In professional circles, gender is currently usually understood in two ways. The first way is based on the definition by Margaret Mead dating back to 1930's and stresses the diversity of biological and social nature of the differences between a man and a woman. The concept of gender as a "social sex" is based on the author's work that was published in 1935 under the title Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies. It is a term used for groups of properties and behaviours formed by culture and connected with the image of man and woman. While sex is biologically determined and is (mostly) an immutable category, gender is a set of properties that are attributed to the biological family in social terms and change during the historical development, which also applies in the example of a relatively clearly defined community. Sex is a biological characteristic, gender a social construction, reflecting the expectations associated with the conduct of men or women.

  The category of gender refers not to the biological (in essence, we distinguish two biological sexes, male and female), but to the social aspects of sex. Gender, social sex, working with the categories of masculinity and feminity, is the original English name for grammatical gender which became the name for the social genus. It has three meanings referring to:
1.      grammatical gender;
2.      sexual identity (male, female) and orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transsexual);
3.      the role attributed to an individual of a certain sex in a society, i.e. a culturally constructed sexual identity or orientation, social sex.
  The aim of the distinction between the social and biological nature of sex was to distinguish the differences which are naturally given (biologically) from the socio-culturally produced differences and on the basis of that demand changes in the structure of power relations between men and women in the 20th Century society, thus elimination of inequalities in the process of emancipation of the society.
  Starting from 1990's, this definition became the subject of criticism based on post-structuralist access to culture. Under this approach, Judith Butler[1] in particular called for relaxation of clearly defined bipolar categories of the masculinity-feminity type, or gender-sex. From the post-structuralist point of view, gender is performative; its lasting essence is shaped through continued acts and gender stylizations of the body. Behind these acts, however, there is no internal or actual gender identity concealed, it is constantly being transformed and reconstituted through the very acts which only seem to express it. Gender is thus no longer a social interpretation of the biological sex in culture, but it is understood as a discourse device, by which sex and its attributes are produced.
  Gender began to be used in historiography as an analytical category in 1970's in connection with the development of history of women, which has led to significant methodological enrichment and anchoring of probably the most dynamically developing historical "subgenre". Through the use of gender-based approach in historical research, the initially narrowly focused history of women could be extended to study gender issues in the whole range of thematic spectrum of the research into the history, and we find the application of gender aspects in research of history of culture, artistic creation, science, social differences, everydayness. In short, gender history has become one of the most significant streams of social and cultural history of the late 20th Century. In the historical context, gender first appeared in a paper by Natalie Zemon Davis at a conference in Berkshire in 1974.[2] The historian expressed therein an idea that the gender which is culturally and socially conditioned and, as a social construct, historically variable could become a similar category as well as a subject of study as class. [3]
Since the printing of the now classic article by Joan W. Scott Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis, which appeared in 1986 in the American Historical Review, and then again two years later in Gender and the Politics of History, the category of gender began to be used to a greater extent but often as synonyms of category woman.[4] Let's recall that, according to Joan W. Scott, gender is "a constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived differences between the sexes, and gender is a primary way of signifying relationships of power".[5] The category of gender is a social and cultural definition of sex, a system of roles attributed to one or another sex; it is so called "social sex."[6] J. W. Scott justified the use of gender as an analytical category. She worked on the basis of an analysis of existing research on women - Women's History, whether related to the history of the feminist movement, women's history in general, characterized as the history of feminine experiencing, or a stream which seeks to highlight the woman,[7] she did not, however, settle for their permanence in the edge of historiography.
  She offered a new, alternative interpretation of history, through which the gender issues would be integrated into the context of political, economic, social and cultural history. J. W. Scott defines gender in two interrelated levels: first, gender as a constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived gender differences, secondly, gender as an initial method to mark power relations.
  If gender is a constitutive element of social relationships, then the label woman on one hand and man on the other form the basis of any action in society. From this perspective, it involves four interdependent aspects through which we perceive gender. First, they are culturally valid symbols, archetypes, which often produce contradictory representations. Secondly, the normative concepts on the basis of which these symbols are interpreted and which limits and controls their metaphorical possibilities. These concepts are expressed in religious, scientific, legal, educational and political doctrines; they take the form of fixed binary oppositions and are perceived as "constant truths". The third aspect is the variable nature of gender relations depending on political or social institutions and finally fourth, gender is individually designed and perceived in relation to affiliation to a social level, race, etc. [8]

