How Different are Men and Women?

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I definitely agree that the hormonal explanations for gender are more important than ideas about reincarnation, which are purely speculative. There is also the possibility of neuroscience leading to new findings. One important area is trying to establish whether or not it is true that gender dysphoric individuals have physical differences here, possibly related to hormones in brain development before birth, and even afterwards.

There is also a lot that is not understood about the genetics of gender. One aspect is how gender differentiation, which was previously thought to be due to the sex chromosomes is not that simple. One gene which has been identified as extremely important is Foxl2. Apparently, this switches on or off certain processes in sexual differentiation.

The nature of sex chromosomes is an important area, although, mostly, sometimes people may exaggerate the importance of chromosomes. Most people have never had chromosome tests. Recently, I read that it has come to light that more men have chromosome disorders than previously thought. This includes XXY of Klinefelter's Syndrome and XYY. The nature of XYY chromosomes is of significance because it was found to be more prominent and associated with those who had committed crimes.
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It does seem that the nature of gender has been exaggerated so much culturally. Of course, in animal kingdoms there is sexual performance, so some may be due to the instinctual or biological patterns of nature. However, the sociology of gender has been important in pointing to the cultural aspects. In particular, the postmodernist deconstruction of gender was extremely important in the development of critical theory about gender and its dynamics.
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I am just also writing in response to your mention of thinking about gender in relation to race. It does seem that sexual inequality and racial inequality may have coexisted. It involves biological differences being used as a basis for subordination. During the last century there were major shifts in questioning racism and sexism. In particular, feminism identified the existence of a patriarchy in history.

Thinking about the nature of biological differences and the political aspects of this has been an important area. It has led to people querying gender essentialism. It is likely that in the aftermath of postmodernism, there are still a lot of questions, especially the interplay of biology, culture and politics. Mainstream religion, especially fundamentalism was an important dynamic force. In the twentieth first century, it may be that there is a void of uncertainty, especially in the 'post-truth' world.
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In terms of identity men and women or trans do not exist. Those terms are societal shorthand - useful tools to make communicating a bit easier. But all that exists are unique individuals. The second the individual starts to accept these generalizations as actually defining them, the soul loses its wings.

Radical freedom, where can you be whatever you want to be as long as you free your mind from external constraints, is an interesting notion, but it's more of an aspirational concept than something that really exists. Even in your metaphorical language ("the soul loses its wings"), you allude to obvious limitations. No matter how much I wish to cast aside the external restraints of my nature and nurture, I won't be able to fly (as in literally fly).

The problem with freedom is that it is a pretty slippery concept of questionable metaphysical construct. What I mean is that there must be a driver that determines why you choose A over B, and if you've discounted your genetic composition and you've discounted your environment as being causative of that decision, then what is left? Do you mean to say that your soul, acting alone, based upon its nature, decided without constraint? Are you not then really just arguing that nature (as opposed to nurture) made you act as you did, meaning, basically, "you were born that way."
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If you start with the enlightenment image of the white man as 'thinking thing', you get a physically feminised white man in relation to the physically hyper-masculine black. This results in the need for the white woman to be ultra feminine (empty-headed), to make the white man look masculine by comparison, whereas the black woman is physically the amazon. Such is Cleaver's insight, and it still rules the unconscious to a great extent.

What this means is that the question of whether gender is more so physical or mental (cultural/ brain chemical) is already racialised. It already depends on which racial stereotype is being considered, and it is usually the white one.
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The whole interplay between gender and racism in power is important as well as the way in which stereotypes impact on life. This involves the concept of otherness. One essay on this is 'The Other Question: Stereotype, discrimination and the discourse of colonialism. He speaks of power in discourse, saying how it involves
'articulation of difference_ racial and sexual. Such an articulation becomes crucial if it is held that the body is always simultaneously (if conflictually) inscribed in both the economy of discourse, dominanation and power.'
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I suppose you could view it as a radical free choice position.

I believe one can only explore that which is truly authentic to the self when one is free of external pressures on the mind. That includes both nature and nurture, and thus societally-constructed gender identities, whether they're traditional or trans.

In terms of identity men and women or trans do not exist. Those terms are societal shorthand - useful tools to make communicating a bit easier. But all that exists are unique individuals. The second the individual starts to accept these generalizations as actually defining them, the soul loses its wings.

In order for there to be "radical free choice" or anything near it, there would have to be no human nature. Nothing built in. We would have to be born as blank slates.
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Culture exaggerates sexual differences where they statistically occur, and invents them everywhere else.

I don't think biological sexual differences are just "statistical." I think they are obvious and significant. To deny this is to ignore the evidence of your senses. That doesn't mean we are destined and condemned to living out societal expectations, but it's not some trivial artifact of our troglodyte past.

