Are Gender Roles Actually Bad?

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

We have heard a lot in recent decades about repairing the alleged damage caused by different expectations being places on men and women, from childhood onward — but was the system ever that flawed to begin with? New theories abound each day with regards to the nature of gender and whether the distinction of roles between them is a biological or social construct. While it shouldn’t be controversial to acknowledge elements of both at play, I often feel that too much emphasis is consistently placed on the latter premise.

Gender roles exist as emergent social phenomena and could be argued as an evolutionary advantage. The ever-present dichotomy between men and women is perhaps not a symptom of some malignant compounding repression, but of human structures that have been honed over generations to maximize productivity and minimize suffering. It has become fashionable to pronounce “patriarchal” solely as a pejorative and warranting total deconstruction. Patriarchies, however, predate humans, and evolve naturally because nature rewards survival and nothing else. It is driven in mammals by female sexual selection. Females with offspring then produce demands, males provide supplies and limits upon consumption. In this natural system, men are more disposable then women. Men are expendable, they can mate in seconds and then die where-as women need gestation time and time to mature the offspring past infantile vulnerability.

Different evolutionary pressures will undoubtedly result in some degree of trait various that can be observed throughout all stages of human development. Men systemize and women empathize. Infant girls look more and faces than their male counterparts. Boys write stories about objects and actions, girls about people and feelings. Men want to hyper-compete and produce, women want to consume and distribute. Of course, there are outliers in every system, but is it wise to focus so much on exceptions without being allowed to acknowledge the rule?

So what does it actually mean to systemize or empathize? Empathizing can be understood as the drive to intuit the emotion coming from a source and subsequently respond with the proper emotion. Systemizing is the drive to understand and build a rule-based system. Systemizing is what allows for a person to devise an effective and complex military plan to defend the tribe while a person with a higher drive to empathize can better understand the needs and roles suitable for various members of said tribe. Think about the nature of graphs. Graphs are combining various data sets to produce an image, a visual illustration of a system. Studies have shown that in the sciences, men are 26 percent more likely to use graphs and figures in their academic writing. We can acknowledge natural male dominance in things like chess without implying overall female inferiority.

We are constantly reminded about the discrepancies between men and women in industries and pay scales, but why don’t we hear about how as gender equality and social security increase the amount of women pursuing work in male dominated fields actually decreases?

As the sayings go, half-truths are more damaging then lies- but why? A half-truth is hard to see as a purposeful manipulation, while a lie can easily be exposed. What young women are often obscured from understanding is that on average their inherent strategies and strengths are often very different than those of their counterparts, and that equality between the sexes can exist without identical outcomes being observed. It is important to understand ourselves and others in order to maximize our personal prosperity and that of our shared spaces. Apart from potentially making young girls feel guilty or simplistic for their lack of interest in breaking any supposed “glass ceilings”, it can keep the more empathetic brained person from understanding, appreciating and maximizing the potential of their actual traits. Girls and women have long been noted to beat out boys and men in skills of linguistics of communication in general.

None of this is meant to imply that women are incapable of being successful in all industries; we absolutely are. Yet women do not appear to become happier the less they are differentiated from men. We have to at least question why the powers that be want us to be constantly at odds, with ourselves and each other. We have to wonder why it is that as industrialization and social security increase, gender differentiation also seems to increase. Are gender roles bad, do they really damage the development of our children, or are they manifestations of reality that help the everyday person navigate our increasingly complex world more successfully? We need to be able to speak more frankly about what works best when it comes to building up our individual power and our communities.

Poet and Pet-Sitter. Lifelong student; Full-time Daydreamer.

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