  The initial inspiration for using the concept of gender in history were schools based on post-structuralism, particularly the work by Michel Foucault, his stress on the body as an object, the aim of power and domination, and discourse analysis, where the signifier itself, significant, becomes the subject of study that shapes the signified, signifié. Post-structuralist gender thus shifted interest from the physical, social, economic "determination" to language analysis and "social production of the signified."[9] J. W. Scott also incorporates the concept of power from the concept by Michel Foucault, the term here does not imply a specific, political power, but power as such; power relations are ubiquitous, located within other relationships.[10] If gender represents the primary method of marking power relations, it then stands at the very foundations of society. Gender relations in the society are objectively given, objectively existing, standing in the foundations of social relations, structuring the perception and symbolic orientation of the whole social life, they found distribution of power. They are time and culture-conditioned; they cannot be referred to as a fixed category, as we cannot talk about not universally valid binary opposition of masculinity and femininity. Gender analysis is not research of women and men, but of how the laws, rules and institutional arrangements relate to the differences between the sexes.[11]
  Gender expresses an idea that, in terms of social behaviour, people are not born as men and women, but it must learn to act like men and women. It illuminates socially shaped attitudes and behaviour patterns, which consist in dichotomous division into male and female.[12] There is - and always has been - a number of behavioural patterns that are considered to be typically male or female in the society.[13] The concept puts emphasis on the study of "a comprehensive game of oppositions between the woman and the man, which is flexible and variable depending on the time, culture and political context of the time."[14] Every culture has its own identification of specific gender roles with some form of behaviour, speech, and clothing, with performance of certain activities.[15]

  The introduction of gender into the category of historical research, did not affect only women's history, but also stood at the birth of men's studies, which began to develop in 1980's mainly in the United States and Great Britain. Woman-researchers dealing with the history of women highlighted in the initial development of women's history the absence of women in the history, this deficiency has been due to their work since 1970's systematically corrected. However, after gender was accepted as a constitutive category in the approach towards the past, the situation has changed. In gender studies, the lack of attention suddenly began to be felt that would be devoted to the development and differentiation of various forms of masculinity, which was thus the same phenomenon that was previously observed in the classical historiography. While many studies were published on gender issues, the vast majority of them just stared their attention to women and feminity constitution as a social category. Men were continued to be seen as representatives of their nation, class, social class or universal representative of humanity, but not as representatives of their social sex - gender. Only after the American Men's Studies Association[16] began publishing The Journal of Men's Studies in1992, a series of similar titles followed, such as professional journal Psychology of Men & Masculinity in 2000 – published thanks to the American Psychological Association.[17] Also here was captured 'authentic masculinity', which would oppose the masculinity established by the patriarchal order and which is - as a feminity construct - historically contingent. It is possible that in the Euro-American context the increased interest in the category of masculinity was linked to the end of the Cold War, which enabled thematisation and a critical look at the so-called Cold War discourse and Cold War masculinity.[18] In terms of men's history, special attention was paid to the revision of the patriarchal order in history as well as to the causes and methods of its constitution. From this point of view, Robert W. Connell, for instance, sees masculinity as configuration of gender practices that legitimize the superiority of men in the patriarchal structure of power relations.[19] Gradually, however, more influential in the study of men's history proved to be studies focused on the seemingly only internal differentiation of the different forms of masculinity. Owing to monitoring of their interactions affected by the power hierarchy of the society, based on categories such as subordination-superiority, collegiality-fellowship, it appears that the vast majority of typical forms of masculinity is not shaped by the binary opposition of masculinity-femininity, but it is contrariwise as they are constituted primarily due to the mutual differentiation between individual groups of men, whether we want to distinguish between races, classes, or in any other way.[20] Focusing on changes in male gender led first sociology and psychology, then history as well to examine the phenomenon of paternity.
  As in the present, social sex was constructed in the past too by the discourse and standards of behaviour that the discourse produced. These were determinative, but at the same time constitutive: they created a male or female identity. History is indeed reconstructible in the context of relations between the sexes with sex being a cultural construct, configuration of which varies depending on production and living conditions.[21]
2. Male and Female Identity, Masculinity and Feminity in the Historical Development, "Other" Identity;

