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A woman Woman at Lover's Bridge Tanjung Sepat (cropped).jpg
A woman

A woman is an adult female human. [1] [2] Prior to adulthood, a female human is referred to as a girl (a female child or adolescent). [3] The plural women is sometimes used in certain phrases such as "women's rights" to denote female humans regardless of age.


Typically, women inherit a pair of X chromosomes from their parents, and are capable of pregnancy and giving birth from puberty until menopause. More generally, sex differentiation of the female fetus is governed by the lack of a present, or functioning, SRY-gene on either one of the respective sex chromosomes. [4] Female anatomy is distinguished from male anatomy by the female reproductive system, which includes the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina, and vulva. The adult female pelvis is wider, the hips broader, and the breasts larger than that of adult males. Women have significantly less facial and other body hair, have a higher body fat composition, and are on average shorter and less muscular than men.

Throughout human history, traditional gender roles have often defined and limited women's activities and opportunities; many religious doctrines stipulate certain rules for women. With restrictions loosening during the 20th century in many societies, women have gained access to careers beyond the traditional homemaker, and the ability to pursue higher education. Violence against women, whether within families or in communities, has a long history and is primarily committed by men. Some women are denied reproductive rights. The movements and ideologies of feminism have a shared goal of achieving gender equality.

Trans women have a gender identity that does not align with their male sex assignment at birth, while intersex women may have sex characteristics that do not fit typical notions of female biology.


The spelling of "woman" in English has progressed over the past millennium from wīfmann [5] to wīmmann to wumman, and finally, the modern spelling woman. [6] In Old English, wīfmann meant "woman" (literally "woman-person"), whereas wer meant "man". Mann had a gender-neutral meaning of "human", corresponding to Modern English "person" or "someone"; however, subsequent to the Norman Conquest, man began to be used more in reference to "male human", and by the late 13th century it had begun to eclipse usage of the older term wer. [7] The medial labial consonants f and m in wīfmann coalesced into the modern form "woman", while the initial element wīf, which had also meant "woman", underwent semantic narrowing to the sense of a married woman ("wife").

It is a popular misconception that the term "woman" is etymologically connected to "womb". [8] "Womb" derives from the Old English word wamb meaning "belly, uterus" [9] (cognate to the modern German colloquial term "Wamme" from Old High German wamba for "belly, paunch, lap"). [10] [11]


Womanhood is the period in a human female's life after she has passed through childhood, puberty, and adolescence. [12] Different countries have different laws, but age 18 is frequently considered the age of majority (the age at which a person is legally considered an adult).

The word woman can be used generally, to mean any female human, or specifically, to mean an adult female human as contrasted with girl. The word girl originally meant "young person of either sex" in English; [13] it was only around the beginning of the 16th century that it came to mean specifically a female child. [14] The term girl is sometimes used colloquially to refer to a young or unmarried woman; however, during the early 1970s, feminists challenged such use because the use of the word to refer to a fully grown woman may cause offence. In particular, previously common terms such as office girl are no longer widely used. Conversely, in certain cultures which link family honor with female virginity, the word girl (or its equivalent in other languages) is still used to refer to a never-married woman; in this sense it is used in a fashion roughly analogous to the more-or-less obsolete English maid or maiden.

There are various words used to refer to the quality of being a woman. The term "womanhood" merely means the state of being a woman; "femininity" is used to refer to a set of typical female qualities associated with a certain attitude to gender roles; "womanliness" is like "femininity", but is usually associated with a different view of gender roles. "Distaff" is an archaic adjective derived from women's conventional role as a spinner, now used only as a deliberate archaism.

Menarche, the onset of menstruation, occurs on average at age 12–13. Many cultures have rites of passage to symbolize a girl's coming of age, such as confirmation in some branches of Christianity, [15] bat mitzvah in Judaism, or a custom of a special celebration for a certain birthday (generally between 12 and 21), like the quinceañera of Latin America.

Trans women have a male sex assignment at birth that does not align with their gender identity, while intersex women may have sex characteristics that do not fit typical notions of female biology. [16] [17]


Spectral karyotype of a human female Sky spectral karyotype.png
Spectral karyotype of a human female

Genetic characteristics

Normally cells from females contain two X chromosomes, and cells from males contain an X and a Y chromosome. [18] During early fetal development embryo morphology of both sexes is similar until about week 6 or 7 when gonads differentiate into testes in males due to the action of the Y chromosome. Sex differentiation proceeds in females in a way that is independent of gonadal hormones. [19] Because humans inherit mitochondrial DNA only from the mother's ovum, genealogical researchers can trace maternal lineage far back in time.

