages.
Given the close ties between the sociology of gender and feminism, this type of sociology often focuses on women. It is important to recognize, however, that masculinity is also constructed socially. The sociology of gender has the potential to look at all ways in which gender is constructed and used from a sociological standpoint, but topics involving power and social roles are most popular.