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Friday, April 6, 2012

Can we talk about gender roles?


Gender is an extremely sensitive subject. But what’s even more emotionally charged and socially taboo than the former, is the latter: talking about gender roles. How do we have honest dialogue on this subject without regressing to a form of primitive hate mongering? Is it alright that I believe that in my relationship to my wife I have certain responsibilities that she does not share in and vice versa? Is it okay that I believe that who we are as husband and wife are not equal shares of the same thing, but rather equal shares of something totally different, but radically complimentary? Many well-meaning persons today don’t think so. In fact, by their standards, I’m nothing short of a chauvinistic pig that is stuck in the Iron Age of patriarchal dominion. It doesn’t matter that there is no material, historical, or cultural basis for assuming functional equality of the sexes, because, well, it just doesn’t matter, end of story.

But there really is a problem here and we need to talk about it. This is how I see it. It’s like the feeling you get when fitting together those first two pieces in a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. The fluidity of how they fit, radically different in shape and size, yet designed with the utmost precision to fit in a fashion so perfect that the person who pieces them together says, “ah, yes, now that is a perfect match.” But what if instead of 1000 different pieces you were given only two. Two pieces of the exact same size, shape and same rounded curvature. Sure, the outward aesthetic pattern on the top of the piece could be different, even drastically so, but functionally they are the same piece. What if you were then left with this feigned optimistic remark, “make it work.” But you know, just as I know, that those pieces, they’ll never fit together and any attempt to do so will include nothing short of force.

That is how I see the problem. Men and women are functionally different beings. We’re functionally different anatomically, biologically, neurologically, historically and, as I see it, spiritually. But that is not what post-feminism is teaching. Post-feminism teaches that men and women are equal in functionality. That we perform things equally and with equal measure of effectiveness. From here, there are at least two distinct frameworks that the concept can be viewed through: a secular or a religious. In a secular framework, the chieftain of all intellectual inquiry is science and its respective method. When we come to the subject of gender roles from this perspective, we really have no material argument for gender equality specifically or even egalitarianism generally.

Science has demonstrated that men and women respectively have deeply entrenched and fundamentally different personality characteristics. Science, far from eliminating long-held gender stereotypes, has made quite the practice of confirming them.

A new analysis of a survey of 10,000 people found that each sex has firmly entrenched characteristics, with women showing more sensitivity, warmth and apprehension than men. In contrast, emotional stability, dominance, rule-consciousness and vigilance are more typically male characteristics.
Neurologically, men and women excel in radically different parts of the brain, Men do have 10-15% larger brains, but this is generally inconsequential when dealing with actual IQ. What is interesting however is that men have larger portions of the brain that they excel in, like areas attached to left-brain thinking: math and logical analysis. Women excel in language and, due to thinking through things with both hemispheres of the brain, tend to involve emotion and feelings in analyses and decision making.
Universally, men tend to score higher on certain specialized skills, such as spatial awareness. In the real world, that means they might be better at reading maps or navigating. Women score higher in terms of language development and emotional intelligence.
Nothing is wrong or bad in any of this of course, but it does seem to support the hypothesis that men and women are functionally different and, as I see it, complimentary. Men and women respectively, achieve similar IQ’s on average, but they do so using entirely different portions of the brain. Our general characteristics and overall brain functionality are utterly distinct and cannot be said to operate equally.

Historically, there has always been a traditional division of labor among men and women. Given that men have on average about 40-50% more upper body strength, even if we account for the on average difference in body size, it’s of little wonder why men dominate fields that require manual labor and feats of strength. Conversely, women dominate fields that require high levels of nurture, empathy and emotional wherewithal, like the stay-at-home mom, nursing or caregiving.

A favored hypothesis in the evolutionary story of men and women expresses that our early hominid ancestors finally became bipedal (walking on two legs) as the man found it to be a way to carry more food to the female and thus win her as a mate. Men have a long history—evolutionary and otherwise—of trying to impress their female counterpart by providing for them and protecting them.

So when I was still looking for a potential life mate, I was expressly interested in women who were not career-oriented, were not concerned with higher education and had a desire to be the primary caregiver to future offspring. I wanted a woman who would willingly be led by me. One can say that my thinking is backwards and wrong, but one cannot point to any material evidence within a secular framework to prove it.

Now a Christian framework asks men and women to do something further, it asks them to marry. It asks them to make sacramental vows with God to one another. It asks them to treat one another in very particular ways. Wives are called to submit to their husbands and men are called to lay down their lives for their wives. These biblical characteristics of a man who says, “let me lead you, protect you and if necessary, die for you,” are scientifically shown to be fundamental to the male gender. Conversely, the woman who says, “let me care for you, love you and nurture you,” is merely expressing something fundamental to her character. These biblical roles that men and women have are attested in our very natures themselves. So when a woman seeks independency through higher education and a career, she should know that she has, by virtue of shunning the natural proclivities of men, severely limited her prospective marriage pool. There will be no shortage of men willing to sleep with her, but there will be a verifiable shortage of men willing to marry her—because that is decidedly NOT what a man wants out of a woman. This post-feminist trend of female independent career women has its socially observable drawbacks too.

If a host of studies are to be believed, marrying these women is asking for trouble. If they quit their jobs and stay home with the kids, they will be unhappy ( Journal of Marriage and Family, 2003). They will be unhappy if they make more money than you do ( Social Forces, 2006). You will be unhappy if they make more money than you do ( Journal of Marriage and Family, 2001). You will be more likely to fall ill ( American Journal of Sociology). Even your house will be dirtier (Institute for Social Research).
Not only that, the statistical likelihood of infidelity goes up by orders of magnitude, “...married professionals looking for adulterous affairs has nearly 600,000 members, and women looking for extra-marital sex outnumber men by 3½ to 1. Most are married with children, aged between their early 30s and mid-40s, and pursuing a well-paid career," (emphasis mine). The pertinent fact not being that career women specifically (or even women generally) cheat more than men, but that the majority of those women seeking extramarital affairs (at least on the largest UK website dedicated to such Illicit Encounters) were career oriented. 

All this and we still have not mentioned how children suffer when left in daycare during crucial parts of their development.

So all in all, you can say that men and women do not have gender roles or are exactly equal, that’s fine, just recognize that it is a belief without any material (secular) or scriptural (religious) basis. By consequence, this leaves very little room to call me an antiquated, misogynistic pig. Men and women are not equal, they're radically different. And that doesn’t bother me, probably because it's true.