Photograph of an adult female human, with an adult male for comparison. Note that the pubic hair of both models is removed. Anterior view of human female and male, with labels 2.png
Photograph of an adult female human, with an adult male for comparison. Note that the pubic hair of both models is removed.

Hormonal characteristics, menstruation and menopause

Puberty in females triggers changes in the body that enable sexual reproduction via fertilization. In response to chemical signals from the pituitary gland, ovaries secrete hormones that stimulate maturation of the body, including increased height and weight, body hair growth, breast development and menarche (the onset of menstruation) which generally occurs between ages 12–13. [20] [21] [22] [23]

Most girls go through menarche and are then able to become pregnant and bear children. This generally requires internal fertilization of her eggs with the sperm of a man through sexual intercourse, though reproductive technology offers alternatives. [24]

Typically between 49 and 52 years of age a woman reaches menopause [25] [26] (also known as the climacteric), which is the time in women's lives when menstrual periods stop permanently, and they are no longer able to bear children. [27]

The human female reproductive system Scheme female reproductive system-en.svg
The human female reproductive system

Morphological and physiological characteristics

In terms of biology, the female sex organs are involved in the reproductive system, whereas the secondary sex characteristics are involved in breastfeeding children and attracting a mate. [28] [29] [ page needed ]

The ovaries, in addition to their regulatory function of producing hormones, produce female gametes called ova which, when fertilized by male gametes (sperm), form new genetic individuals. The uterus is an organ with tissue to protect and nurture the developing fetus and muscle to expel it when giving birth. The vagina is used in copulation and birthing, although the term vagina is often colloquially and incorrectly used in the English language for the vulva (or external female genitalia), [30] [31] which consists of (in addition to the vaginal opening) the labia, the clitoris, and the female urethra. The mammary glands are hypothesized to have evolved from apocrine-like glands to produce milk, a nutritious secretion that is the most distinctive characteristic of mammals, along with live birth. [32] In mature women, the breast is generally more prominent than in most other mammals; this prominence, not necessary for milk production, is thought to be at least partially the result of sexual selection. [28] [ page needed ]

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Pregnant woman

Gender distribution and life expectancy

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A woman depicted at different ages

Although fewer females than males are born (the ratio is around 1:1.05), newborn girls are more likely to reach their first birthday than are boys and women typically have a longer life expectancy of six to eight years, although in some areas gender-based discrimination against women has lowered female life expectancy to lower or equal to that of males. Out of the total human population in 2015, there were 101.8 men for every 100 women. The life expectancy differences are partly due to inherent biological advantages, but they also reflect behavioral differences between men and women. The gap is narrowing to some extent in some developed countries, possibly due to increased smoking among women and declining rates of cardiovascular disease among men. The World Health Organization (WHO) writes that it is "important to note that the extra years of life for women are not always lived in good health." [33] [34] [35]


Factors that specifically affect the health of women vs. men are most evident in those related to reproduction, but sex differences have been identified from the molecular to the behavioral scale. Some of these differences are subtle and difficult to explain, partly due to the fact that it is difficult to separate the health effects of inherent biological factors from the effects of the surrounding environment they exist in. Sex chromosomes and hormones, as well as sex-specific lifestyles, metabolism, immune system function, and sensitivity to environmental factors are believed to contribute to sex differences in health at the levels of physiology, perception, and cognition. Women can have distinct responses to drugs and thresholds for diagnostic parameters. [36]

Some diseases primarily affect or are exclusively found in women, such as lupus, breast cancer, cervical cancer, or ovarian cancer. [37] The medical practice dealing with female reproduction and reproductive organs is called gynaecology ("science of women"). [38] [39]

Maternal mortality

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Sierra Leonean mother nursing an infant

Maternal mortality or maternal death is defined by WHO as "the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes." [40] In 2008, noting that each year more than 100,000 women die of complications of pregnancy and childbirth and at least seven million experience serious health problems while 50 million more have adverse health consequences after childbirth, the World Health Organization urged midwife training to strengthen maternal and newborn health services. To support the upgrading of midwifery skills the WHO established a midwife training program, Action for Safe Motherhood. [41]

About 99% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries. More than half of them occur in sub-Saharan Africa and almost one third in South Asia. The main causes of maternal mortality include pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, unsafe abortion, pregnancy complications from malaria and HIV/AIDS, and severe bleeding and infections following childbirth. [42] Most European countries, Australia, Japan, and Singapore are very safe in regard to childbirth. [43]

