Saturday, May 12, 2012

RE: Dimorphism

(Haha, my coworkers are having a conversation right now about the Matrix. "It's not you bending the spoon, it's the spoon bending you." It has professional relevance to programming, I promise. :))


About the subject at hand, I want to say first of all that I am asking you because two minds are better than one. I hate trying to reason things out all by my lonesome because there's too much risk I'll overlook something important. Thank you for taking the time to disagree, and thank you for asking questions. I may be wrong about this topic--I frequently am--and I value your opinion.

I'm not sure which question to answer first. Maybe feminism/gender roles? I'm not sure what you mean by "gender roles" actually, but maybe this imaginary story will help: my female counterpart takes up blacksmithing for fun. Some people disapprove and tell her it's not a very "feminine" occupation. She laughs and replies that there's a female doing it, so it's a female occupation now. Then she ignores them and keeps right on doing it.

I don't know about personality being binary, but I think from experience that it's certainly bimodal. In my observation, gender is the single most important independent variable influencing personality. We spend lots of time nowadays looking for subtle DNA effects, genes for autism and schizophrenia and aggression etc., expecting a few accidental base pair changes to make a large difference in behavior. Men have a whole chromosome chock-full of genes that alter behavior and neurology, not to mention millions of years of evolution exerting selective pressure specifically on those genes. It would be crazy to expect all that DNA to have no effect on brains.

That doesn't mean the differences will always be stark, "binary" as you called it. It's generally true that men are taller than women, for example, but some women are taller than most men. Women have extra processes going on in their bodies that make certain kinds of cancer more likely for them, but that doesn't mean there's no pathway which results in men having that same kind of cancer sometimes too. Women have a different neural architecture which seems to increase their ability to process emotion and cognition simultaneously, whereas men have a more serialized architecture and can more easily compartmentalize--but not in all cases. Etc. etc. Trying to understand a cause from its downstream effects is a murky process. I wish I had a better understanding of what the intrinsic differences between masculinity and femininity are, but all I've got is an intuition from personal experiences and lots of reading. (For instance, reading books by women on how to succeed in the male business world. "If you cry in public," she may say, "men will assume you're not thinking rationally." Then she'll cite examples from interviews with men talking about how they perceive displays of emotion, and how they generally shut off their emotions when they need to think. This is interesting because the fact that she bothers to point this out implies that she and her audience function differently.)

I think religion affects my view to a certain extent. In particular, modern revelation from the prophets confirms my intuition that gender is intrinsic and not merely biological--you were female before you ever had a body with X chromosomes in it. (Even though I'm not quite sure what the definition of "female" is.) If it weren't for religion I wouldn't be as sure. 

Finally, to answer your question about feminism: I am grateful for feminism. I may not know exactly what the differences between men and women are, and I may not know exactly how we should treat each other, but I think feminism moved the line closer to the truth. I want my counterpart to have the freedom to blacksmith or run a research lab if she feels like it, and without feminism it would have been a lot harder for her to do that. I don't reject gender roles per se, but I tend to dislike them, and I think the ones we were using in the 50's were wrong and didn't correlate well with reality.

What does it mean to reject gender roles? Do you reject specific gender roles or the validity of the concept of gender? I've done a lot of talking, but I need to hear from you in order to learn.


Hahahahaaaa!!! That is ME laughing at YOU, cruel world.
    -Jordan Rixon

I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not Honour more.

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