Womanliness. Traits, things, skills, and qualities typically associated with women. These change in time and are culture-specific. For instance, things like nurture, dolls, makeup, skirts, and the color pink are often described as feminine even though as late as the 18th century men too were expected to wear fancy clothes and show their emotions openly. All of us manifest some degree of femininity. Femininity is thus not directly linked to a person’s anatomy; rather, it is an ever-changing feature of a person, much like one’s style.
Manliness, associated with men. The opposite of femininity. In our culture things described as masculine are cars, technology, the color blue, and strength, for example. Masculinity and masculine traits are strongly culture-specific and time-specific, too. For instance, the color blue was considered more suitable for girls in the early 20th century. Masculinity – just like femininity – is a style that we all manifest in our personality to some degree.
Intersex is a general term for various congenital conditions where a child’s physical sex characteristics cannot be defined as belonging unambiguously to a girl or a boy. An intersex condition can be detected at birth or later, for instance in puberty. Sometimes an intersex condition is not detected in an individual’s lifetime. In Finland, 10–20 intersex children are born every year.
The word multiculturalism is generally used to refer to the current situation where immigration to Finland has been growing steadily during the past decades. Often the discussion is also connected to objectives aiming at managing the challenges brought about by immigration. In this project, the starting point is that the Finnish society has always been multicultural, i.e. consisting of and influenced by various different cultures. Multiculturalism can thus be understood as a broader term embracing the diversity of people in terms of language, culture, ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
Non-binary gender identity
A person who has a non-binary gender identity does not identify as unambiguously male or female. Non-binary people can consider themselves both male and female – or neither of the two. For some people, the term is used as a concept to denote a wish to be met and treated in a way deviating from the gender binary.
Rainbow family (LGBT family)
Refers to a family with children where one or more of the parents belong in a sexual or gender minority. Rainbow families come in all forms: they can be single-parent families, families with two parents, or families with different types of co-parenting settings where parenting is divided between different family units. The definition of the term is fluid and closely connected to the self-definition of families.
Stereotypes are rigid conceptions of different groups of people and their characteristics, often based on generalizations and oversimplifications. Even though generalizations are needed in order to facilitate discussion, stereotypes are often connected to prejudice and racism. Stereotypes can also be positive and can be employed when constructing one’s identity.
Instead of the male-female or girl-boy binary, gender can be understood as a spectrum where extreme masculinity is at one end and extreme femininity at the other. Regardless of the sex assigned to us at birth, everybody has the right to place themselves anywhere on the spectrum. Everybody also has the right to change that place.
Each year various children are born showing the artificial nature of a strict gender binary. See gender incongruence, non-binary gender identity, and intersex.
Sex & Gender
Sex and gender are two concepts that offer different yet overlapping definitions. Sex is biological in nature and refers to an individual’s internal and external genitalia, the amount of chromosomes they have as well as their hormonal levels.
Gender, on the other hand, is always socially constructed. It is a term that refers to the cultural and social conceptions that have traditionally been associated with masculinity and femininity in a society. These conceptions are concretely mirrored in the way men’s and women’s gender roles have traditionally been seen. Gender roles change in time and are culture-specific as demonstrated by the improvements in women’s rights in the 20th century, for instance. Cultural habits allow different things for different people. For instance, in some cultures with rigid gender roles, it is common for male friends to be affectionate with each other, hold hands, and kiss goodbye.
Gender experience refers to a person’s individual and personal experience of the kind of girl, boy, woman, man, or undefined person one is. One’s gender experience can also change during lifetime. An individual’s sex and gender are a diverse collection of different characteristics traditionally considered masculine or feminine. Others should always respect an individual’s experience and understand that the individual is an expert in issues relating to their sex and gender.
Used especially in psychological literature, gender atypicality is a concept referring to an individual who expresses their gender in ways that are considered typical for another gender. For example, a boy who plays with dolls or a girl who climbs trees might be seen as gender atypical. The concept is time-specific and culture-specific and its definition is not always straightforward.
Gender specific activities
Sometimes gender specific activities are organized, meaning they are only aimed at persons of one gender. Working in gender specific groups can be justified if the aim is to discuss sensitive issues mainly concerning a certain gender, for example. In this case, working with people of the same gender might offer the participants an opportunity to work with the group in an unconstrained and meaningful way. A good example would be a youth support group. On the other hand, transgender people may feel that gender specific activities exclude them. The challenge thus lies in the way people are divided in different groups: whether it is their gender identity or the sex assigned to them at birth that matters.
Gender neutrality aims for equality but in the end a neutral approach to gender ignores the various meanings of gender and leads to a way of thinking where providing exactly the same for everyone is thought to automatically bring about equality. In this case, the effects that the perceptions associated with gender roles have on the structures of organizations or society do not become visible. The concept also easily evokes an idea of genderlessness or making gender expression neutral. The term gender-neutral education can be used to refer to e.g. practices where all toys stereotypically used by one gender are removed from children’s learning environment.
Gender norms are perceptions of what kind of traits, behavior, or expression of one’s gender are acceptable, desirable or usual for a certain gender in a community. In most cases, these norms are unspoken and considered so self-evident that they feel natural. We are dealing with gender roles when we hear statements such as “boys don’t cry” or “all girls love pink”. An individual who cannot or does not want to conform to the norms can feel left out, which in turn can cause anxiety or feelings of inferiority. The cause of these unpleasant feelings is not the individual but the strict norms. Loosening the norms makes life easier for everybody, regardless of their gender identity. Norms can be reshaped in all everyday situations and encounters.
Gender incongruence means that a child, an adolescent, or an adult experiences incongruence between their assigned gender and experienced or expressed gender. The experience is so strong that one’s own body might evoke feelings of disgust or distress. In addition, social situations can be hurtful if one is treated in a way that does not match their gender experience. Being transsexual is an extreme form of gender incongruence.
Gender sensitivity refers to the recognition of the ways in which assumptions, prejudice, or perceptions associated with different genders in a given cultural and social context are visible in everyday activities and ways of speech. Gender sensitive educators understand the nature of gender roles as concepts that are changing and changeable in time. They also acknowledge the effects of stereotypical depictions of gender both on a societal and an individual level. This means, for instance, questioning everyday generalizations of gender such as “all girls like playing princess”. A gender sensitive educator understands that a child’s personality is always more than the sex they were assigned at birth.
Sometimes used as a synonym for gender sensitivity.
Equality of all genders means ensuring that all individuals have the same rights, possibilities, and responsibilities regardless of their gender identity or expression.
Sometimes used as a synonym for gender sensitive education.
Equality means that everybody is equal regardless of their sex, gender, age, ethnic or national background, nationality, language, religion, belief, opinion, disability, health, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics. Equality, including gender equality, is a fundamental right.