In 1990, the US ranked 12th of the 14 developed countries that were analyzed and since that time the death rates of every country have steadily improved while the US rate has spiked dramatically. While the others that were analyzed in 1990 show a 2017 death rate of fewer than 10 deaths per every 100,000 live births, the U.S. rate rose to 26.4. Furthermore, for every one of the 700 to 900 women who die in the U.S. each year during pregnancy or childbirth, 70 experience significant complications, totaling more than one percent of all births. [44] [45]

Reproductive rights and freedom

A poster from a 1921 eugenics conference displays the U.S. states that had implemented sterilization legislation. Sterilization states.jpg
A poster from a 1921 eugenics conference displays the U.S. states that had implemented sterilization legislation.

Reproductive rights are legal rights and freedoms relating to reproduction and reproductive health. The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics has stated that: [46]

... the human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. Equal relationships between women and men in matters of sexual relations and reproduction, including full respect for the integrity of the person, require mutual respect, consent and shared responsibility for sexual behavior and its consequences.

The World Health Organization reports that based on data from 2010 to 2014, 56 million induced abortions occurred worldwide each year (25% of all pregnancies). Of those, about 25 million were considered as unsafe. The WHO reports that in developed regions about 30 women die for every 100,000 unsafe abortions and that number rises to 220 deaths per 100,000 unsafe abortions in developing regions and 520 deaths per 100,000 unsafe abortions in sub-Saharan Africa. The WHO ascribes these deaths to:

Culture and gender roles

In recent history, gender roles have changed greatly. At some earlier points in history, children's occupational aspirations starting at a young age differed according to gender. [48] Traditionally, middle class women were involved in domestic tasks emphasizing child care. For poorer women, especially working class women, although this often remained an ideal,[ specify ] economic necessity compelled them to seek employment outside the home. Many of the occupations that were available to them were lower in pay than those available to men.[ citation needed ]

As changes in the labor market for women came about, availability of employment changed from only "dirty", long hour factory jobs to "cleaner", more respectable office jobs where more education was demanded. Women's participation in the U.S. labor force rose from 6% in 1900 to 23% in 1923. These shifts in the labor force led to changes in the attitudes of women at work, allowing for the revolution which resulted in women becoming career and education oriented.[ citation needed ]

In the 1970s, many female academics, including scientists, avoided having children. Throughout the 1980s, institutions tried to equalize conditions for men and women in the workplace. Even so, the inequalities at home hampered women's opportunities: professional women were still generally considered responsible for domestic labor and child care, which limited the time and energy they could devote to their careers. Until the early 20th century, U.S. women's colleges required their women faculty members to remain single, on the grounds that a woman could not carry on two full-time professions at once. According to Schiebinger, "Being a scientist and a wife and a mother is a burden in society that expects women more often than men to put family ahead of career." (p. 93). [49]

Movements advocate equality of opportunity for both sexes and equal rights irrespective of gender. Through a combination of economic changes and the efforts of the feminist movement, in recent decades women in many societies have gained access to careers beyond the traditional homemaker. Despite these advances, modern women in Western society still face challenges in the workplace as well as with the topics of education, violence, health care, politics, and motherhood, and others. Sexism can be a main concern and barrier for women almost anywhere, though its forms, perception, and gravity vary between societies and social classes. There has been an increase in the endorsement of egalitarian gender roles in the home by both women and men. [50] [ failed verification ]

Although a greater number of women are seeking higher education, their salaries are often less than those of men. CBS News said in 2005 that in the United States women who are ages 30 to 44 and hold a university degree make 62% of what similarly qualified men do, a lower rate than in all but three of the 19 countries for which numbers are available. Some Western nations with greater inequality in pay are Germany, New Zealand and Switzerland. [51]

Violence against women

A campaign against female genital mutilation - a road sign near Kapchorwa, Uganda Campaign road sign against female genital mutilation (cropped).jpg
A campaign against female genital mutilation  – a road sign near Kapchorwa, Uganda

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines "violence against women" as: [52]

any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

and identifies three forms of such violence: that which occurs in the family, that which occurs within the general community, and that which is perpetrated or condoned by the State. It also states that "violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women". [53]