Always good to be able to use "troglodyte" in a post.
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Thinking about the nature of biological differences and the political aspects of this has been an important area. It has led to people querying gender essentialism. It is likely that in the aftermath of postmodernism, there are still a lot of questions, especially the interplay of biology, culture and politics.

I think what you write is true, but that doesn't mean that those "querying gender essentialism" have got it right. Denying who we irrefutably are for political purposes is not liberation, it's foolishness.
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Do you mean to say that your soul, acting alone, based upon its nature, decided without constraint? Are you not then really just arguing that nature (as opposed to nurture) made you act as you did, meaning, basically, "you were born that way."

I agree with much of what you say, but I don't think @Tzeentch's position requires that we be completely ruled by our nature. I think it would have to mean that our true self, our soul, comes from somewhere outside of either nature or nurture.
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The whole interplay between gender and racism in power is important as well as the way in which stereotypes impact on life. This involves the concept of otherness.

I think overemphasizing the parallel between racial oppression and sexual discrimination is a mistake. The situations are different.
• 7k
I don't think biological sexual differences are just "statistical." I think they are obvious and significant. To deny this is to ignore the evidence of your senses.

If that were the case, there would be no need to differentiate them by artificial means such as designated clothing, hairstyles etc. In the days when I had long hair and a child in a pushchair, I was frequently mistaken for a woman from a short distance - despite the beard. Anecdotes of serious misidentifications with 'ladyboys' in foreign parts have also reached me, so I take your claim of infallibility on the subject with a deal of scepticism.
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If that were the case, there would be no need to differentiate them by artificial means such as designated clothing, hairstyles etc.

I don't think that's true. I don't deny there are social pressures to conform to accepted sexual behaviors, but that's clearly, to me at least, not all there is to it.
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I don't think that's true.

You are not saying anything. What is the need to differentiate the sexes by dress and hairstyle, then?

I'm saying it's because you need to know who to fight and who to fuck, and you can't always tell by size, shape, sound... If you can always tell, then there must be some other reason.
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What is the need to differentiate the sexes by dress and hairstyle, then?

Why can't it be both - biology and society?
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I agree with much of what you say, but I don't think Tzeentch's position requires that we be completely ruled by our nature. I think it would have to mean that our true self, our soul, comes from somewhere outside of either nature or nurture.

The problem then comes from statements like "being true to yourself," as if your soul is a certain way, that you were made a certain way, which would continue to demand that you be controlled by the nature of your soul. I'm not sure why it matters if by "nature" we mean genetic composition or soul.

That is, if I have a Hanover soul, I gotta be Hanoveresque, which means I can't be T Clarkesque. If I have a male soul, I have to be a male. I don't see where this give me more freedom.
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It can't be either, if you mean by 'it' the answer to my question to you. I have already given you personal testimony that people cannot always 'obviously' distinguish the sexes. This is why they have tests in sport, and why we had a female pope. Some species do have clear markers for sex of size, or plumage or shape, but humans do not. Manboobs are generally smaller than womanboobs, but small womanboobs can be smaller than merely medium manboobs.That is to say, the boobs thing is a statistical difference. Nor does one sex have colourful plumage or horns. So we exaggerate the differences with cultural codes.
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A very informative post Jack. I'm in your debt.

Clearly there's been a lot of research since I last touched a book on biology. My files are outdated; nevertheless, since something is better than nothing, I'm ok with hanging onto what I learned many suns ago in college. That's that.

I wish there was someone here on the forum who knew more about the sexual revolution and no, I'm not talking about the one that happened in the 60s - 70s. At what stage in the evolution of life, did it undergo the mitosis-to-meiosis transformation and why? Sex, from what I know, is the dominant mode of reproduction in metazoans. The natural question then is this: is the LGBITQ community a sign of a reproductive revolution (asexual $\to$ sexual $\to$ ?)?. From a mathematical perspective it makes perfect sense - more combinations & permutations there are, the better it is. I haven't worked out the deatails though so don't ask me to explain. Have an awesome day Jack.
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I have already given you personal testimony that people cannot always 'obviously' distinguish the sexes. This is why they have tests in sport, and why we had a female pope. Some species do have clear markers for sex of size, or plumage or shape, but humans do not. Manboobs are generally smaller than womanboobs, but small womanboobs can be smaller than merely medium manboobs.That is to say, the boobs thing is a statistical difference. Nor does one sex have colourful plumage or horns.

The fact that there are strong, aggressive women and physically weaker, less assertive men is no evidence at all that there are not significant biological differences between men and women. I've heard that some people eat peas with their knives. That doesn't make me think that there is no difference between a knife and a fork. I personally usually eat them with a spoon.
• 7k
The fact that there are strong, aggressive women and physically weaker, less assertive men is no evidence at all that there are not significant biological differences between men and women.

