The idea of feminine and masculine qualities doesn’t bother me in the broadest sense. It’s shorthand for certain characteristics we notice more commonly in one sex over the other. At least, that’s the position I’ve held for a long time that is crumbling away. It’s an idea I decided to be okay with because I have noticed for myself that there are some characteristics more of the men of my acquaintance share with each other than the women and vice versa.
There ARE differences between men and women that biology imposes. Instincts that nature has created to best protect our species. All animals have developed instincts and systems of behavior that help to protect their species. Penguins do it differently than humans. Mice do it differently than penguins. Big cats have different arrangements and instincts within their species.
So biological gender differences can be observed in a general way, except that nature has given humans a wider range of genders than we have been willing to acknowledge up until recently. We haven’t begun to understand what role hormones play in gender. We know that testosterone and estrogen can be higher or lower in people creating some observable physical differences as well as some behavioral ones. But there’s so much more to know about why sometimes people are born with combinations of gender that aren’t simply male or female. We don’t know how much of our characteristics are driven by biology and how much of it is produced by environment.
Gender is interesting and important to try and understand. Wherever you are on the spectrum, you can’t tell me that your hormones and other biological equipment has nothing to do with who you are.
But what bothers me, what I accept less and less is the value people put on different human characteristics. I have a problem with traditional ideas about what “strength” IS. The traditional belief that men are strong and that strength is measured in physical brute force as well as ability to withstand pain and not be emotional. I have a problem with the traditional belief that women are soft and giving and emotional and these attributes are considered weak.
Fuck traditional gender roles. People are so concerned with raising boys to be “manly” and girls to be “womanly” and all the baggage that those expressions represent. Nothing I’m saying here is new. Tons of people have observed the same things and had the same wish to see traditional roles change. But I’m just beginning to understand how that can happen and that some of the things I thought were benign before really aren’t and I’m not okay with them. So this is not me sharing some brand new thoughts – this is me recognizing myself changing. Growing. Expanding beyond some old ideas I used to cling to.
We teach our children what it means to be strong. We reinforce that every single day with our actions and behaviors. You can tell them that being empathetic is a strength but if you talk about people who show empathy as being weak, your kids will follow your behavior. How we view strength and weakness as a culture is something we teach.
If we all raised our kids with the idea that they grow up to be good people instead of “good men” or “good women” we can dispense with all this bullshit power struggle it creates between gender and the void it creates for those who don’t fit in the traditional roles or who aren’t one of those two genders. Questions rise in my head and as soon as they do I already know the answer.
Why does it scare people so much to let go of traditional ideals of gender behavior?!
Because a patriarchy can’t remain a patriarchy if power is decided not on gender but on individual character.
I think science will eventually tell us what a lot of people are already suspecting, myself included, that gender is a lot more fluid than anyone has previously perceived it. That all humans are a unique cocktail of hormones, chemicals, and physiological attributes that contribute to the quality of their person. This is why stereotyping gender doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Not all women have the urge to procreate. Not all women are nurturing. Not all men are whores –
Back to being serious… not all men are physically stronger than women, not all men are rational thinkers, not all men are good at sports or even give a shit about them.
So many people I know don’t neatly fit stereotypical gender roles. I know a lot of women who are rational thinkers and more practical and grounded than the men in their lives. I know women who are great at and love sports. I know women who have no maternal urges. I know women with voracious sexual appetites. I know men who are empathetic, nurturing, and also love sports.