Birds and the Bees

First of all it needs to be made clear that men and women are no more hard and fast lines than color naming. The concept of gender is a human abstraction. Physically, psychologically, genetically, and hormonally, there exist examples of persons who have elements of both or neither. But that’s hard to fathom given the hard and fast mental distinctions that come forth in the American mind with regard to the words “man” and “woman”. Why? The primary reason men and women are so different from each other is early social training. From birth we are taught the “differences” between boys and girls, choice of nursery color being the best example of early gender training. Blue for boys and pink for girls. Codes of behavior are also standardized “boys will be boys” and so forth. The training goes on and extends to almost every facet of a person’s life, so much so that the gender identity can be construed as the most important single fact of self that can be easily categorized. But it’s not that simple, people spend thousands of dollars on sex change operations and therapy dealing with gender issues. Not to mention simple life style systems, such as transsexuals and cross dressing and/or homosexuality. The training for your gender is so intense that when a boy is given the training of a girl or vice versa then there are always serious psychological consequences. At the very least it could be accurately termed “traumatic”. In fact it’s even a cliché that blurred gender lines in early childhood yields serial killers, at least according to Hollywood. I’m aware of the fact that there are biological differences between men and women, and have been since I was about 4, but many also say there are mental differences other than those caused by hormones. I personally feel that any of these mental distinctions are either a result of the differences in training and social exposure, or simply divergence that occurs between individuals. Such as the conclusion that women are more “emotional”. To me that sounds a lot like studies done on the difference between “Negros” and whites in early American history. In short, pure bunk. I have but to find one example which bucks the trend to invalidate so called gender specific mental states. “More or Less” doesn’t cut it here, in a binary, it’s either all or nothing, you either grant that or you remove binary absolute gender specification entirely, and replace it with a scale, which is actually desired by some groups. We are taught the roles that men and women are expected to play before we are taught speech. Fashion being an excellent example. Women wear frilly fragile clothing while men wear durable comfortable clothing. Dresses versus overalls where I came from. This trend continues throughout adult life. An interesting double

standard is the fact that women can wear men’s clothing and draw no extra attention but men doing the same would be a spectacle. Picture a man standing beside a woman; both are wearing a t-shirt and jeans. Nothing unusual, now picture both wearing a pink dress, who is more out of place? Why is that? This points out the impact on us all gender stratification has. As we all know how you are raised has an impact on the rest of your life. This is the basis of culture, and tradition. Men and women as a whole in America are separate cultures each with their own norms and values, modes of dress and speech, with subcultures falling under one or both. Asking why they are different from each other is like asking why the Japanese are different from Americans. Many of the same reasons apply. A more direct and relevant question would be, why are people different. Biology plays a role, the hormonal impact on a person’s development may be important in shaping a person but these differences apply to both genders, some women and men may be different from their peers due to hormonal levels. But that impact is largely only there because of social training. Consider a 12 year old boy with a high pitch voice. The biological impact there is worthless compared to the social impact that stems from it. Look around, we as a populace have adopted a series of dress codes all our own and almost as standardized as a uniform, based on season, social niche, but more importantly, gender. This isn’t because of any inborn genetic code or endocrine difference, it’s due to social training and habit alone. Something I find interesting about the men to women and women to men clothing tolerances explained earlier is that in general it “says” that women mimicking men is ok and men mimicking women is not. One could easily construe that as sexist. And harmful given that if men were a little more like women maybe murder rape and war wouldn’t be as common. But regardless of why, the differences are there and to ignore them isn’t very honest. It’s unfair to say that simply recognizing differences makes one prejudice or sexist. Equality like anything else in life can be taken to unhealthy extremes, like in the movie/story Harrison Bergeron. “You haven’t made everybody equal, you’ve made them the same and there’s a big difference.” I agree with this statement. People are largely defined by their differences, and to attack one for recognizing them is to attack them for seeing you as an individual, maybe this collective attack on a groups’ own individuality is what makes them, after a while, all look a little more the same. Can you spot a hippy? I know I can, they typically have a uniform. Just as many other social and political groups do. There is nothing wrong with this as far as I’m concerned, as a great mind once said; Variety is the spice of life. And I personally don’t like bland things. I’m willing to accept the differences between genders, races,

and social groups. I would only change one thing, I would like that the only condition for allowing a group to exist is that it also vows never to harm other groups. When talking about social equality and freedom one must be careful how much freedom you give to a group that wishes to inhibit another group’s freedom. For example I don’t mind there being Catholics in my country or town or street as long as they don’t try to remove (or burn) the Protestants, gays, Mormons and Wiccans from my street. Tolerance can only be taken so far before it will destroy itself. This tenuous balance is what makes life and social policy challenging. Knowing in all things how far is too far, to me, is the measure of wisdom. All equality activists in any form should take notice of exactly what they are attacking, lest they succeed and destroy the very thing that makes us all individuals, our differences.