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In the fields of gender equality and masculinities, there are a lot of terms that are quite jargony, and maybe a bit confusing. We want to make sure that our communication is clear, accessible, and that we’re on the same page with our audiences. So, here are some of our commonly-used terms and what we mean when we use them.

It’s important to note that language changes quickly, and these definitions reflect our current understandings and definitions at this moment. We will continue to update and revise these definitions to ensure that they are current, inclusive, and align with our beliefs, values, and approaches.

Care work

Work that is performed to ensure the well-being of others, including care of children, older persons, and ill family members. It can be paid or unpaid. Most care work is informal and employs the most marginalized populations and lacks workplace benefits like paid leave. Unpaid care work covers work that is done to ensure the well-being of others, and is often considered of low value and unpaid; sometimes called reproductive work.


Care that is given to children, older persons, people with disabilities, people who are sick, or any other person.

Equitable care; fatherhood

The act of men – particularly fathers – taking on their fair share of childcare and housework, creating equal and respectful partnerships with the other parent(s), and raising and supporting children without rigid gender stereotypes.

Gender equality

The state of being where all human beings regardless of their sex or gender identity have equal rights and access to opportunities, resources, and are free to develop their personal abilities and make choices without the limitations set by stereotypes, rigid gender roles, or discrimination.

Gender equity

The process of being fair to individuals of all gender identities by intentionally uplifting women and other people of marginalized gender identities, including by taking specific measures to compensate for disadvantages experienced as a result of their gender.

Gender equitable

Ensuring fairness to women and girls, men and boys, and individuals of all gender identities by accounting for and addressing systemic biases, discrimination, and disadvantages and being responsive to each gender’s needs, constraints, and opportunities.

Gender norms/traditional gender norms

The often-unspoken rules or expectations that identify the characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors that are valued and considered acceptable for boys, girls, women, and men.

Gender-transformative programming

Activities or interventions that seek to change harmful and/or stereotypical gender roles and promote gender equality in the home, workplace, or society at large.

Harmful masculine norms

Beliefs often associated with manhood that have negative impacts on men themselves, women, and on society as a whole. This can include values that promote not showing emotions, violence, toughness, and not participating in unpaid care work (like cooking, washing clothes, taking care of children, etc).


The qualities and characteristics describing what it means to be manly, which can include being strong, brave, and tough. These definitions vary across and within cultures and communities and change over time, but they are determined and policed by individual societies/communities. “Masculinities” describes the idea that there is no single, fixed definition of what it means to be manly or what it means to be masculine.

Positive or healthy masculine norms; healthy masculinities

Ways of being boys or men that include expressions of a wide range of emotions; being vulnerable and comfortable to be that way; asking for help; feeling comfortable in caregiving and nurturing roles; sharing care work and domestic labor; developing open, kind, and honest communication skills, promoting and advocating for gender equality, and encouraging all of the same in other men. Bravery is also a positive characteristic – for any gender – along with those listed above.

Are there any other definitions that you’re curious about? How do you define these terms in your own life and work? Let us know.

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