Violence against women remains a widespread problem, fueled, especially outside the West, by patriarchal social values, lack of adequate laws, and lack of enforcement of existing laws. Social norms that exist in many parts of the world hinder progress towards protecting women from violence. For example, according to surveys by UNICEF, the percentage of women aged 15–49 who think that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain circumstances is as high as 90% in Afghanistan and Jordan, 87% in Mali, 86% in Guinea and Timor-Leste, 81% in Laos, and 80% in the Central African Republic. [54] A 2010 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that stoning as a punishment for adultery was supported by 82% of respondents in Egypt and Pakistan, 70% in Jordan, 56% Nigeria, and 42% in Indonesia. [55]

Specific forms of violence that affect women include female genital mutilation, sex trafficking, forced prostitution, forced marriage, rape, sexual harassment, honor killings, acid throwing, and dowry related violence. Governments can be complicit in violence against women, such as when stoning is used as a legal punishment, mostly for women accused of adultery. [56]

There have also been many forms of violence against women which have been prevalent historically, notably the burning of witches, the sacrifice of widows (such as sati) and foot binding. The prosecution of women accused of witchcraft has a long tradition; for example, during the early modern period (between the 15th and 18th centuries), witch trials were common in Europe and in the European colonies in North America. Today, there remain regions of the world (such as parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, rural North India, and Papua New Guinea) where belief in witchcraft is held by many people, and women accused of being witches are subjected to serious violence. [57] [58] [59] In addition, there are also countries which have criminal legislation against the practice of witchcraft. In Saudi Arabia, witchcraft remains a crime punishable by death, and in 2011 the country beheaded a woman for 'witchcraft and sorcery'. [60] [61]

It is also the case that certain forms of violence against women have been recognized as criminal offenses only during recent decades, and are not universally prohibited, in that many countries continue to allow them. This is especially the case with marital rape. [62] [63] In the Western World, there has been a trend towards ensuring gender equality within marriage and prosecuting domestic violence, but in many parts of the world women still lose significant legal rights when entering a marriage. [64]

Sexual violence against women greatly increases during times of war and armed conflict, during military occupation, or ethnic conflicts; most often in the form of war rape and sexual slavery. Contemporary examples of sexual violence during war include rape during the Armenian Genocide, rape during the Bangladesh Liberation War, rape in the Bosnian War, rape during the Rwandan genocide, and rape during Second Congo War. In Colombia, the armed conflict has also resulted in increased sexual violence against women. [65] The most recent case was the sexual jihad done by ISIL where 5000–7000 Yazidi and Christian girls and children were sold into sexual slavery during the genocide and rape of Yazidi and Christian women, some of which jumped to their death from Mount Sinjar, as described in a witness statement. [66]

Laws and policies on violence against women vary by jurisdiction. In the European Union, sexual harassment and human trafficking are subject to directives. [67] [68]


The earliest women whose names are known include:

Clothing, fashion and dress codes

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Women's traditional clothing varies highly in different cultures. From left to right: Afghan model wearing traditional Afghan dress and Japanese women wearing kimono.

Women in different parts of the world dress in different ways, with their choices of clothing being influenced by local culture, religious tenets, traditions, social norms, and fashion trends, amongst other factors. Different societies have different ideas about modesty. However, in many jurisdictions, women's choices in regard to dress are not always free, with laws limiting what they may or may not wear. This is especially the case in regard to Islamic dress. While certain jurisdictions legally mandate such clothing (the wearing of the headscarf), other countries forbid or restrict the wearing of certain hijab attire (such as burqa/covering the face) in public places (one such country is France – see French ban on face covering). These laws – both those mandating and those prohibiting certain articles of dress – are highly controversial. [82]

Fertility and family life

Mother and child, in Bhutan Bhutan (63774069).jpg
Mother and child, in Bhutan
Map of countries by fertility rate (2020), according to the Population Reference Bureau Total Fertility Rate Map by Country.svg
Map of countries by fertility rate (2020), according to the Population Reference Bureau
Percentage of births to unmarried women, selected countries, 1980 and 2007 Percentage of birth to unmarried women, selected countries, 1980 and 2007.png
Percentage of births to unmarried women, selected countries, 1980 and 2007

The total fertility rate (TFR) – the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime – differs significantly between different regions of the world. In 2016, the highest estimated TFR was in Niger (6.62 children born per woman) and the lowest in Singapore (0.82 children/woman). [84] While most Sub-Saharan African countries have a high TFR, which creates problems due to lack of resources and contributes to overpopulation, most Western countries currently experience a sub replacement fertility rate which may lead to population ageing and population decline.

