Friday, May 27, 2016

6 Fallacies of Gender

I'm going to discuss a series of common fallacies, some briefly described in Fallacy no. 1 and then in greater detail subsequently.

Fallacy no. 1

  Men and women are different, therefore their roles should be different.

Wrong. Just because something or someone is different, does not mean they should be treated or made to behave differently.

To the ignorant, naked eye, men and women might appear different. They have different physiques, appear to have different mental or emotional statuses, and clearly have different roles in our current society. But did you know men and women aren't actually that different?
A recent study led my neuroscientist Daphna Joel of the Tel Aviv University in Israel found that most people have a mix of what had previously been thought of as male and female brain qualities. For example, men, in studies when MRI technology was first made possible, showed to have larger hypocampi, the area of the brain associated with emotion. However, since then, with better technologies, and larger groups to sample from, previously classified "female" and "male" structural differences now are shown evenly across the sexes, and vary based on experience and environment.

Men and women are also similar in the sense that they all start out as female. Or if you want to get really specific, gender neutral. During fetal development, there is a burst of testosterone that will start a baby on its way to becoming male. Of course, it was always going to be male because it was fertilized with a Y sperm, but without that hormone added at the right developmental stage, it would become female. Or a combination of both male and female. But regardless, we all start out looking exactly the same.

A penis and a clitoris are comprised of the exact same tissue. In transgender individuals, females transitioning to male specifically, can actually develop a penis on their own given the correct supplementation of testosterone. And males transitioning to females, especially during adolescence, can develop breasts with the addition of estrogen. Of course, men and women all have both hormones, but the variances between the sexes is what causes some body parts to develop more than others.

So you see, men and women aren't actually that different from each other. What has made us the most different is our roles in society. Or more specifically, the roles placed on us from participating in a society. We can see in many species where size is a major factor in which one sex dominates the other. A good example for me is a Praying Mantis. The female is much larger than the male, and only requires him for mating. After she has had her way with him, she eats him. Her size gives her a major advantage.

In humans, on average, thanks to testosterone and sexual selection, males tend to be larger and stronger than females. We selected for this. But the negative consequences have been males dominating females for millennia. And very successfully too. Males would use females for their own pleasure and purposes.  And it wasn't uncommon for males to have harems and many many offspring. It was an efficient way to perpetuate their genetics, which while there isn't an endgame in evolution, it seems to be the goal of every member of a species.
But just because males have successfully enslaved females for generations, does not mean that it is divine or good. Religion and popular society have taken the idea of women and men being different, sugar coated it with God, and peddled it like hot cakes. Religion, in part, is what keeps women enslaved and treated worse than men. The Mormon church even has a document touted as doctrine telling women to be homemakers and child bearers. Women are still encouraged not to have careers. They still are paid less when they have a career. Women still bear the burden of men's sexuality, in terms of birth control, rape and assault, modesty, and childrearing. And many religious groups ascribe this to divinity and godly appointed gender roles, and gender being an eternal characteristic. When in all actuality, it is just a social construct in order to keep males in dominion over females.

Fallacy no. 2

  Women can have babies, therefore women should be mothers and raise children.

Wrong. Just because a woman is capable of becoming pregnant, giving birth, and nursing a child, it does not mean she is obligated to be a mother, or be a homemaker. Not all women are able to bear children, and not all women want to have children. And some women who desire children, have no desire to be homemakers.

The fallacy here is that because a woman can have baby, she should take care of that baby. This is a very, very old fallacy. As our specifies evolved, we selected for larger males and smaller females. Females desired protection and providence from males for themselves and their offspring. And so long as a male thought the child was his, he would provide for it. Society has taken this and applied it to gender roles, using men's hunting and gathering and placing them into the category or career driven breadwinner. And the woman has gone from cave-dwelling nurturer, to home-making nurturer.

Does this mean it has to be this way? No, certainly not. As discussed above, men and women's brains aren't so different. We are both capable of thought, problem solving, creativity, and learning. With modern conveniences, a woman can pump breast milk or use formula. She is not absolutely required to be present. There are many single fathers, there are gay fathers, there are grandparents, guardians, and others who raise children who are not the birth mother. Women do not have to raise children. And if a woman gives birth to a child, she is not absolutely required to give up her life and remain in the home.

These are archaic gender roles. Men can be home with the children. Women can work outside of the home. Men and women are both capable of being nurturing parents. And neither should be forced to be parents if they do not wish to be.

Fallacy no. 3

  Men are less emotional and more objective, therefore men are better suited for leadership.

Wrong. This is stereotype, that men are less emotional and more objective. It has been perpetuated as a means of control and dominion over women. As discussed above, it was originally found that males seemed to present a larger hipocapus, the area of the brain primarily associated with emotion. But over larger case studies over more varying individuals, it was found that there was variance in the size and function of brain portions across both sexes. There wasn't found definitive brain differences between males and females.

