A Note on Sex and Gender (Part 1)

Over the decades of scientific research, it has become clear that humans are mere products of neither their genetic codes nor environmental influences, but always of a mixture of both. Neither philosophy nor anthropology can, on their own, describe human nature completely, neither can biology or any other scientific field. The question to debate thus is, rather than what in principle determines human nature and behaviour, what part, exactly, the different factors play.
Apart from its general interest, this question is of particular interest with respect to sex and gender. Traditionally, sex and gender are considered (and expected) to relate to each other in specific, fixed manners, thus ascribing (and, often enough, imposing) certain behavioural (both actual and dispositional) characteristics to (upon) the male-female dichotomy (which is inaccurate itself). While males are considered and expected to be tall, strong, intelligent, brave, confident, aggressive, and so on, females are considered and expected to be small(er), weak, (more or less) stupid, anxious, insecure, submissive, and so forth. In brief, females are traditionally considered less than males in any respect possible. Some even go so far as to claim that females served – and possibly could serve – no other purpose than reproduction. While this may appear to be and indeed is a radical position only a few people explicitly advocate in modern Western society, it unfortunately still is a viewpoint defended and in fact practised by most human societies. Furthermore, that only few people explicitly advocate this standpoint in modern Western society does not entail by any means that the traditional view had actually faded away, let alone become extinct in practice. For although several countries have written into their constitutions that males and females have equal rights and are to be treated upon an equal basis, in practice mostly the opposite is true.
Both traditionalists and feminists have gone to great extents so as to interpret what has changed and what has not in their respective favour. In addition, there has come into existence what I deem a third group, the self-proclaimed Man’s Rights movement, or under whatever else name it may fare. Traditionalists usually argue that gender were naturally tied to sex (thereby invoking the male-female dichotomy), and that, therefore, it had been and would always be to be expected that the gender roles will not change, regardless of societal change in general. Feminists, albeit with differences according to the respective variant, on the other hand, reject this on the grounds of more subtle factors. In spite of some achievements, there has not been nearly enough change, less so in theory than in practice, how people think and, in direct consequence, how social pressure prevents necessary change. Even in those societies in which there is no direct, including physical, punishment for not meeting social expectations, there are strong mechanisms doing the same work. From mere laughter and a few jokes up to systematic bullying, harassment, and exclusion from participating in social life, a wide range of means can be, and indeed is, applied to many of those deviating from social standards, especially as to sex, gender, and sexual orientation.
Although these mechanisms may, in evolutionary terms, keep groups or entire (small) societies stable in, for instance, keeping the individual so much in line with the group that it will not be prone to be excluded and thus have its life endangered, they apparently cause more harm than good in modern societies the changes of which have overtaken biological evolution (that is to say, they have changed faster than genetic code and hard-wired mechanisms can accommodate). Besides, we get, often subconsciously, many subtle hints that certain sorts of behaviour, including one’s outer appearance, will not, or at least hardly, be tolerated. Children are quick to learn what their parents (and other people) expect from them, long before they learn to understand and speak a verbal language. This is a special difficulty for scientific investigation, because neither can you scrutinize social pressure as a factor for shaping an individual’s behaviour under laboratory conditions, nor can you make completely sure that your results will not be spoilt by the aforementioned subtle, usually subconsciously sent and received signals of approval or disapproval.
Moreover, notwithstanding significant biological, and more specifically: physiological, differences part of which are not only organic, such as, most prominently, genitals, but also result in different hormone balances and levels, females have already demonstrated that they can be as competent as, or even more so than, males.
The third group, having come into existence more recently, argues for the point that it were no longer females being oppressed by (Western) society (or males, for that matter), but vice versa: males, they allege, are, as a consequence of feminism, oppressed by females, so that now they had to fight for their rights and equal treatment.
The arguments presented by this group are at best superficially plausible, yet any deeper analysis reveals them as not only unconvincing but also based upon a misconstrual of the principle ideas of feminism. Feminism is not, at least in most of its variants, the ambition to replace patriarchy by matriarchy, that is to say, to replace male dominance by female dominance. The basic idea and ideology of feminism is that both sexes ought to have the same rights and be treated equally. Man’s Rights advocates maintain that feminism had actually robbed males of basic human rights. Thus, they interpret, for example, cases of divorce in which females keep the children away from their fathers as a direct consequence of feminism. Doing this, setting aside the analysis of their baisc claim for the moment, they tend to forget to differentiate those cases in which a mother needs to keep her children away from their father because he may endanger them, since, for instance, he drinks heavily, beats them, is a criminal, and so forth, from those in which a mother may do this out of pure spite. Of course there may be actual problems as to this, yet what Man’s Rights advocates aver is obviously exaggerated.
In former times, when females had no rights whatsoever, not even written down upon paper, in case of a divorce, the (former) husband would ‘naturally’ keep everything – the house, the fortune, usually even those things the (former) wife had brought with her, and the children –; that some males dare compare themselves to this situation would be just ridiculous and pathetic, if it were not so absurd and upsetting how serious they are in stating this.
I do not intend to deny that there were any cases in which males are treated unequally, yet male privilege remains an undeniable fact in our society wherever we look. Males get better jobs, are sooner promoted, are better paid for the same work, are deemed more competent, and their achievements are more appreciated. A male may publicly speak his mind, act aggressively, and have sexual intercourse with as many females as he sees fit (all of the former in certain restraints, of course), whereas a female will most usually be expected to have no own opinion, or only one which matches that of a strong male at her side, not to utter her dissent, be submissive and accommodative, and have sexual intercourse with as few males as possible (where only males are allowed).


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