In many parts of the world, there has been a change in family structure over the past few decades. For instance, in the West, there has been a trend of moving away from living arrangements that include the extended family to those which only consist of the nuclear family. There has also been a trend to move from marital fertility to non-marital fertility. Children born outside marriage may be born to cohabiting couples or to single women. While births outside marriage are common and fully accepted in some parts of the world, in other places they are highly stigmatized, with unmarried mothers facing ostracism, including violence from family members, and in extreme cases even honor killings. [85] [86] In addition, sex outside marriage remains illegal in many countries (such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, [87] Afghanistan, [88] [89] Iran, [89] Kuwait, [90] Maldives, [91] Morocco, [92] Oman, [93] Mauritania, [94] United Arab Emirates, [95] [96] Sudan, [97] and Yemen [98] ).

The social role of the mother differs between cultures. In many parts of the world, women with dependent children are expected to stay at home and dedicate all their energy to child raising, while in other places mothers most often return to paid work (see working mother and stay-at-home mother).


Particular religious doctrines have specific stipulations relating to gender roles, social and private interaction between the sexes, appropriate dressing attire for women, and various other issues affecting women and their position in society. In many countries, these religious teachings influence the criminal law, or the family law of those jurisdictions (see Sharia law, for example). The relation between religion, law and gender equality has been discussed by international organizations. [99]


Women attending an adult literacy class in the El Alto section of La Paz, Bolivia Bolivia la paz literacy LOC.jpg
Women attending an adult literacy class in the El Alto section of La Paz, Bolivia

Single-sex education has traditionally been dominant and is still highly relevant. Universal education, meaning state-provided primary and secondary education independent of gender, is not yet a global norm, even if it is assumed in most developed countries. In some Western countries, women have surpassed men at many levels of education. For example, in the United States in 2005/2006, women earned 62% of associate degrees, 58% of bachelor's degrees, 60% of master's degrees, and 50% of doctorates. [100] [101]

The educational gender gap in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries has been reduced over the last 30 years. Younger women today are far more likely to have completed a tertiary qualification: in 19 of the 30 OECD countries, more than twice as many women aged 25 to 34 have completed tertiary education than have women aged 55 to 64. In 21 of 27 OECD countries with comparable data, the number of women graduating from university-level programmes is equal to or exceeds that of men. 15-year-old girls tend to show much higher expectations for their careers than boys of the same age. [102] While women account for more than half of university graduates in several OECD countries, they receive only 30% of tertiary degrees granted in science and engineering fields, and women account for only 25% to 35% of researchers in most OECD countries. [103]

Research shows that while women are studying at prestigious universities at the same rate as men they are not being given the same chance to join the faculty. Sociologist Harriet Zuckerman has observed that the more prestigious an institute is, the more difficult and time-consuming it will be for women to obtain a faculty position there. In 1989, Harvard University tenured its first woman in chemistry, Cynthia Friend, and in 1992 its first woman in physics, Melissa Franklin. She also observed that women were more likely to hold their first professional positions as instructors and lecturers while men are more likely to work first in tenure positions. According to Smith and Tang, as of 1989, 65% of men and only 40% of women held tenured positions and only 29% of all scientists and engineers employed as assistant professors in four-year colleges and universities were women. [104]

In 1992, women earned 9% of the PhDs awarded in engineering, but only one percent of those women became professors. In 1995, 11% of professors in science and engineering were women. In relation, only 311 deans of engineering schools were women, which is less than 1% of the total. Even in psychology, a degree in which women earn the majority of PhDs, they hold a significant amount of fewer tenured positions, roughly 19% in 1994. [105]


World literacy is lower for females than for males. The CIA World Factbook presents an estimate from 2010 which shows that 80% of women are literate, compared to 88.6% of men (aged 15 and over). Literacy rates are lowest in South and West Asia, and in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. [106]

Women in politics

Sirimavo Bandaranaike was the first female prime minister; she was democratically elected in Sri Lanka in 1960. Sirimavo Bandaranaike 1961 (cropped) 5.PNG
Sirimavo Bandaranaike was the first female prime minister; she was democratically elected in Sri Lanka in 1960.
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A world map showing female governmental participation by country, 2010.