Socially, women are conditioned to be more emotional, and men less emotional. This does not mean it is absolutely rooted in biology. It may have something to do with a person's biology, but it is not "men are less emotional and women are more emotional". These are generalizations, and they are wrong.

We can see several very blatant examples within our current presidential race. We have a female candidate, who has been accused of being emotional, playing the gender card, unable to make rational decisions because of her hormones, and being bitchy because she is motivated and determined. Her qualities, if viewed in a man, would be applauded. But, because she is a woman, they are frowned upon. Women who are confident are bitchy. Women who become angry are hormonal. Women who succeed are actually unhappy and unfulfilled.

I myself recently fell into this horrible stereotype of looking at a female as less capable than a male when I learned that my surgeon was female, my anesthesiologist was female, and every single one of my nurses was female. Society has conditioned me to think poorly of my own gender. When I realized what my first thought was, I chided myself. I knew that wasn't true. I knew my surgeon had completed her medical degree and residency and had been in practice for over 15 years. And I realized I probably wasn't the first person to think this of her. There had probably been many other who had actually voiced their negative opinion of her abilities due to the fact that she is a woman.  This does not mean she is incapable. Her gender has nothing to do with her ability to work efficiently at whatever career she chooses.

In religion, we often see that the man is placed in primary leadership roles, where women are not. Using the Mormon church as an example, men have the priesthood. Women are told their ability to bear children is like having the priesthood. But they are still unable to handle church finances, act with authority, or lead congregations. There has never been a woman bishop, general authority or prophet. Women are reserved for primary (the children's organization), relief society and young women's, or Sunday school teaching. And still with zero power or authority. There will always be a man they refer and defer to.
Collins from Mormon Pride and Prejudice

In my own personal experience, I have found men to be much more extreme in terms of emotion. Emotion is often misclassified as sadness or crying. However, emotion has a wide range of expression, from happiness to anger, to sadness to contempt. Personally, I have seen women handle their emotions better than men. And yet, I have been the victim of gender abuse, having been told I am "PSMing" when I have gotten angry, or I "must be on  my period" if I get sad quickly, or I'm just "too sensitive" when I react poorly to a situation, or I'm "nagging" if I ask for something more than once. I've been called a bitch, and a twat, and a woman driver. All of these things are wrong to say to a woman. While a woman may be on her period, or she may be asking multiple times, each of these phrases are associated with a negative gender stereotype, and regardless of her stage in her menstrual cycle, it has nothing to do with her expression. And should never be used as a way of insulting her.

Fallacy no. 4

  Women have breasts and hips which are inherently sexual, therefore women should be modest.

Wrong. Society has sexualized the female body. It is not inherently sexual. Attractiveness was selected for through eons of evolution. What is considered attractive, can be correlated with reproduction. The fittest pass on their genes. What is considered attractive has roots in biology. As stated above, humans selected for larger males. We also selected for curvy shaped females. Sexual selection helped to shape our definitions of beauty in both males and females, including symmetry, broad shoulders, full  breasts, wide hips, hair and eye color, and stature.

Biologically, men are driven to reproduce. A man is sexually fit, or able reproduce his entire life and can reproduce as many times as he has sex. A woman is only sexually fit until she enters menopause, and can only typically bear one child at a time, which takes 9 months. This puts males at a biological advantage.
It is common knowledge that heterosexual males are visually stimulated by the female body. In our current society, there is a stigma surrounding female modesty for the very reason. Women bear the burden of men's sexuality. We caution women to "cover up" so as not to attract the wrong kind of attention. But is it possible that we have selected for hyper sexuality because of this? Visit an indigenous tribe of New Zealand where women go topless and you will notice, the men are still able to perform their daily tasks without oggling at bosoms all day long. Why? Because they weren't conditioned to hyper sexualize the female body. Nakedness is normal to them. A good example for us is men's nipples. Around the turn of the century, it was indecent for men to expose their chests. That changed as society evolved, and now it is perfectly acceptable for a man to go around bear chested. For a woman, it is still considered indecent exposure.

This is unfortunately to the point that women are shamed publicly for having their breasts exposed while nursing their baby. But a woman in a bikini walking down the strip in Vegas is perfectly acceptable. Our current standards of modesty are unfairly applied to women for men's benefit. And this is largely in part due to unfair application of religious and cultural tenants. Women's bodies are not inherently sexual. We have made them to be that way. As stated above, men have successfully enslaved women for their own purposes for millennia.

Fallacy no. 5

  Every species has a male and female, therefore gender is important.

