It is essential to grasp the sex/gender distinction and to use the relevant terms accurately. For example:
- 1. A conference on “Sex Differences in Pain“ would address biological determinants of pain perception between women and men. A conference on “Gender Differences in Pain“ would address socio-cultural assumptions about how women and men experience pain differently (Fishman et al., 1999).
- 2. An engineering study on “Sex Differences in Drivers’ Needs” would examine biological differences between women and men that are important in automotive design (for example, women’s potential to be pregnant should be taken into account in designing seatbelts, and differences between women’s and men’s overall weight may need to be considered in designing airbags) (Jain, 2006). In contrast, a study on “Gender Differences in Drivers’ Needs” would examine how women and men use vehicles differently because of gender relations—for example, because women typically perform more childcare, they are more likely than men to transport children in their vehicles (Temm, 2008).
In reality, however, sex and gender interact (mutually shape one another) to form individual bodies, cognitive abilities, and disease patterns, for example.
Fishman, J., Wick, J., & Koenig, B. (1999). The Use of “Sex” and “Gender” to Define and Characterize Meaningful Differences between Men and Women: Agenda for Research on Women’s Health for the 21st Century. Bethesda: NIH Publication No. 99-4385.
Jain, S. (2006). Injury: The Politics of Product Design and Safety Law in the United States. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Temm, T. (2008). If You Meet the Expectations of Women, You Exceed the Expectations of Men: How Volvo Designed a Car for Women Customers and Made World Headlines. In Schiebinger, L. (Ed.), Gendered Innovations in Science and Engineering, pp. 131-149. Stanford: Stanford University Press.