Women are underrepresented in government in most countries. In January 2019, the global average of women in national assemblies was 24.3%. [107] Suffrage is the civil right to vote, and women's suffrage movements have a long historic timeline. For example, women's suffrage in the United States was achieved gradually, first at state and local levels in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, then in 1920 when women in the US received universal suffrage with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Some Western countries were slow to allow women to vote, notably Switzerland, where women gained the right to vote in federal elections in 1971, and in the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden women were granted the right to vote on local issues only in 1991, when the canton was forced to do so by the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland; [108] [109] and Liechtenstein, in 1984, through a women's suffrage referendum.

Science, literature and art

German composer Clara Schumann in 1878 Franz von Lenbach - Clara Schumann (Pastell 1878).jpg
German composer Clara Schumann in 1878

Women have, throughout history, made contributions to science, literature and art. One area where women have been permitted most access historically was that of obstetrics and gynecology (prior to the 18th century, caring for pregnant women in Europe was undertaken by women; from the mid 18th century onwards, medical monitoring of pregnant women started to require rigorous formal education, to which women did not generally have access, and thus the practice was largely transferred to men). [110] [111]

Writing was generally also considered acceptable for upper-class women, although achieving success as a female writer in a male-dominated world could be very difficult; as a result of several women writers adopted a male pen name (e.g. George Sand, George Eliot).[ citation needed ]

Women have been composers, songwriters, instrumental performers, singers, conductors, music scholars, music educators, music critics/music journalists and other musical professions. There are music movements,[ clarification needed ] events and genres related to women, women's issues and feminism.[ citation needed ] In the 2010s, while women comprise a significant proportion of popular music and classical music singers, and a significant proportion of songwriters (many of them being singer-songwriters), there are few women record producers, rock critics and rock instrumentalists. Although there have been a huge number of women composers in classical music, from the Medieval period to the present day, women composers are significantly underrepresented in the commonly performed classical music repertoire, music history textbooks and music encyclopedias; for example, in the Concise Oxford History of Music, Clara Schumann is one of the only female composers who is mentioned.

Marie Curie was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize. Marie Curie 1903.jpg
Marie Curie was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize.

Women comprise a significant proportion of instrumental soloists in classical music and the percentage of women in orchestras is increasing. A 2015 article on concerto soloists in major Canadian orchestras, however, indicated that 84% of the soloists with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal were men. In 2012, women still made up just 6% of the top-ranked Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. Women are less common as instrumental players in popular music genres such as rock and heavy metal, although there have been a number of notable female instrumentalists and all-female bands. Women are particularly underrepresented in extreme metal genres. [113] Women are also underrepresented in orchestral conducting, music criticism/music journalism, music producing, and sound engineering. While women were discouraged from composing in the 19th century, and there are few women musicologists, women became involved in music education "... to such a degree that women dominated [this field] during the later half of the 19th century and well into the 20th century." [114]

According to Jessica Duchen, a music writer for London's The Independent , women musicians in classical music are "... too often judged for their appearances, rather than their talent" and they face pressure "... to look sexy onstage and in photos." [115] Duchen states that while "[t]here are women musicians who refuse to play on their looks, ... the ones who do tend to be more materially successful." [115]

According to the UK's Radio 3 editor, Edwina Wolstencroft, the classical music industry has long been open to having women in performance or entertainment roles, but women are much less likely to have positions of authority, such as being the leader of an orchestra. [116] In popular music, while there are many women singers recording songs, there are very few women behind the audio console acting as music producers, the individuals who direct and manage the recording process. [117]

Portrait of Charlotte du Val d'Ognes by Marie-Denise Villers (1801), depicts a feminine spirit. Villers Young Woman Drawing.jpg
Portrait of Charlotte du Val d'Ognes by Marie-Denise Villers (1801), depicts a feminine spirit.

Gender symbol

The glyph (♀) for the planet and Roman goddess Venus, or Aphrodite in Greek, is the symbol used in biology for the female sex. [118] [119] [120] In ancient alchemy, the Venus symbol stood for copper and was associated with femininity. [120]


Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women and girls. Although femininity is socially constructed, [121] some behaviors considered feminine are biologically influenced. [121] [122] [123] [124] The extent to which femininity is biologically or socially influenced is subject to debate. [123] [122] [124] It is distinct from the definition of the biological female sex, [125] [126] as both males and females can exhibit feminine traits.

See also

Related Research Articles

Sexism Prejudice or discrimination based on a persons sex or gender

Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on one's sex or gender. Sexism can affect anyone, but it primarily affects women and girls. It has been linked to stereotypes and gender roles, and may include the belief that one sex or gender is intrinsically superior to another. Extreme sexism may foster sexual harassment, rape, and other forms of sexual violence. Gender discrimination may encompass sexism. This term is defined as discrimination toward people based on their gender identity or their gender or sex differences. Gender discrimination is especially defined in terms of workplace inequality. It may arise from social or cultural customs and norms.

