The mainstream media, and much of the educational system, are trying to convince you that sex and gender are different. Even though women tend toward careers with people and men with things, we need to bring more women into jobs with things. And if you disagree, you will be destroyed. They say women who like being women and stay at home and raise new human beings are just falling for the big scam since men can have babies too. Or something. For science!
Let’s have some clear-thinking for a change!
I was reading some anthropological study about hunter-gather societies that seemed relevant to the ongoing debate over gender roles and biological sex. Decades of sociological research in gender theory and feminism has pushed the rejection of "gender essentialism" into the mainstream. But the connection between gender (now firmly established as socially constructed) and biological sex remains unsettled. Some feminists accept some interaction with biology, others reject any connection between biology and gender roles. But before I start explaining why my random bullshit ideas are better than the seminal works of highly accomplished icons of third-wave feminism, I want to first make sure I'm not straw-manning the leading feminist position here. So let's briefly clarify what feminist sociologists actually believe about sex and gender, and then I'll start ranting.
Gender vs. biological sex:
Linda Lindsey writes in THE SOCIOLOGY OF GENDER:
"Sex refers to the biological characteristics distinguishing male and female. ... Gender refers to those social, cultural, and psychological traits linked to males and females through particular social contexts. ... Sexism is reinforced when patriarchy and androcentrism combine to perpetuate beliefs that gender roles are biologically determined and therefore unalterable."
Okay, so far this isn't completely ridiculous. I wouldn't say gender roles are unalterable - just that they partially originate from biological factors. Anyway, it's clear feminists are not entirely in agreement about all this. However, the leading voices take a "social constructionist" position, denying any connection between biological sex and gender. Social constructionists describe gender as a set of actions or behaviors that can be performed or "achieved" simply by acting a certain way (i.e. you're a woman if you act like one). But some social constructionists go further and claim biological sex itself is a social construct. Judith Butler writes in Gender Trouble:
"... gender is neither the causal result of sex nor as seemingly fixed as sex. ... If the immutable character of sex is contested, perhaps this construct called 'sex' is as culturally constructed as gender; indeed perhaps it was already gender."
Other feminists go even further by denying any meaningful distinction between the biological sexes. This may seem extreme, but it's common in the literature. For example, in Doing Gender, Doing Difference, Candace West and Sarah Fenstermaker write:
"(Page 13) Even though size, strength, and age tend to be normally distributed among females and males (with considerable overlap between them), selective pairing ensures couples in which boys and men are visibly bigger, stronger and older."
So, here the authors appear to deny or downplay any average strength or size disparity between men and women. They seem to suggest we falsely perceive men to be (on average) larger and stronger because men tend to select women who are younger and smaller, due to social norms. Umm...
Is anything not a social construct?
West and Fenstermaker go on to write:
"(Page 64) Within Western societies, we take for granted in everyday life that there are two and only two sexes. ... From an ethnomethodological viewpoint, sex is socially and culturally constructed rather than a straightforward statement of the biological 'facts.'"
West and Fenstermaker repeat this idea in Power, Inequality and the Accomplishment of Gender:
"Consider the process of sex assignment: the initial classification of individuals as female or male. This process is generally regarded as a biological determination ... However, the criteria for sex assignment may vary from case to case (e.g. chromosome type before birth or genitalia after birth); they may or may not agree with one another (as in the case of hermaphrodites); and may differ considerably across cultures."
Coping with the insanity:
West and Fenstermaker are not fringe writers. Their work on gender seems to be considered foundational to modern social constructionist feminist thought. (One sec... having panic attack.) They deny any biological basis for traditional gender roles, and appear to dismiss biological sex as a social construct as well. To them, sex is just an arbitrary classification system that uses genitalia and chromosomes.
Clearly the feminist literature is not merely making a distinction between socially constructed gender and biological sex (as is often mistakenly claimed). The feminists here are saying that both gender and sex are social constructs. How can we engage with these seemingly deranged ideas?
I easily concede that gender is partially a social construct. Some behaviors associated with gender are obviously derived from arbitrary cultural conventions, such as the practice of dressing boys in blue and girls in pink. But sex is firmly rooted in biology (more on that below).
Let me try to steel-man the feminist position: "Biological sex is just an arbitrary way to classify people. Some doctor looks at genitals or chromosomes and declares the subject to be 'male' or 'female'. But genitals and chromosomes can't reliably determine sex, because sometimes these criteria contradict, as in the case of intersex people. Also, sex is defined differently in other societies so it's not universal and therefore socially constructed."
A direct rebuttal would probably point out that the existence of outliers such as intersex people doesn't invalidate the concept of biological sex as a binary category. Of course, feminists won't be convinced. I think we need to approach this from a different angle. A sexier angle.