I agree. It would be ridiculous to suggest there are no significant biological differences. What on earth made you think I suggested anything of the sort? Men almost never become pregnant.
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Men almost never become pregnant.

Do you believe that's the only significant difference?
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Did your Mummy and Daddy not explain the facts of life to you?
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Did your Mummy and Daddy not explain the facts of life to you?

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I would add that I am trying to explore the ideas around essentialism, relating to gender and sexuality.

To what extent are men and women different, or what it means to be a man or woman and how this question is explored introspectively?

"Male" and "female" are simply words people use. There are many others, of course, but there is no inherent content in a word (be it uttered or written) or grouping of words. In simplest form, we understand meaning (and attempt to convey it) in words by virtue of context - where/when the word is used, by whom it is spoken, to whom it is directed, the language community within which it is used, etc.

"Biology" is no different than any other word. Some people mean one thing, other people understand something else, and the world turns. In this case, we are talking about essentialism - what is it, from a biological perspective, that justifies including some organism in group A and excluding them from B? Essentially, the biology split between male and female is in the context of sexual reproduction: it hinges on what an organism contributes to its offspring: males provide the smaller gamete while females provide the larger gamete. In this way, the use of male and female regarding a specific reproductive act is unambiguous.

Where biology becomes increasingly ambiguous is the extent to which the use of "male" and/or "female" is abstracted away from a particular reproductive act. On the first level, organisms that contribute the larger gamete exclusively are female, organisms that contribute the smaller gamete exclusively are male, and organisms that contribute both are hermaphrodites. On the second level, organisms are grouped together - those have reproduced with one another are in the same group (species) while other organisms that have not reproduced with them are not in the group. On the third level, the criteria for group membership is expanded - organisms that are the offspring of the reproducing organism/s (parent/s) are added to the group irrespective of whether the offspring will ever reproduce. Not just are offspring added, but so are other organisms that are believed to be similar to the reproducing organisms (e.g. siblings of the parent/s). Whatever the structural account of how gametes (large or small) are made (e.g. gonads), species members that have the structural potential of making large ones are called called female, those capable of producing small ones are male, and those that have the potential to do both are hermaphrodites. The move here (rather than the particular steps) is what is at issue - the act of reproduction and naming the participants (by class) turns into naming other non-participants by abstraction. The question is, what characteristic makes the use of "male" or "female" warranted in the case of an organism that either has a) not yet reproduced or b) is incapable of reproduction (e.g. injured such that gonads are non-present or non-functional). Putting aside the taxonomical issue of what a species is, at some point characteristics of the organisms aside from contributing the larger or smaller gamete begin to be considered - those characteristics that are found with greater frequency (or exclusively) in males than in females (and vice versa) are then deemed "male".

The utility in associating other characteristics with potential gamete contribution (even if a factual impossibility) varies. Sometimes it is helpful in describing anatomy, sometimes it is helpful in predicting a disease process, etc. Each of the extended uses of "male" and "female" need to be evaluated on their own merit (do they convey any substance in an acceptable manner). The biological use case of "male" and "female" are not, however, prescriptive, rather they are descriptive of statistically meaningful trends (i.e. characteristics that occur with sufficient frequency). Equally important, they are not statements of "natural law" (i.e. a limitation on how the natural world might be).

Where the difficulty arises, in my mind, is when people try to subsume the biological underpinnings of sex (gamete contribution) and speak as if the correlative characteristics are what is essential to the biological categorization. I grant to you in advance that the words/concepts of male and female preceded biology and that how sexual reproduction happens is utterly irrelevant to the development of those ideas/words outside of a more contemporary biological understanding of sex. It is precisely this type of co-development that ends up causing confusion about what "essentialism" can even mean because the great weight of history and historical uses is against the contemporary technical usage of a word.

From my perspective, discussions of biology in conversations about sex/gender are really just rhetorical devices - appeals to authority to validate a person's claims. In large part, this relates to something another poster alluded to (whose name I might add later when I look it up it was you) when mentioning the hardware of anatomy and whether such anatomy fundamentally dictates/limits experience/preference. If, for instance, you haven't a certain part of your brain, is there some essential difference between you and a person that has that part? If having that part of the brain is highly correlated with being in the biological bucket of male, then aren't males essentially different than females? Does a single example of a male not having that part of the brain or a female having it change whether that feature is essential to male/female?

The inclusion criteria for what is male/female from a biological perspective is never the same as the essential criteria being discussed - we know in advance that there is almost certain to be less than a perfect correlation (every male has it and every female does not). It is, therefore, a foregone conclusion both that any alleged claim regarding an essential characteristic will have exceptions and that the person making the claim will ignore those exceptions.