Womens rights Rights claimed for women and girls worldwide

Women's rights are the rights and entitlements claimed for women and girls worldwide. They formed the basis for the women's rights movement in the 19th century and the feminist movements during the 20th and 21st centuries. In some countries, these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behavior, whereas in others, they are ignored and suppressed. They differ from broader notions of human rights through claims of an inherent historical and traditional bias against the exercise of rights by women and girls, in favor of men and boys.

A proportion of victims of rape or other sexual violence incidents are male. Historically, rape was thought to be, and defined as, a crime committed solely against females. This belief is still held in some parts of the world, but rape of males is now commonly criminalized and has been subject to more discussion than in the past.

Reproductive rights are legal rights and freedoms relating to reproduction and reproductive health that vary amongst countries around the world. The World Health Organization defines reproductive rights as follows:

Reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.

Marital rape or spousal rape is the act of sexual intercourse with one's spouse without the spouse's consent. The lack of consent is the essential element and need not involve physical violence. Marital rape is considered a form of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Although, historically, sexual intercourse within marriage was regarded as a right of spouses, engaging in the act without the spouse's consent is now widely classified as rape by many societies around the world, repudiated by international conventions, and increasingly criminalized.

Gender equality Equal access for all genders to rights, resources, opportunities and protections

Gender equality, also known as sexual equality or equality of the sexes, is the state of equal ease of access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender, including economic participation and decision-making; and the state of valuing different behaviors, aspirations and needs equally, regardless of gender.

Girl Young female human

A girl is a young female human, usually a child or an adolescent. When a girl becomes an adult, she is accurately described as a woman. However, the term girl is also used for other meanings, including young woman, and is sometimes used as a synonym for daughter, or girlfriend. In certain contexts, the usage of girl for a woman may be derogatory. Girl may also be a term of endearment used by an adult, usually a woman, to designate adult female friends. Girl also appears in portmanteaus like showgirl, cowgirl, and schoolgirl.

Violence against women Violent acts committed primarily against women and girls

Violence against women (VAW), also known as gender-based violence and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), are violent acts primarily or exclusively committed against women or girls. Such violence is often considered a form of hate crime, committed against women or girls specifically because they are female, and can take many forms.

Statistics on rape and other sexual assaults are commonly available in industrialized countries, and have become better documented throughout the world. Inconsistent definitions of rape, different rates of reporting, recording, prosecution and conviction for rape create controversial statistical disparities, and lead to accusations that many rape statistics are unreliable or misleading.

Rape Type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse without consent

Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority, or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability, or is below the legal age of consent. The term rape is sometimes used interchangeably with the term sexual assault.

Feminist sexology is an offshoot of traditional studies of sexology that focuses on the intersectionality of sex and gender in relation to the sexual lives of women. Sexology has a basis in psychoanalysis, specifically Freudian theory, which played a big role in early sexology. This reactionary field of feminist sexology seeks to be inclusive of experiences of sexuality and break down the problematic ideas that have been expressed by sexology in the past. Feminist sexology shares many principles with the overarching field of sexology; in particular, it does not try to prescribe a certain path or "normality" for women's sexuality, but only observe and note the different and varied ways in which women express their sexuality. It is a young field, but one that is growing rapidly.

Women in Ghana Overview of the status of women in Ghana

The status of women in Ghana and their roles in Ghanaian society has changed over the past few decades. There has been a slow increase in the political participation of Ghanaian women throughout history. Women are given equal rights under the Constitution of Ghana, yet disparities in education, employment, and health for women remain prevalent. Additionally, women have much less access to resources than men in Ghana do. Ghanaian women in rural and urban areas face slightly different challenges. Throughout Ghana, female-headed households are increasing.

