Gender is a funny thing to talk about these days. In some circles, it’s practically forbidden – they must adhere to the cultural expectations of our given sex that have been basically the same for the past 200-ish years, up until the 40s or so. (please don’t quote me on any dates I give: I am by no means a history buff – but I think I’m fairly accurate.) In other circles, it is talked about exhaustively – the elements of the subject are discussed to death. And, in still other circles, it’s very much a nonissue and is rarely ever discussed – people just are who they are and have bigger fish to fry.
Now, I would like to disclaim that, in case it wasn’t clear, the following are my thoughts and opinions only. I do not claim to fully understand any perspective besides my own, because that is really and truly impossible. I may generalize, and if I do I beseech that if it offends you to please know that I didn’t mean it that way. I do not want to be judgmental and at the end of the day, even through ideas and suggestions I am only writing about this subject as it applies to how I live my own life in my own mind and body.
I also talk about male and female body parts, so if the mention of them makes you want to throw up… yeah.
Gender, to me, is largely cultural. Gender roles have evolved with the societies in which they operate. People’s minds and bodies have evolved likewise to function thusly. Now, I consider myself a follower of Christ, and/but I do not claim to know how the world was created or exactly how man came to be. The bible illustrates how it happened, yes, but there are so many interpretations and theories even pertaining to a simple creation story that it is clear that wejust don’t know. So I won’t waste anybody’s time on the miniscule details on how we came to be the evolving creatures we are.
What I do believe, and what seems apparent by simple biology, is that men and women are made differently physically. Men have always had penises, testicles, and the corresponding pelvic structure, have never had boobs, have greater muscle mass and ability to build muscle, and have this astounding ability to grow hair on their faces and extra hair where women just… can’t. Women, on the other hand, have vaginas, uteruses, ovaries, and corresponding pelvises, mammaries that produce milk for the children they can bear, more fat mass, cannot grow hair on their faces, etc. Not being a huge science buff either (though I really, really try), it mostly seems to come down to hormones (via the sex chromosomes). Women have more estrogen, men have more testosterone. These hormones do a lot.
Because of these differences, it has made sense for the men to be the protectors and the breadwinners in the past – let the stronger people defend the land and use their agility and brawn to hunt for food; and the women, who delivered the children and already have a bond forming with them seem most capable of continuing to take care of the children, and do the things that need to be done which do not so much require being super strong.
This all builds on each other. Some of you might want to point out that perhaps it was the other way around: the ones with the penises got all brawny because they went to do the hunting, and the ones with the vaginas got more pudgy and motherly (I know it sounds condescending, but remember how I’m not talking about feminism right now?) because of what they were usually doing. And perhaps that is true, though you could go round and round with this a million times, but to me it seems that if you cannot ever settle something like the nature-nurture debate, then it must come down to both with very blurred lines. And, if that is the case, is the “which came first” question really relevant to us anymore?
The questions that do seem to matter to us now are those of cultural gender versus core gender.
Cultural gender is what we have learned from the society we live in about what is expected of those who are sexually female and those who are sexually male. These are mostly made up of stereotypes, such as women who like to cry over romantic movies, or men who like to build business empires. They, like all stereotypes, have a good measure of truth in them because stereotypes spring up out of truth. More women like to cry over romantic movies than men. (I am not one of them.) More men are business leaders than women. Men who cry over romantic movies are looked upon as weak and feminine – not strong husband material. Women who are business leaders are looked upon as tough and a little too masculine – not dutiful wife material.
Core gender is what we, genetically, are. This goes back to the primitive societies I was speaking of earlier where the men hunted and the women took care of the children. The thing is, in Western culture today, we do not operate in a way that necessitates core, genetic gender differences. The 21st century has such a wide variety of occupations that it does not matter what your physical or mental capabilities are or are not: there is something out there you can do to earn a living. Brawn, particularly, is becoming less and less essential as more and more machines are invented to do the hard work for us.
So, what are we left with?
A bunch of people doing things that people do.
But what about the cultural gender? What about all those stereotypes we weigh ourselves under each day?
There is no one pat answer for that.
Some people are not aware that these stereotypes exist, or that they rule their lives – but then you have to question, do the stereotypes really “rule”? Are these people victims of the box culture has put them in, or are they perfectly happy to live the lives they have being the people they are?
Some people are too aware of the gender stereotypes – so aware that they are in danger of becoming victimized not by the stereotypes, but by the fear and/or detest of them. Stereotypes limit them as much as they limit the people who are unconscious of them – because they tend to either live their lives as if they are threatened by people/society attempting to control and limit them, and/or they spend their time trying as hard as possible to not fit into a stereotype, so much so that they are at high risk of not being true to themselves and what they would really want to be doing, despite what gender stereotype it might fit in.
|(Watch “Benny and Joon”; that’s all I have to say.)
These are observations I have made about others and myself. I never mean to assume that every person is like this: however, I always encourage that you do look at yourself and ask yourself whether you are selling yourself short in life, in any area, but especially by victimizing yourself to some circumstance or another. I think and talk about self-victimization a lot, so you’ll see more about what I mean in future posts.
However “aware” you feel, or however important of an “issue” the gender topic is for you, remember that you should never let anybody’s assumptions of you, or your assumptions of anybody else, get in the way of your genuine respect of your authentic self. And I think that is the best way to put cultural gender stereotypes behind us: to forget them altogether and simply do what we like and be who we are. If you don’t think and talk about something, it goes away. The positives and negatives become neutral because actions speak louder than words. The fact that people are people speaks for itself when we decide we no longer have to.