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On gender differences

By and large, I don’t much believe in innate gender differences. I mean, I’m not about to go out shopping for a maternity dress and nursing bra for myself (although the nursing bra might be interesting, and if I spend too much more of my life sitting passively in front of a computer screen I may need the maternity dress), but by and large, when I hear someone say, ‘Well, men always feel this way, and women feel this other way’, or ‘All men want X and all women want Y’, or even ‘Women tend to be more thus­and­such than men’, and imply that that’s inherent to being born with XX or XY chromosomes, I generally think they are Being Silly.

I don’t know, I have some friends who take gender very seriously (including one [many more than one by 2003] who takes it so seriously that he had an operation and takes hormones), but I basically feel like people are people, and that the Human Experience (whatever that is) is something that, by and large, we can all share, or at least tap into. I suspect that there are some differences in perspective due to different physiology (the fact that woman can conceive, bear, and give birth to other human beings is really pretty wild when you stop to think about it, for instance, and men’s greater average size and strength has implications for power dynamics), but basically I think men and women come with the same kinds of minds.

Of course, there are all sorts of cultural differences between women and men (as there are among different races, religions, and nationalities), and I certainly take those differences seriously. But it bothers me to hear people take them for granted as though they were inborn. In fact, in most cultures the roles and psychological traits that are considered appropriate for men and for women differ, but they differ in different ways for different cultures. Tells ya something.

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Jay Sekora <js@aq.org>
last modified 2003.10.11; written 1996.09.12
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