Women in Ethiopia Overview of the status of women in Ethiopia

There have been several studies concerning women in Ethiopia. Historically, elite women in Ethiopia have been visible as administrators and warriors. This never translated into any benefit to improve the rights of women, but it had meant that women could inherit and own property and act as advisors on important communal matters. As late as the first part of the nineteenth century, Queen Menen, consort of Emperor Iyasu IV, had a decisive role in running the Ethiopian Empire. Workit and Mestayit regents to their minor sons have been held responsible for their provinces. They owed their rights to landed property because of a special type of land tenure that expected tenants to serve as militia to overlords, irrespective of gender. In 1896, Empress Tayetu Betul, wife of Emperor Menelik II, actively advised the government and participated in defending the country from Italian invasion. Prominent and other landowning women fought against the second invasion in 1935–41. With the assistance of European advisors, women in the ensuing period were kept out of the army and politics, even as advisors. Instead, they were restricted to family and household work of raising children and cooking. With a steady increase in female representation in education, they have started to undertake nursing, teaching, and other similarly supportive roles. Over the 2018–2019 period, their gradual participation in state politics has been increasing at a steady pace.

Women in South Africa Overview of the status of women in South Africa

It is thought that multiple ethnic groups in South Africa have long-standing beliefs concerning gender roles, and most are based on the premise that women in South Africa are less important, or less deserving of power, than men. Some view African traditional social organizations as male centered and male dominated. One prevailing caricature of Afrikaner religious beliefs includes a strong emphasis on the theoretically biblically based notion that women's contributions to society should normally be approved by, or be on behalf of, men. Claims are even made of modern sexism and Christianity being introduced into South Africa by the ancestors of the Afrikaner diaspora.

Human female sexuality Identity, behavior and more

Human female sexuality encompasses a broad range of behaviors and processes, including female sexual identity and sexual behavior, the physiological, psychological, social, cultural, political, and spiritual or religious aspects of sexual activity. Various aspects and dimensions of female sexuality, as a part of human sexuality, have also been addressed by principles of ethics, morality, and theology. In almost any historical era and culture, the arts, including literary and visual arts, as well as popular culture, present a substantial portion of a given society's views on human sexuality, which include both implicit (covert) and explicit (overt) aspects and manifestations of feminine sexuality and behavior.

Sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the east of the country in particular, has been described as the "Rape Capital of the World," and the prevalence and intensity of all forms of sexual violence has been described as the worst in the world. Human Rights Watch defines sexual violence as "an act of a sexual nature by force, or by threat of force or coercion," and rape as "a form of sexual violence during which the body of a person is invaded, resulting in penetration, however slight, of any part of the body of the victim, with a sexual organ, or of the anal or genital opening of the victim with any object or other part of the body."

Domestic violence in India

Domestic violence in India includes any form of violence suffered by a person from a biological relative but typically is the violence suffered by a woman by male members of her family or relatives..Although Men also suffer Domestic violence, the law under IPC 498A specifically protects only women. Specifically only a woman can file a case of domestic violence. According to a National Family and Health Survey in 2005, total lifetime prevalence of domestic violence was 33.5% and 8.5% for sexual violence among women aged 15–49. A 2014 study in The Lancet reports that although the reported sexual violence rate in India is among the lowest in the world, the large population of India means that the violence affects 27.5 million women over their lifetimes. However, an opinion survey among experts carried out by the Thomson Reuters Foundation ranked India as the most dangerous country in the world for women.

Violence against men is a term for violent acts that are disproportionately or exclusively committed against men or boys. Men are overrepresented as both victims and perpetrators of violence. Sexual violence against men is treated differently than that committed against women in most societies and is largely unrecognized by international law.

Prosecution of gender-targeted crimes is the legal proceedings to prosecute crimes such as rape and domestic violence. The earliest documented prosecution of gender-based/targeted crimes is from 1474 when Sir Peter von Hagenbach was convicted for rapes committed by his troops. However, the trial was only successful in indicting Sir von Hagenbach with the charge of rape because the war in which the rapes occurred was "undeclared" and thus the rapes were considered illegal only because of this. Gender-targeted crimes continued to be prosecuted, but it was not until after World War II when an international criminal tribunal – the International Military Tribunal for the Far East – were officers charged for being responsible of the gender-targeted crimes and other crimes against humanity. Despite the various rape charges, the Charter of the Tokyo Tribunal did not make references to rape, and rape was considered as subordinate to other war crimes. This is also the situation for other tribunals that followed, but with the establishments of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), there was more attention to the prosecution of gender-targeted crimes with each of the statutes explicitly referring to rape and other forms of gender-targeted violence.

Violence against women in India Public health issue of violent acts against women

Violence against women in India refers to physical or sexual violence committed against a woman, typically by a man. Common forms of violence against women in India include acts such as domestic abuse, sexual assault, and murder. In order to be considered violence against women, the act must be committed solely because the victim is female. Most typically, these acts are committed by men as a result of the long-standing gender inequalities present in the country.


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Further reading