Men and Women? Are they the same? Are they different? What is all this disagreement over Sex and Gender? Does it affect our everyday experience?
As a man I spend time thinking and writing about the experience of being a man. I look to understand my own experience and that of many other men. I do this to develop who I am and to provide other men with material that will enable them to develop who they are, to create a situation where men become men.
A critical part of this is understanding what it is to be a man, how men become men. In relation to what, you might ask. It’s important to know what not being a man looks like. Where is it that men are when they seek help from ‘Male eXperience’?
This is an essence of the debate on Sex and Gender. What is a man and how is this man created? The point of this article is not to debate this issue but to point out where I am coming from as a writer.
In general terms Sex is what we are, biologically, when we are born; male, female or something else; Gender is what we become through choice or conditioning: man, woman or something else. Sex is a simple description and gender is a social construct orginally used by feminism. The issue that is constantly debated, particularly by those who object to the dominance of men, is whether we are born with anything other than the pure biology. Those who claim that Gender is purely a social construction say, essentially, that we are equal at birth and the rest is created.
I disagree. I believe that we are born with a core sense of masculinity, femininity, or something else. How this turns out depends on social conditioning. I was involved in a long debate on ‘The Good Men Project’, recently, where I was criticised for not being a scientist and having no evidence for what I believed. The issue of sex and gender, however, in not one of science, primarily.
The debate started with a post called ‘8 Myths About Sex Differences’ in it the author said,
“Gender is a powerful reality; it is the perception and expectation of differences between males and females and it shapes both our bodies and our society. Gender differences are real and important, but they are not hard wired or even static. There is no biological or evolutionary mandate that only women really care for babies and show emotions, or that males are the best at economics and politics and prefer beers and skirt-chasing to domestic bliss.
“These are patterns of gender roles and expectations that shape the ways we look at our biology and behavior. They influence the way we expect the world to be. It is the strength of the societal myths about sex that fool us into thinking that men and women are so different by nature.”
There are some truths in what he says, but I think there is a lot more to the idea of differences between men and women than the author seems to want to accept. I said in response,
“I want to know why there is this relentless pressure for us to believe that we are the same? I find that life is infinitely more interesting if I look for the differences between people. My wife and I love life together because of sameness and difference. We have similar interests and find enjoyment and satisfaction in them, that’s what brought us together. What we celebrate, though, are the differences, the polarity between us.
“We are man and woman, male and female, masculine and feminine. We are not opposites but there is a polarity, a tension, a spark between us that comes from the differences between us. They are biological, emotional, hormonal and logical. Our life together grows because we explore and celebrate these differences. Don’t spoil our fun by telling us we are the same!”
This became a post in its own right on ‘The Good Men Project’, ‘I want to know why there is this relentless pressure for us to believe that we are the same?‘, and produced a discussion on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) issues and anthropology. I gave up on the discussion as it went off in directions that I thought were not relevant.
The discussion was finally brought back by another commenter who succinctly put my view,
“Graham has an opinion, as does the author of this article, as does everyone who has posted a comment. He does not believe men and women are psychologically the same and that only cultural influences make them perceive and behave differently. He believes that some of the psychological differences he sees between himself and his wife, and by extension between men and women generally, stem from biological differences. He does not say there are not cultural influences also. I see nothing wrong with him holding this opinion; I share it, as do many others. This is not an outlandish claim. There is a great deal of research to support this view.
“I know there are some quarters which are resistant to exploring this area, for various ideological and personal reasons, but that’s tough. They don’t get to bully everyone else into not having the view expressed by Graham just because it does not square with their agenda.”
So we come back to what I believe, there are biological differences between men and women that influence their psychology and these are further influenced by cultural differences. I don’t believe in gender, there is no reality to it outside of ‘gender politics’.
To return to my aim in writing for men; it is to help men to re-connect with their core essence, whatever that is for them, and to counter the cultural differences that have taken them away from this.
I asked earlier,
“It’s important to know what not being a man looks like. Where is it that men are when they seek help from ‘Male eXperience’?”
Those who see life in terms of binaries might claim not being a man is being a woman, or not being a man is being a boy, or not being a man is being a wimp, or…. create your own if that’s how you think.
For me not being a man is just that, not being a man, it doesn’t make you something else, it just means you are not in touch with your core essence and you have not dealt with the cultural influences that don’t serve you or take you off your path. Being a man is owning your sex and your gender, not in relation to anyone else but purely in relation to who you really are and who you want to be.
How you own it is up to you, it depends on the nature of your core essence and the reality of who you are and who you want to be. It does require a level of authenticity that may be uncomfortable and a level of vulnerability that may be unfamiliar.
It is important, however, that men become men and let go of the social conditioning that can often govern their lives. believe in sex not gender.