I’m reading Paradoxes of Gender, and it’s an interesting book. At least at the beginning (which is all the farther I’ve gotten so far) I’ve read the sentiment that biology doesn’t apply when it comes to gender. Perhaps it’s my simplistic reading, or the influence of simplistic feminists I’ve heard before. They say that biological gender doesn’t matter.
This is a perfect example of a statement that is true and false.
We *know* that hormones affect mood, personality, and mental abilities – for good and ill. Biology affects all those things in a myriad of ways; I’m horribly crabby when deprived of caffiene or carbs for too long. So *biology matters*.
So isn’t that the same as saying that “boys are different than girls?”
Well, no. Turns out that gender is a crappy way of grouping biological differences, especially when those differences . In best-case scenarios, there are many individuals who fall through the cracks (roughly akin to a small standard deviation, if I remember stats class right). In worst-case scenarios, socialization is informing biology.
Neither biology or sociology is alone, they’re in a dialectical conversation. We literally inscribe our habits and training in the patterns of our neurons. Our socialization can effect our biology, which in turn is used as “proof” that our socialization is justified. Yet there are biological differences, and physical scientists are rightly horrified at statements like “biology doesn’t matter”.
But it might be irrelevant.
Even if we could unravel the threads of socialization and biology, we may find that biology is *effectively* irrelevant in outcome. That is, we need not be hampered by whatever biological tendencies are there beforehand. We have the ability to abstract away from whatever “natural” might be and to define what we *want* to be.
Anyone with a family disposition towards a biological trait (especially supposedly negative ones) is well aware of it. They need not be one’s destiny. Have a predisposition to alcoholism? Heart disease? There are very concrete steps one can take to lessen or completely mitigate the effects.
So if men are really emotionally broken (instead of being socialized that way), they can become aware of that. Being aware of those negative predispositions is the first step to overcoming them. Ultimately, that biology is irrelevant because you’ve averted or minimized its effect. But it is still a real force, and something that cannot be dismissed naievely out of hand.
[Later edit – Lorber does get considerably more complex with her treatment in the next chapter. Yes,I have, once again, anticipated the next chapter of a text.]