The Universal Binary of Sex:
When I read these sociological studies, the total obliviousness to fundamental scientific concepts continues to surprise me. So let's get back to basics. Let's forget about "male" and "female" genitalia. In fact, let's forget about the entire human race.
Let's go back around 1.2 billion years. Let's talk about a major event that went down back in the day - I'm talking about the advent of sex. Before sex made everything awesome, life on Earth was limited to single cell organisms, classified as Eukaryotes or Prokaryotes. (I know feminists hate binary categories, but bear with me.) These organisms sometimes melded together to form more complex, multi-cellular organisms. However, they had a major problem with Diversity. (I know feminists are on board with Diversity.) Single-celled Eukaryotes reproduced asexually via mitosis, resulting in two genetically identical offspring. While some diversity might occasionally appear due to mutations (copying errors), for the most part speciation via natural selection occurred much more gradually than it would in later epochs, due to the limited diversity of genetic information produced via asexual reproduction.
But at some point, through a process that isn't entirely understood, Eukaryotic cells began to reproduce via a new process called meiosis. This process enabled two organisms to combine their genetic material (chromosomes) in a semi-random fashion. (I know feminists hate chromosomes, but chromosomes bring Diversity.) With meiosis, a cell duplicates it's genetic material, then swaps information between the duplicate pairs and splits twice, resulting in 4 new cells, each containing some permutation of half the original chromosomes. Then it merges with a similarly divided cell from another organism to form an offspring that combines the genetic material of both parents. This process permits over 8 million possible new combinations, resulting in an explosion of genetic Diversity.
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that sexual reproduction is responsible for pretty much everything interesting that subsequently happened on Earth. Around 540 million years ago, the dividends of sex paid off, and all sorts of interesting new multi-cellular life appeared in the oceans (the Cambrian explosion). The exponential increase in genetic information accelerated natural selection, resulting in 500 million years of interesting shit.
But the process of sexual reproduction - the process responsible for all non-boring life on Earth - is fundamentally a binary operation. It is the duplication and exchange of genetic materials to create gametes (sex cells) that combine to form a zygote. The words "male" and "female" are merely descriptions of observed gamete dimorphism that emerged as multi-cellular life grew more complex. Gamete dimorphism is just the observation that one gamete (the sperm) is smaller than the other (the egg). That's all "male" and "female" ultimately means: the male generates the smaller gamete, the female generates the larger one. Gamete dimorphism is observed throughout the Animal Kingdom, and is the defining feature of sexual dimorphism.
Sexual dimorphism is the broader tendency for males and females of a species to evolve differentcharacteristics. I realize feminists don't want to admit that human males are larger or stronger on average, but can they at least admit that male mallard ducks have green feathers and female mallards are entirely brown? Or is that Patriarchy talk? Can they admit that male peacocks have larger and more ornate tail plumage than females? Or is tail plumage a social construct designed to oppress women by perpetuating negative gender stereotypes?
Even primates such as Orangutans exhibit obvious sexual dimorphism. Why would humans be any different?
Sexual dimorphism among animals also includes different behavioral patterns between the sexes. (e.g. male walruses aggressively compete with other males, whereas females are docile and mostly care for offspring). It would be pretty weird if we humans are the one unique totally special species that doesn't exhibit any genetically determined politically incorrect sexually dimorphic behavior. (But of course, we probably do...)
So to summarize: sexual reproduction is a reproductive strategy involving two gametes. The words "male" and "female" describe differences in gametes (i.e. differences between sperm and egg). Males produce smaller sperm-like gametes, females produce larger egg-like gametes. It's that simple. Far from being a "social construct", sex is a highly successful reproductive strategy that pre-dates H. sapiens by over a billion years, a strategy responsible for the incredible bio-diversity on Earth today. Sexual reproduction is literally the reason that large-brained primates eventually evolved, conquered the planet, and then created sociology departments where they use big words to claim sex isn't real.
Finally, while sexual reproduction is a binary process, there are rare exotic "trisexual" species, but the third sex is basically just hermaphrodite, meaning a single organism that produces male and female gametes. There are also cases where an organism can change it's sex and produce opposite gametes, or even resort to asexual reproduction. But there are only two types of gametes and thus two sexes. The entire process of meiosis is basically a copy/shuffle/split/merge algorithm that operates on chromosome pairs. (Pairs, as in two. Did I mention two?) This is just the biological reality. That doesn't mean some other form of reproduction involving 4, 5 or 10,000 sexes is physically impossible - we just haven't observed it on Earth. (And two sexes is already an evolutionary disadvantage due to the requirement of finding a mate.)
Gender Roles and Sexual Dimorphism:
With all this in mind, let's return to gender. I've talked about certain gendered behaviors that are obviously arbitrary cultural customs (e.g. boys wearing blue, girls wearing pink). But there's a very high probability that some traditional gender roles are not entirely arbitrary, but are causally linked to sexual dimorphism.
