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Sunday, 20 August 2017

What makes a man or a woman?

Genitals, obviously. When you’re born, the doctor looks at your genitals and says ‘it’s a boy’ or ‘it’s a girl.’ Suddenly the world has gone a bit crazy with this and decided to raise ‘gender-neutral’ kids, failing to realise significant differences between the genders.

If men and women weren’t different, there wouldn’t be two different genders. (And yes, there are only two for fuck’s sake). Differences between the genders are both biological and sociological, as we know. Some cultures view manhood and womanhood differently. Modern day Britain has become very liberal and moved past stagnant gender roles.

Let’s look at biological differences first. Men and women have different brains and different hormones. Men have higher levels of testosterone, making them more aggressive, dominant and have a higher sex drive. Women have higher levels of estrogen, and release more oxytocin during sex. In terms of evolutionary nature, a man is designed to provide and protect, whilst a woman is designed to care and nurture. This doesn’t mean that nowadays a woman can't do anything for herself, nor does this mean men are emotionally insensitive rocks. It just means that naturally men are inclined to take care of their family and provide, whilst women are inclined to be better at emotional support.

And what’s wrong with that? Why is it wrong to want a man to take care of you or a woman to be there to offer emotional support? Being nurturing is a great quality. This is why there are more women in nursing in childcare than men. In one of my favourite shows ‘Sex and the City’, the protagonists are discussing why firefighters are hot and Charlotte says ‘because all women secretly want to be rescued.’ I don’t think anyone can literally rescue you apart from you, but what’s wrong with walking down the street with a man’s arms around you? What’s wrong with wanting to feel protected? The first man in a woman’s life (unless he ran away) is her daddy. Dad is there to protect his little girl. When she gets older it becomes her boyfriend/husband. What is the issue there?
Sexual differences are also part of this. The male and female organs aesthetically show this. The male organ sticks out. It becomes noticeably erect. The female organ is inside of us, and to the outside eye it is not noticed when it becomes erect. Again, evolutionary speaking, the man’s job is to spread his sperm to create offspring. The woman’s job is to raise said offspring, making her more cautious about how many sexual partners she has. Alternatively, I read in Sapiens that originally women would be polygamous as well as men, in order to have offspring with different qualities. I’m no sexologist, and I’m not sure regarding sex how much of it we know is based on biological differences or what we’ve been socialised to think. Hence why I’m trying to look at both aspects.

In terms of brains, the male brain is better at focusing on specific tasks, whilst the female brain is better at multi-tasking. The male brain is highly specialised, and separates things like emotion, information and relationships into different compartments whereas the female brain bands them together. This could explain why women tend to ‘over-think’ more whilst men are more direct. If a man says he’s busy, it means he’s busy. A woman tries to read into this in order to find ‘hidden meanings’ that aren’t there. Whilst the male brain finds a memory, analyses it then moves on, the female brain is more likely to ruminate over this again and again. This also shows why men appear more ‘logical’ or ‘analytical’ whereas women are more ‘emotional’ or have better memories.

Hence when people complain that more men than women are doing STEM subjects, perhaps it is just because the male brain is more suited to those than women? Just like the female brain is more suited to social sciences and humanities? Again, I don’t see what is wrong with this. It doesn’t mean women can’t do STEM subjects, just that they’re less likely to because of wiring.

So far I’ve only discussed biological differences. Now for sociological differences. Nowadays society has made gender roles less rigid as I mentioned. Putting people into boxes and saying ‘men are all like this’ and ‘women are all like that’ is never helpful. Certain behaviours are more feminine and masculine of course, but some things aren’t. Trousers for example. Trousers are more practical to wear because they’re easier to walk or run in. Same with high heels; high heels are impractical because they’re bad for your back and harder to run or walk in. In isolation, these things are neither feminine or masculine. A skirt or a dress in isolation is not feminine or masculine. There are certain cultures where men wear skirts. In Scotland they wear kilts. If I see a man wearing a dress I think ‘ew’, but a hundred years from now it’ll probably be normal.

Make-up, in isolation, is not feminine or masculine. There are cultures where men wear make-up. Great kings and queens in Egypt wore make-up because it looked fashionable and was associated with royalty. Make-up, piercings, tattoos; these are all just things people do to enhance their appearance. Tattoos are not feminine or masculine; anyone can get them. There are doubtlessly societies that look down on tattoos for men and women and see them as ‘crass’, just as there are societies where people don’t drink alcohol (Islam) or use technology (Amish). Socio-cultural norms play a massive role in how gender is viewed, and what is viewed as ‘appropriate’ or ‘acceptable.’

Having a bag is viewed as more 'feminine', but a bag in isolation is not feminine or masculine. Having a bag is actually very practical. If a man was carrying a hand-bag he would be seen as ‘girly’, but if he has a lot of stuff to carry then what’s wrong with him having a bag? Just like girls that wear trackies and trainers are seen as ‘tomboys’, but if they’re walking a lot or it’s cold it makes more sense to dress like that.

