If you think I’m about to divulge the ideas behind any delusions of grandeur I may have, then I’m sorry to disappoint you. Recently, I have read a book called Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine – which of course you’d know if you follow me on Instagram. The book presents all the scientific evidence about the differences between the two binary genders, and briefly touches upon some intersex issues of examples on how biologically the genders are defined.
Some would probably read the book as a way to tear down men and put women at the top, but it doesn’t do that at all. It’s pretty balanced and even gives you the references for the pieces it uses as evidence. It is a well thought out and well presented book, but you need to have an interest in the area, I think, because it is just science after science.
But never fear, I am here to sort of give an overview and perhaps my take as a pro-feminist cisgendered homosexual man. To point out that I am totally for feminism seems a little pointless when I’ve done it so many times before, and when I talk about toxic masculinity, it’s part of the picture I’m trying to paint. Regardless of that, let’s get into it.
To think of the genders as different biologically, is true; one has a penis, the other has a vagina, we all have breast tissue, it’s just developed differently, these things are hard to ignore, but such ideas that females are more likely to be caring and less career focussed or even logical is nothing to do with biology. You see, it is seen that men are logical, rational people, whilst women are too emotional and illogical, and it’s all to do with biology. Wrong! It’s all to do with society.
Society has dictated, for a long time, that men went out to work because they were physically strong, emotionally resolved, and could think of practical solutions to whatever was thrown at them. Women however, were supposed to rear the young, be emotional and weak. We know this isn’t true, but it’s only taken until recent years for this to really be seen. And what changed? Biology didn’t evolve overnight to give these women strength, they in fact had it all along, they just weren’t supposed to use it. Society changed; when we launched into war, and the men went off to fight, women needed to fill the jobs, and that’s when things began to change – women were now in the workplace and in roles that didn’t require them to sit quietly at a desk.
Women started to be found in fields that were male dominated at the turn of the century (1900s), such as medicine, but still faced difficulties being viewed as weak-minded and incapable of performing surgery, and whilst medicine is still seen as heavily male dominated in higher positions, women are still there. It wasn’t that biology made them want to faint, or that their smaller physique, or brain size, or the differences in bone density were to blame. It was always going to be society.
Experiment after experiment was conducted trying to prove that biologically, men and women were different in all aspects, and results were always found to show that women were more emotional than men…in small samples. It is rare that a study can be so comprehensive to compare both the genders internationally and this is where it all falls down.
Internationally, different cultural norms dictate how society runs, and how men and women take part in the future of that society. The patriarchy dominates worldwide, and that’s just fact, because whilst cultures can be different, the majority are still societies who deem women as weak. So what if you changed society? We know that’s a hard and long process, because we’re going through it now. “Snowflakes” are out there, trying to change the world, from Women’s Marches to ending gun violence, people are trying to change societies globally and being called out for it – by men and women who are comfortable with how their lives are because they benefit in some way financially, usually.
In the book, a number of studies were included where “gendered toys” and “neutral toys” were presented for children to play with. Girls played more with the female genders toys, whilst boys played more with male gendered toys and the neutral toys. This was used mainly to prove that women are more nurturing, however, some studies found that whether male or female, some children would play with a fire truck and tuck it up to sleep during play, regardless of gender. So someone set about presenting the same sorts of toys again, but this time, switching the genders. The doll and pan became male gendered, whilst fire trucks, cars and such became female. The children knew no different, just played with what they were told was a toy for a boy or a girl, and they didn’t switch, showing, to some degree, that these gender norms are taught.
So now, what if we move forward in that child’s life. For example, going to college. A few studies included in the book talked about gender bias in school settings, and used it as a critique of gender specific studies and schools. In these examples, mixed groups of students were told two different things. One group was told men would out-perform women on the test, and the other group was told that there would be no differences in gender and their score. So who did better? In the group told that men would do better, the women did do worse than men, because they fulfilled the prophecy told to them. In the group told there would be no difference, the genders performed the same as one another. This was the same when adults were told this information in the experiments and showed that biology had little to do with it, it was all society.
This book came as absolutely no surprise to myself, and I’m sure others who have read it will probably come to the same conclusion. It had such interesting points, including the difficulties around gender neutral parenting, but it also had examples of reversing society’s norms. When it comes to gender, we have to remember that it is not the same thing as sex. Sex is the little ‘M’ or ‘F’ put onto your birth certificate based on whether you have penis or vagina, when gender is more than that. This book did only focus on the binary genders, and I know that isn’t the greatest thing in this day and age, but it is however, a stepping stone in showing that gender is dictated by society and that it is often too closely linked with sex.
Breaking down barriers is a big thing right now, and it should be. We are trying to move society forward and you can’t just think moving the barriers with it will secure a better future. I have said it a few times before, you can’t be in the fight for gay rights and ignore the fight for people of colour, they are part of our community too, and you can’t ignore the women’s movement. If you want a society that has equality for all, you have to be in the fights for equality for others, and you have to realise that everyone is equal. LGBTQ people are equal to heterosexual cisgendered people, women are equal to men, and no matter the colour of your skin, you all still bleed the same. It is society that has built up these delusions that we are not all equal, so it’s time to smash that delusion down.