October 18th, 2012
Are men and women more similar or different from each other? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each position? If not a gender dichotomy (male/female), then what? Can we unlearn, as a culture, the ins and outs of gender?
Is gender a question of exclusion or is it a question of difference?
Women and Men are more similar than people believe them to be. People focus on the evident physical differences we see on a daily basis in men and women. Women are commonly described to have breasts, a vagina, and are considered more “voluptuous” or curvy than men, Whereas men are known for their manly tools, their penis, and all the preconceived social and cultural notions that go along with that. However, aside from these minor physical differences men and women are innately the same.
Although most people do not realize this, the only legitimate difference that is scientifically proven between men and women is that a woman’s body contains two X chromosomes and a man’s contains an X and Y chromosome (Connell, 2012, pg. 51). This biological difference then allows a woman’s body to develop slightly differently to enable reproduction, such as a womb, breasts, and wider pelvis. A man then develops testes but surprisingly both men and women’s genitals come from the same embryonic tissue. In other words biologically a penis and clitoris, scrotum and labia, come from the exact same starting place, and until people age these physical characteristics aren’t drastically visibly different (Connell, 2012, pg. 52).
One of the most ridiculous arguments about the differences between men and women comes back to our hormones. Many people are taught the differences between men and women throughout popular culture and education but not similarities. We are taught that our gendered bodies do not share any of the same physical characteristics. Men should be buff, taller, and able to do more in terms of strength while women should be graceful, dainty, caregivers that are objects to look at. Most people are unaware of all the commonalities that men and women share. In fact our hormones function in the same ways, and there are not “male” or “female” hormones. The difference is the levels and patterns our hormones take on. Men generally have higher levels of androgens such as testosterone whereas women have higher levels of reproductive organs at certain points. What most people are unaware of is that the same reproductive hormones present in women also work in men to enable the process of sperm production (Women's Studies Collective, 2005, pg.87). There is a huge overlap in the levels and process our bodies take on.
As explained in the text, “Even in early adulthood the physical characteristics of males and females as a group overlap extensively” (Connell, 2009, pg.52). Height is used as an example, because adult men are generally slightly taller than adult women, but the variety of heights within each biological group is large, in relation to the average difference. Many argue that the build of a man and a woman are completely different. It is true that men on average grow about 10 to 15 percent larger than females and tend to have more upper body strength, but in comparison to other mammals the margin is slim. Universities across the United States are providing new research that suggests it was similarities among men and women of our early ancestors, not differences which helped early humans evolve to become the dominant species that we are.
To understand the similarities of men and women you must understand that sex is a biological categorization based primarily on reproductive potential, whereas gender is the social elaboration of biological sex. Not surprisingly, social norms for heterosexual coupling and care of any resulting children are closely intertwined with gender. But that is far from the full story. Gender builds on biological sex, but it exaggerates biological difference, and...