Gender Expression and Gender Innateness
If I may jump into this conversation . . .
I am a girl who was raised as a boy, so that is the lense I look through.
Gender has a cultural as well as a biological component and in the discussions, perhaps in this one even, the two are mixed. And it is very hard to separate the part that is innate (baked in)in females and males and what is cultural — hence my photos in the comments from the film, Barry Lyndon.
The boys world is far more violent than the girls, though this is a matter of degree. A girl-fight is strangely vicious. But boys do more of it and it comes from the identity and the culture gives the avenue. RPGs like Call To Duty or Halo are generally exciting for males and not so much for females, myself included. Girls tend to be drawn to quests like the classic Monkey Island series or DDR.
Boys blow off primal energy in such games because the school yard is a rough place where dominance and pecking orders are worked out. There was a study done years ago where you could go to a typical elementary school and ask the boys “who could beat up who” and the boys would independently give an identical list from the toughest boy to the least tough boy.
For girls its popularity. There was even a board game years ago called Miss Popularity. The hierarchy is less obvious and has to do with social influence. And while we are on the subject of feminized boys, I will suggest the level of physical violence and physical intimidation has risen apace. In the girl world it isn’t the toughest, but the most popular, which means the prettiest, which then turns into the beauty pageant. A generation ago cheerleaders weren’t selected for their athleticism, but for their popularity and you could match almost one-to-one the head cheerleader with the (male) team captain and on down the line.
Much of the second wave women’s movement folks were kids who observed this in high school and saw it playing out in politics.
Now to the worry about feminized boys. The one thing everyone knew back in the 1960s when the hierarchy list of boys was known, everyone knew that the weakest boy was better than the most popular girl and her popularity was tied to being with the toughest boy. However, without him, the weakest boy was “better” than the toughest girl. The weakest boy was automatically better than half the human race — at least that’s how it’s worked out on the playground.
And now to the threat.
If women start to move up, then men have to move down. The weakest boy will fall below the “50%” mark and the bottom’s the limit. It’s why there’s a glass ceiling to keep this from happening, even though in the policy manuals women are legally allowed to move into the upper 50%.
Society is wrestling whether to let girls pass boys in this structure. At the same time, the innate gender identities that are baked into us prior to birth are also at work as I suggested above and girls will bring their methods not based on physicality but on popularity and will bring in a different way of running things. Girls will democratize. Men will set up a hierarchy and have a “leader,” (the toughest boy?) while females will tend to sit in a circle and find the “popular” solution. It’s easy to see why first-person-shooters would be less “popular” with the girls.
This cross-over of approaches is both cultural and innate and as long as gender how we act out gender is seen as totally biological or totally social, we will be at loggerheads as to figure out how to move forward in a more equitable and kinder system for all people.