Once we have some understanding (if not agreement) about what we mean by "essentialism" from a biological perspective, we can take up how it relates to your areas of interest. Suffice it to say, I am sympathetic to gender being performative and society enforcing/teaching individuals how to play the part (even if that part changes over time). In the same way that society molds our desires and identities with everything else (need for chocolate, being Scottish), it should come as no surprise that people believe that sex/gender is a core, immutable part of their identity that is actually based in their very being (biology).
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Suffice it to say, I am sympathetic to gender being performative and society enforcing/teaching individuals how to play the part (even if that part changes over time).

And perhaps that social part is already shaped by inborn gender disposition rather than being dictated solely by culture.

“Instead of the young being socialized by society, as many people believe, they may flesh out their gender roles largely by themselves through observation and emulation of models of the gender they identify with.

In our fellow primates, we have scattered evidence that the young selectively attend to same-sex models. For example, a recent orangutan study in the Sumatran forest by Beatrice Ehmann and colleagues showed that pre-pubertal daughters eat the same foods as their mother, whereas same-aged sons have a more diverse diet. Having paid attention to a wider range of models, including adult males, young males consume foods that their mother never touches.

Similarly, Elizabeth Lonsdorf observed how juvenile chimpanzees at Gombe National Park, in Tanzania, learn from their mother how to extract termites by dipping twigs into the insects’ nests. Daughters faithfully copy the exact fishing technique of their mother, whereas sons do not. Despite both spending equal time with their mom, daughters seem to watch her more intently during termite feeding.

These examples don’t yet amount to gender roles. It is much easier to measure tool-use and food habits in the forest than social attitudes and norms. But primate culture studies are evolving and will no doubt include social measures in the future. At the very least, current evidence suggests that young apes choose which adult models to emulate based on their own gender identity. Young males look for male models, young females for female models.

I would therefore not exclude gender socialization in our fellow primates, nor for that matter in other animals.”
(Frans De Waal, The Gendered Ape, Essay 3: Do Only Humans Have Genders?)
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Even in your metaphorical language ("the soul loses its wings"), you allude to obvious limitations.

There are biological and physical realities, of course. People can't fly, if you don't breathe you die, etc.

But I don't view identity as a reality. It's a set of beliefs we have about ourselves. Or, If identity can be said to be real and impose limitations on the individual, my view would be that reason is the means to transcend it.

It's something we can control, or even dispose of altogether, if we want to, and if we develop the tools to understand it.

Even if one chooses to keep some concept of identity for the sake of interpersonal communication, there is likewise no reason one should come to view it as truly defining oneself or growing attached.

In order for there to be "radical free choice" or anything near it, there would have to be no human nature. Nothing built in. We would have to be born as blank slates.

But in all seriousness, I view 'human nature' more as tendencies we humans have when we're not in control. If you let go of the steering wheel in your car, you'll probably not end up going straight and crashing into a tree.

We override our natural tendencies all the time, showing that we can be in control, if we want to.
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We override our natural tendencies all the time, showing that we can be in control, if we want to.

How on earth would you know? Do your thoughts all have labels on them declaring their origin?
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During the last century there were major shifts in questioning racism and sexism.

Good observation: Women could've been, practically are, a distinct race. Men just use women for making copies of themselves (babies). Did you know, female infanticide was a major problem in India & China a few decades ago? Ultrasonographers in India were forbidden by law to disclose the sex of the fetus - this spawned a market of back alley abortion "clinics" but that's another story.

What's interesting is Godzilla (1998) could reproduce without the aid of a male (parthenogenesis). Jesus' virgin birth maybe God's way of saying men are redundant/superfluous/unnecessary. Explains why women are the first category of hostages set free and men are, absit iniuria, dispensable.

Of interest to you maybe the Amazons, feared tribe of warrior women. Myth/fact I dunno!
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It is hard to know the reality of Amazons and other aspects of mythic fables, including the idea of a matriarchy preceding a patriarchy. There are statues of goddesses, but it is difficult to know what this represents historically. Ideas about gods and gender are diverse, with the Hindus having some androgynous deities.

In Christianity, there is a mixed picture because the Virgin mother is presented as a female role model against a background of Christianity and its patriarchal elements. The Virgin Mary may be contrasted with Mary Magdalene, who some have seen as Jesus's wife based on aspects of Gnostic writings.

In some countries, there has been infanticide of female infants. The current reproductive technology has the power to choose the sex of the child being conceived. Perhaps, at some point biological men will be able to give birth. The story of the 'pregnant man', and there may have been a number of these caused a lot of sensation. However, it was different from a biological man giving birth because it involved a biological female having taken male hormones but still having female internal organs and fertility. Nevertheless, unless the person was trans I am not sure that many men would wish to give birth.
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I view 'human nature' more as tendencies we humans have when we're not in control.

You and I have very different understandings of human nature.
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