The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018
Gender: A term referring to the perceived identities man and woman and the range of characteristics commonly associated with masculinity and femininity. Some contemporary gender critics also use the term to refer to various sexualities, perceived identities such as heterosexual, bisexual, and transgendered. While some critics, particularly certain feminist critics, tend to equate gender with sex, the biological designation of male or female, most critics distinguish the two, viewing gender as a social construct. Thus, gender is widely held to be a product of the mores, expectations, and stereotypes of a particular culture, and what it means to be “masculine” or “feminine” (rather than “male” or “female”) may vary from one culture to the next. Whether essentialists or constructionists, however, most critics agree that Western civilization has been predominantly patriarchal and has thus tended to extol the masculine and devalue the feminine, associating masculinity with “positive” traits such as activity and rationality and femininity with “negative” traits such as passivity and emotionality.