  Querelle des femmes, a dispute over sex,[22] led by educated circles of Europe from the Middle Ages to the 20th Century captures the changes in the construct of feminity that prevailed in this or that epoch. Much of this dispute took place at the time when defining was the voice of the Church, initially only Catholic or Jewish, then Protestant as well. Spokesmen for the different denominations comprised in the European society a rather negligible percentage of the population, yet their idea of the woman as an inferior creature, entirely subordinate to the man, the woman as a "vessel of sin"[23], was the leitmotif of the dispute. The binarilly conditioned complementarity facilitated definition of both the social sexes, thematized women and men as creatures of God, and moreover it accented pairness and mirrorness of the both genders, incompleteness of the man without the woman and the woman without the man, the necessity of interaction.[24]
  Strictly speaking, the gender constructs did not in fact change during the Middle Ages and early modern period. While the Enlightenment proclaimed equality before the law, it only covered those to which the law turned – the men. Women's collective gesture in the first phase of the revolution was an ephemeral matter and the Jacobins were able to cope with it using their very own means.
  Even before, "natural difference" between men and women had been sought in the field of science, and the scholarly discourse remained a permanent part of European thought, culture and practice deeply into the 20th Century. The Enlightenment thinkers began looking for the "natural difference" in nature, not in metaphysics, more or less connected with religion. It was to define the place and the relationship between men and women in the new (rational) social order. Along with its search, conceptualisation of gender identities took place in the interrelated areas: philosophy providing the empirical sciences with a theoretical and ideological basis, in the legal sciences and medicine, especially in obstetrics, which was at that time established as a separate medical specialty.[25]  Popularization of those discourses found its expression in didactic publications, which were indebted to the genre syncretism of the Czech environment, which to some extent persisted until the mid-19th Century. The boundaries between genres are not always clear; in the interiorization of the mentioned construct, its practical application, and preservation are involved both educational and popular medical writings and belle-lettres, which aims to cultivate and nurture.
  The construct of masculinity was based on the undeniably masculine domination, expression of which was the very name of the man: "homo" was used generally to describe people while the Latin term for a man, "vir", was derived from the "virtus," virtue.[26]   


(Historical sources a contemporary theoretical articles are due to respect of copyright law intended only for study purposes. For this cause are protected by secure access. If you are interested in study, please contact:

Daniela Tinková, "Oddělené sféry": tradiční polarita, nebo dědictví 19. století?

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of The Rights of Women (výběr ukázek)

Betty Friedan. Feminine Mystique. Praha 2003, s. 49 - 72.

Joann Wallach Scott, Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis. The American Historical Review, Vol. 91, No. 5, p. 1053-1075.

Judith Butler, Bodies that matter: On The Discoursive Limit of “Sex“. New York 1993.

Judith Butler, Trampoty s rodom. Feminizmus a podrývanie identity. Bratislava 2003, s. 15-46.


