Discuss the Meaning of ‘Gender’ as a Concept in Political Science. Is It a Useful Concept? Essay

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Discuss the meaning of ‘gender’ as a concept in political science. Is it a useful concept? The concept of ‘gender’ is one that provokes much debate in the social sciences. It is often confused with ‘sex’ or ‘identity’ and encapsulates a host of different definitions and meanings. The concept however is one that can be utilised to illuminate the field of political science. To understand this, this paper will begin by defining and discussing the concept of gender as a distinct category. The paper will then move on to highlight how the concept can be applied to the area of political science for analysis of social structures and processes. Finally the paper will conclude by suggesting that gender is an essential concept in political science, and it must be embraced by political scientists for their work to be truly comprehensive and ‘scientific’. The concept of gender is one that can leave people scratching their heads at times. A definitive meaning or definition can be hard to come by, with various authors taking different approaches. For example, Mala Htun suggests that gender should not be seen as one’s sexual identity but as a social position which is an attribute of social structures (Htun 2005, p. 157). This she argues allows us to better understand human subjectivity and the systematic processes which shape gendered experiences. Nancy Burns takes a somewhat similar approach in suggesting that gender is the “values, norms and demands that the female human being… comes up against in her encounter with the other” (Burns 2005, p. 137). These are the result of the way institutions and structures are shaped by gender. Further to this, Mary Hawkesworth points out that gender can be used to reject biological determinism by showing the cultural differences between constructions of masculine and feminine identities (Hawkesworth 2005, p. 142). Whilst the above

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