18 December 2010

Gender differences and boys, misogyny and homophobia

This article got me to thinking.
Closing Opportunity Gaps: The Myth of Pink and Blue Brains

I've never believed "biological" arguments about gender differences. My early personal experiences of tree-climbing, fort-building and doll-dressing, and then my awareness that boys/men have more privileges than  girls/women made that happen. Woman, still is the secondary actor to man in our society. Male culture dominates our society simply because men dominate our social and economic worlds. The imagery of the rugged, individualist in the United States, the John Wayne, exemplifies this, as do just about all artifacts of our popular culture, from the dominance of professional sports as an American past-time to the visibility of woman through the male gaze. 

To point out exceptions, like "look at how successful and powerful Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfreh are" is to misunderstand how power and privilege function in a society and to take an individualist's orientation to societal issues. The evidence is overwhelming from pay-scales and employment opportunities, to division of labor in the home, to the perpetration of violence. There are countless and usually unknown (by design) examples of men taking credit for and benefiting from woman's work.

The reason it's ok for girls to do boy stuff, and it's not ok for boys to do "girl-stuff" is just as it sounds.  You can hear the jeers and only count to 10 before terms like fag, gay, queer appear. To do "girl stuff"  in a male-dominant culture is to be of a lower social status. It's too bad, we haven't figured out that equality makes life better for everyone and perhaps that's what's happening--men (as a group) are suffering as human beings.

There's also been a lot of discussion about the "crisis in masculinity" albeit with varied opinions as to what that actually means, if it's simply a backlash, and what to do about it. See herehere and here. I find it a dubious  argument myself, one that echos racist rhetoric like reversed racism. Again, one must understand oppression as structural and institutional inequality and that overcoming discrimination as an individual takes a lot of courage and commitment.

Someday, I'd like to see more men comfortably choosing to be primary school teachers, nurse's aids and hospice workers. I'd like to see more of them be the primary caregiver of their children, the one who's primarily responsible for cooking and cleaning.