[1] Judith BUTLER: Bodies That Matter. On The Discursive Limits of „SEX“. New York and London 1993. 
[2] The text was published two years later under the title Women's History in Transition: The European Case, Feminist Studies 3.3/4, Spring - Summer 1976, pp. 83 - 103; cf. Daniela Tinková, „Žena“ – prázdná kategorie? Od (wo)men´s history k gender history v západoevropské historiografii posledních desetiletí 20. století. In: Catherine Čadková, Milena Lender, Jana Stráníková (ed.): Dějiny žen aneb Evropská žena od středověku do 20. století v zajetí historiografie. Sborník příspěvků ze IV. pardubického bienále, Pardubice 2006, p. 24.
[3] Tinková, „Žena“…, p. 25.
[4] Joan Walach SCOTT: Rod: užitečná kategória historickej analýzy. In: Jana Cviková, Jana Juráková, Lubica Kobová: Historie žien. Aspekt, Bratislava 2006, pp. 44 – 45.
[5] Joan W. Scott: Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis, published in 1986 v American Historical Review, pp. 1065 – 1066, cit. according to Encyclopedia of European Social History from 1350 to 2000, New York 2001, 1, p. 17, 66. Cf. also a work by Ann Oakley: Pohlaví, gender a společnost, Praha 2000. A paper of the same title was presented by J. W. Scott in 1985 at the conference of American Historical Association, cf. Tinková, „Žena“, p. 27.
[6] SCOTT: Rod: užitečná kategória historickej analýzy , s. 57 an.; further in Feministické teorie, ženská studia, gender studies.
[7] Jana Ratajová: Gender history jako alternativní koncept dějin. In: ČADKOVÁ, LENDEROVÁ, STRÁNÍKOVÁ (ed.): Dějiny žen aneb Evropská žena od středověku do 20. století v zajetí historiografie, p. 34.
[8] Ratajová: Gender history, pp. 35 – 36.
[9] TINKOVÁ: Žena“ - prázdná kategorie, pp. 28 – 29.
[10] Ratajová: Gender History, p. 36.
[11] Ratajová: Gender History, p. 36- 37.
[12] Ratajová: Dějiny ženy, p. 159. Referring to Judith Butler who rejects this dichotomy. Cf.  Judith Butler: Trampoty s rodom. Feminizmus a podrývanie identiry. Bratislava 2003, pp. 22 - 23.
[13] Gender a sexualita. Internetové knihkupectví, www.studovna. cz.
[14] Tinková, „Žena“- prázdná kategorie, p. 26.
[15] Tinková, „Žena“ - prázdná kategorie, pp. 26 - 27.
[16] The American Men's Studies was founded as an independent organization in 1991 from the National Organization for Men against Sexism (founded in 1984).
[17] Victor J. Sedler, Rediscovering Masculinity. London 1989; John Tosh, Manliness and Masculinities in 19th Century Britain. Essays on Gender, Family and Empire. London – New York- Boston, 2005; Michelle K. Rhoades, Renegotiating French Masculinity: Medicine and Venereal Disease - during the Great War. French Historical Studies, 29, No 2, Spring 2006, pp. 293 – 327. In the Czech environment, for instance, Pavla HORSKÁ, Tři století evropského feminismu. Historický obzor 2, 1995, pp. 36 – 40, herein p. 37; Jiřina ŠMEJKALOVÁ, Možnosti využití genderové perspektivy ve výzkumu otcovství ve střední Evropě, in: Marcin Filipowicz, Joanna Królak, Alena Zachová (eds.), Od patriarchy k tatínkovi. Západoslovanské modely otcovství.Univerzita Hradec králové, Hradec Králové 2008, pp. 12 – 22.
[18] ŠMEJKALOVÁ, Možnosti využití, p. 17.
[19] Robert CONNELL: Masculinities. Berkley, 1995.
[20] Michael S. KIMMEL: Manhood in America: A Cultural History. New York, 1996; Lynn SEGAL, Changing Men: Masculinities in Context. Theory and Society, 22, 1993, pp. 625-641.
[21] Dülmen, Historická antropologie, p. 33.
[22] Cf. synoptically Gisela Bocková: Ženy v evropských dějinách od středověku do současnosti. Praha 2007.
[23] Petr ČORNEJ, Podoba ženy v české středověké literatuře. In: Labyrint ženského literárního světa. Proceedings of the Conference organized by the Literary Academy on 15th – 16th February 2007. Praha 2007, p. 8
[24] Lucie STORCHOVÁ, Gender a „přirozený řád“ v českojazyčných diskrsech vdovství, panenství a světectví raného novověku. In: Jana RATAJOVÁ, Lucie STORCHOVÁ (edd.), Nádoby mdlé, hlavy nemající? Diskursy panenství a vdovství v české literatuře raného novověku. Praha 2008, p. 522.
[25] Podrobněji srov. Petr SVOBODNÝ, Ludmila HLAVÁČKOVÁ, Dějiny lékařství v českých zemích, Praha 2004, především s. 101 an.; Daniela Tinková, V zájmu "přirozenosti věcí". Genderové identity, "bio-moc" a osvícenská věda. Práce z dějin vědy. 6, 2003, s. 571 – 613; táž, „Žena“ – prázdná kategorie? Od (wo)men´s history k gender history v západoevropské historiografii posledních desetiletí 20. století. In: Čadková, Lenderová, Stráníková (ed.): Dějiny žen aneb Evropská žena, s. 19 – 32.
[26] Bocková: Ženy v evropských dějinách, s. 18.