Let's take a look at gender roles in pre-historic hunter-gatherer societies. For the most part, hunter-gatherer societies are thought to have strict division of labor between the sexes. The men hunted, the women gathered and nursed children. The evidence for this is the fact that weapons and hunting accessories are found mostly in male graves, cave paintings seem to exclusively depict male hunters, and (less reliably) the evidence of ethnographies (observations of modern hunter-gatherer societies). Intuitively, we might guess that these gender roles were linked to sexual dimorphism: the superior upper body strength found in males (on average) made them better suited for hunting, while women were linked to child-rearing via the biological reality of breast-feeding.
But not so fast, you sexist fucks. A more recent study challenges these assumptions. This study accepts the consensus that hunting was a male-dominated activity, but only for hunter-gatherer societies of the Middle Holocene period and later. The study argues that earlier societies in the Early Holocene period did not divide labor by gender, and about 50% of the hunters in these societies were female. (Fuck you, Patriarchy.)
Evidence for this comes from two Early Holocene burial sites in North America where knives and other hunting accessories are found buried with females, and some female skeletons show signs of hunting injuries. This would indicate that division of labor between men and women didn't occur until some time in the Middle Holocene period for some reason. It's also hypothesized that these earlier hunter-gather societies practiced alloparenting, (group parenting) which freed women from child-rearing duties. Not all anthropologists agree the evidence is conclusive, but it's certainly compelling.
So perhaps the idea of hunting as a traditionally male role is simply a social construct after all.
But if you research further, a likely explanation for the shift in gender roles becomes clear. The primary hunting weapon used in North America during the Early Holocene was the atlatl, a spear-throwing lever made of wood or bone. Proficiency with the atlatl can certainly be achieved by an average human female. The atlatl uses a lever that pushes the spear (or dart) forward as the arm moves forward, amplifying the force of the throw. The weapon itself is pretty light-weight; an average human of either sex can hold it up with one arm.
The atlatl was a large improvement over manual spear throwing. But it still kind of sucked. It apparently had low accuracy, and took a long time to reload. The low accuracy wasn't that big of a problem in the Early Holocene, when humans were often hunting enormous megafauna like woolly mammoths. But most megafauna went extinct by the Middle Holocene, so humans began hunting smaller animals. It was in this context that a revolutionary new weapon, the bow and arrow, would become useful. The bow and arrow was more accurate than the atlatl and traveled further distances, making it superior for targeting smaller animals. However, the upper body strength required to pull the bow backwards to fire a shot seems to have made it impractical for widespread use among females. This is hypothesized to be one of the primary causative factors behind the division of labor between sexes, and very likely a significant reason hunting became an exclusively male activity in the Middle Holocene period and later.
The authors note "peak proficiency in atlatl use can be achieved at a young age, potentially before females reach reproductive age, obviating a sex-biased technological constraint that would later intensify with bow-and-arrow technology." Another article discusses research linking bow and arrow usage with hunting as a male-dominated activity. While the bow and arrow eventually replaced the atatl pretty much everywhere on Earth, different regions adopted the bow and arrow at different times. The timeline is a bit messy - bow and arrow technology appears to have been introduced into North America multiple times via the Bering Strait. (It may have existed in Africa as early as 50,000 years ago, but the earliest reliable evidence dates to ~18,000 years ago in Europe).
The effect the bow and arrow had on gender roles is best summarized by a quote from American anthropologist Brigid Grund:
"The abandonment of 'equalizing' spear thrower technology in favor of more exclusive bows for terrestrial hunting at the very least exacerbated prehistoric social disparities and likely catalyzed emergent age- and sexbased social divisions in prehistory."
So I return to my original statement: gender roles are partially social constructs, and partially rooted in the biological realities of sexual dimorphism. There's nothing specifically intrinsic to hunting that requires it to be a male-dominated activity. If hunter gatherer societies had AR-15 rifles, there's no reason women couldn't have participated effectively. But the physical reality of operating a bow and arrow simply required a degree of physical strength that made it unrealistic for the average female to effectively participate. That doesn't mean we should perpetuate this gender role now that better hunting technology exists. But it does show that the gender role very likely emerged entirely due to the biological realities of sexual dimorphism.
I'm hoping that some of this was a useful exploration of sex and gender through the lens of evolutionary biology and anthropology. I don't expect any of this to convince hardcore social constructivist feminists. But at least it can serve to highlight potential avenues of discourse when discussing sex and gender at a time when some pretty uninformed and deranged "research" circulating academia has spilled into the mainstream.
The preceding was a post I found on Reddit. It is well-written and researched, and something everyone should read who is open to truth instead of propaganda. Permission was given by the author to reproduce it on this website. There is a link to the original post at the bottom of this article.