Most activities that are seen as ‘male’ or ‘female’ aren’t, they’ve just been socially accepted as that. The colour pink used to be a masculine colour; now it’s a feminine colour. I love pink, but I also like blue and black. Social trends change all the time, so social constructions of how gender is perceived also changes.
To conclude this, I would like to state that yes, there are innate biological differences between men and women, involving chromosomes, hormones and male and female organs. But in terms of social expressions of gender, those typically are fluid and do change regarding how society perceives gender. It’s very tiresome that I have to say this, but you can either be a man or a woman. Anything else is attention-seeking retardation. Transgender is not a gender; you can only transition from male to female and vice versa. Gender cannot be purely social because if it was then trans people wouldn’t exist and gender dysphoria wouldn’t be a thing. I know there are going to be people thinking ‘sex is biological and gender is psychosocial’ but I’ve used the terms interchangeably because it’s easier and makes more sense to me. Gender is how you express your sex, if you like, but a woman who dresses in a masculine way is still a woman. I think people confuse ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ with gender being socially constructed. Social norms do change and what is perceived as feminine and masculine tends to change. But a man or a woman is still only ever a man or a woman. This is funny cos it's true :) 


  1. I agree except that we have evolved towards more gender roles, not away from them as sex differences in personality traits are larger in prosperous, healthy, and egalitarian cultures in which women have more opportunities equal with those of men.

    I still agree that people should be free to express their gender and I'm not saying anything about enforcing gender roles; Just that I think you're conceptually mistaken about them being "stagnant" or something of the "past".

    1. I mean stagnant as in men having to be 'tough' and not show emotion and women being more 'passive'. Like men have always been expected to not show much emotion; crying is viewed as 'unmanly' and that can be really harmful to men because crying is natural and healthy and men shouldn't be expected to hold in their feelings for the sake of 'manliness.' Likewise not all women are 'passive' and 'demure', plenty of women can be successful and resilient (without necessarily being 'bitchy' or 'domineering') so that's what I mean about modern society moving past stagnant gender roles.

    2. I think those are more stereotypes rather than actual gender roles etc. Also, when it comes to men crying because their parent died, most people see that as natural and healthy. If a man cries because you called him a "pussy", that's generally seen as not natural and unhealthy and generally should be seen that way. So again, I think you're talking more about stereotypes that aren't very accurate to real life. Likewise, most people to do see the difference between women being "successful and resilient" as opposed to "bitchy or domineering". I think you mean move past gender stereotypes rather than gender roles?

    3. Yeah stereotypes is a better way to put it

    4. I think the problem is that we used to have a healthy balance of what was suitable to cry over (like death) and what wasn't (like insults). It was about not being so emotionally weak which tends to help one better protect themselves; Not being cold. Today, however, we've gotten super sensitive and emotional so many people see what was balanced and imbalanced because they're looking at it from such an extreme point of view and then that perpetuates the stereotype we have here. Like anything in life, some men took it too far with the emotional stability, of course, but those men were seen as extreme in their day too.

    5. I don't know if it's fair to say what's 'suitable' to cry over as some people are just naturally super sensitive. At the same time I deffo see your point about character strengthening. Like I've always been a massive crybaby, I cry very easily and my dad (who's always been a bit of a stoic) used to get irritated and say I was being 'pathetic' and sometimes if he'd heard me crying I'd deny it just to prove myself that I was 'tough' in front of him. (I don't think he was deliberately being cruel, he just grew up in Tanzania where people don't cry as much because their situations are often dire due to immense poverty etc). However, while I do think crying is a healthy way to release emotions, I don't think you should self-indulge. As someone with depression I know it's unhealthy to lie around indulging in negative thoughts because all it does is lead to more negativity so in that sense it's pretty unhealthy. Feel your feelings but don't let them 'take over' you; keep them right-sized.

    6. Well many people have lots of survival instincts, that's how we got here today (evolution). One of those traits was not being too sensitive to handle what life throws at us. I think it's not only fair but necessary to acknowledge when that balance is lost and people are actually being groomed to be emotionally weaker and less stable; It only hurts them.

      As you know, I believe the key is balance. As you said, it's healthy to release [appropriate] emotions but it's not healthy to self-indulge.

      Part of the reason why this is more "new" is because for a very long time, any person who was *that* sensitive would likely die because life would be too much for them. It's only recently with such advances in technology etc. that people can be more comfortable and face less dangers and hardships etc.

      Part of what makes us of higher intelligence is the fact that we *can think beyond our feelings* unlike most animals which are driven solely by their main survival desires. It's also seen as just "immature". Children don't have a hold on their emotions as they are still learning that process. When adults act like children do, it's not very healthy.

    7. Perhaps also a reason people have become more sensitive is we've become more compassionate over time. Early humans would kill each other over 'godlike sacrifices' and had to look after their 'own'; the instinct to kill is said to be as strong as the instinct to pro-create. Like if there was a zombie apocalypse I doubt people would hesitate to kill each other for food if need be. However, because we aren't living in those kinds of situations anymore (certainly not in the UK/USA) one could say humans are more compassionate and empathetic towards one another as opposed to 'emotionally weaker.' Sensitivity actually is a sign of emotional strength. (Naturally of course, narcissism/self indulgence is not).

    8. I think it's the opposite: We're more sensitive because we're less compassionate. People 50 years ago would say things that might be considered "less compassionate" but they're actions were more compassionate. Today people tend to be less selfless and less likely to put others before themselves, yet more likely to not want to verbally offend them with their choice of linguistics.

      Compared to when we were more barbaric and making human sacrifices though, of course we're more compassionate overall; The trend was going towards more compassionate until the "Me" Generation (for the USA).

      Just because we don't need to kill each other for survival doesn't mean we're more compassionate, especially if it only takes a little pushing from nature. For example, New York City had a famous black out when all of the electricity went out and many bad things happened - though bad things were already happening there, more people who wouldn't normally join in such activity, started to join in and use it as an excuse to "purge", so to speak. We're just more controlled now; not more compassionate.

      I wouldn't say "sensitivity" is a sign of emotional strength, but I would say "compassion" is.


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