Wrong. Not every species has a male and female. Not every species participates in traditional sex for reproduction.

Teiidae is a family of lizards native to the Americas, and some populations are all female. No males at all. They reproduce by parthenogenesis, meaning they clone themselves. To do this? They engage in lesbian pseudocopulation, which stimulates egg production. They don't need males. They evolved and selected for a female only population.
Currently, there is significant debate about gender and it's role in society. From fair wages for men and women, to bathroom usage by transgender persons. Christian conservatives have been in opposition to equal rights for LGBTQ for several years now, helping to stall valuable legislation to aid members of the LGBTQ community in fair treatment.

Gender is important. But it does not mean men and women need to behave or be treated differently. Gender is an important part of someone's identity. Does it have to be? No, but culturally, we have made it important. Which is why transgender people struggle to be accepted in the same way as traditional males and traditional females, or those who were born female or male and continue to identify as such. Mormons fall into the trap of believing gender is eternal, and god organized them according to the gender they have always been. This is merely a religious tactic to maintain control over it's population. Because if gender is eternal and divinely appointed, being a woman and bearing children is divine. Being a man and presiding over congregation and family is divine. You make the roles we created as a society decrees from deity, and it is a very effective way to keep them in place. 

Fallacy no. 6

  God gave women to men, therefore women should submit to men.

Wrong. There is no evidence to suggest a deity of any kind created humans, and certainly none to suggest a woman must submit to a man.

Across the world, for centuries, women have been property. They have been bartered for, bought, sold, traded, abused, used, raped, stoned, covered, hidden, shamed, and mutilated by men. In some cultures, women are sold into marriage to a much older man as soon as they become childbearing, or reach puberty, which for some girls is as young as 8. Some cultures require females, and not males, to be completely chaste before marriage; they are even checked physically for their virginity. If they are found to be compromised, they can be put to death. Some cultures remove a woman's clitoris, to prevent her from enjoying sexual relations. A woman can be blamed for her rape; even in western culture, women are still blamed for their sexual abuse. They were wearing the wrong outfit, they were in the wrong place, they were drinking. We aways question the woman before the man.

Society has come a long way, but we still bear the burden of archaic chauvinism and gender inequality. Women are still shaming each other for working outside of the home or not having children. Men still earn higher wages for similar jobs. Men still find themselves in more and greater leadership roles than women. Studies show that men and women trust a man to do a job better than a woman. In many religions, the man presides over the family, and the woman must submit to him. In Mormonism, I remember going through the temple and being so startled by the inherently sexist language used during the bizarre rituals I was participating in. I tried talking to my then devout husband about it several times, but he always had the apologist answers. Men and women are different but equal. Women can have babies and men have the priesthood. Men can be sealed to more than one woman, but not the other way around. A woman is called to heaven by her husband who is called to heaven by god. A woman is a priestess unto her husband, not unto god. I  emember being so confused and irritated that I had to go through a man to approach my god. It didn't seem right.

I didn't like the LDS view of women in the eternities either. Just an eternal baby maker. With no real authority or power. Needing to be protected from humanity by her eternal husband, who became GOD while she just sits on a throne in silence, never talking to or hearing from her children she was eternally forced to bear. It sounded more like hell to me.  I couldn't bear the thought of being eternally silent, and as a perfected exalted being! No perfected exalted being requires protection, because they are above hurt. So saying God loves his wife so much he keeps her hidden so no one will make fun of her, is just chauvinism. It's not protection. Its misogynistic.

We have no reasonable evidence to suggest any of mankind's (notice the subtle sexism in the way we refer to our species?) zillion gods exist. Therefore we have no reason to believe men were given dominion over everything, nor that women should submit to men. We have no reason to believe men and women are different and therefore should assume different roles. We have no evidence to suggest that gender is eternal or black and white. In fact, we have more evidence to the contrary. Gender is biologically based, but socially constructed, and extremely complicated.

My conclusion? It's time to step out of the  gender dark ages, start treating men and women as equals, and quit freaking out over nipples. Everyone has them, just some are fattier than others, including men's.

For your sexist pleasure:

Bitch: Femininely based insult, a difficult or unpleasant situation or thing
Cunt: A vulgar insult, referring to a female's genitals.
Pussy: An insult referring to being cowardly, using a vulgar slang for female genitals
Twat: An insult referring to being stupid, ignorant or annoying, using vulgar slang for female genitals
Like a Girl: An insult to a person's abilities by way of using the female gender
Slut: A promiscuous woman
Sissy: Femininely based insult, cowardly
Whore: A promiscuous woman who sells sex
Cougar: Older women a young man wants to have sex with
Grow a Pair: Usually said to someone who is immature or incapable, signifying having testicles makes you a more capable individual

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.