Essay talk:Sex, gender, and gender roles

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Gender arises in the brain, a biological organ like any other. Both the brain and gender are complex and not well understood, but among the things we do know is that men and women perceive things differently. According to author Deborah Tannen, women perceive relationships as networks, while men perceive them as hierarchies. Clearly, she isn't saying "people with penises perceive hierarchies"; so to ascribe perspective to a sex is nonsensical. Tannen is discussing gender, which exists in the mind, not the body.

Note, however, that placing gender "in the mind" is not to say that it is merely a social construct. If gender were determined solely by sex, transsexual people would not exist; and if gender were determined solely by society, children raised as the opposite gender would feel comfortable as such. This is not observed; boys raised to be girls grow up to be men, assuming they don't commit suicide first (a tragically common occurrence in these situations). So gender must be neither determined by genes nor by society, but by something in the mind.

This gets to the heart of the matter, I think. I don't think you can separate brains and 'minds' that easily. For me, Tannen isn't making the strawman statement that "people with penises perceive hierarchies'; people don't think with their genitalia. (Well, I do, but that's just me.) Rather, there are male brains, and female brains, and male brains orient themselves towards hierarchies.
And obviously, transsexual or 'transgender' people do exist. Somehow, the wiring doesn't match the plumbing. The fact that we don't yet know how or why this comes to pass, or how it affects the brain specifically, doesn't remove it from the physical. It's because the routines that built the brain were operating off different specs from the ones that built the genitals. Genes are still involved. I certainly don't believe it's "all in your head." - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 02:38, 11 August 2013 (UTC)
Actually it sounds to me like you and I are largely in agreement on this particular topic. When I said gender was all in the head, I didn't mean that it originated in the head, but that it's distinct from the sex of the body. It may indeed by determined genetically; I don't know. It sounds like you and I really only disagree on nomenclature (your hesitation to use the word "gender" to describe the part of sex that exists in the mind). Wehpudicabok [話] [変] 08:03, 11 August 2013 (UTC)
Also the line "people with penises perceive hierarchies" I used as an example of how not to read Tannen. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] 08:12, 11 August 2013 (UTC)
Yeah; I just don't like 'gender' partially because it seems to wish to remove the mental aspects of sexuality and gender roles somewhere beyond the reach of genes and hormones and structures in the brains, and makes it seem fruitless to wonder how they work. While gender roles can vary strongly by culture, I think there's a core dynamic behind all of them, part of our shared humanity; I also think those dynamics are biological, shaped by natural and sexual selection, and have a strong part that's innate and fixed by your biology; thus I prefer 'sex' to 'gender', and use 'gender' only for those aspects that seem obviously cultural. For me, these do not include things like the sexual division of child care responsibilities, or human males putting on conspicuous shows of fitness for the benefit of choosy females. Culture determines how and where these things are done, but not why. 'Gender' is a word that can be used carelessly as a genteelism, and if it's used that way it may suggest something that you didn't mean. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 16:03, 12 August 2013 (UTC)

Citation needed on males seeing relationship as hierachies, I don't and I don't think I'm the only one. Undue generalization. I think intelligent people can see both aspects, maybe deprecate others, but I mean that both men and women can see which relationships are symmetrical and which ones are hierarchy based.-- (talk) 12:46, 15 December 2017 (UTC)

Great essay[edit]

I think this is a really good essay. It clears up any confusion people might have about the definitions of gender and sex, including mine. Thank you, Wehpudicabok. Pbfreespace3 (talk) 21:03, 20 June 2015 (UTC)