In order to find out what's going on around us, what's happening to us, or figure out what someone is saying to us, the mind uses information which has already been stored in it. This information is of two kinds:
- Genetic. We are conceived with this information – it's in the genes we inherit from mom and dad. When ovum and sperm meet our sex is decided. In every cell of our bodies, we will be male or female and we will be urged to behave accordingly. Thus, our genes begin telling us who we are and what we should do as men and women long before we have any 'conscious" awareness of ourselves. We have no choice about it. Even though certain male or female characteristics may be stronger or weaker in certain individuals, nature usually favors a clearer dividing line between the sexes. If, at this level, the level of nature, you ask the question, "Will men and women ever change?", the answer is, "Only at the pace of evolution," unless science learns to tinker successfully with our genetic code or some strange mutation occurs.
- Cultural. This is information we get from "rubbing elbows with the human race. We get it from being talked to, talked about, touched, in different ways by the people around us. We get different information because we come from different races, nations, neighborhoods, families, generations, social classes and have unique personal experiences. If you want to take a closer look at your cultural distinctiveness, use, for example, our tool, Cultural Detective®: Self-Discovery. However, in every known culture, the most fundamental cultural distinction is between what is identified as masculine and that which is feminine, though what is identified as masculine or feminine will differ from culture to culture. If, at this level, you ask the question, “Will women and men ever change?", the answer is, 'Yes, they are always changing – but slower than you might think." Only recently in most Western cultures have genderqueer and non-binary gender identities found some acceptance and begun to offer alternative perspectives, which may unlock some of our perceptions of each other. For a updated view on gender issues in game form, a group at the University of Bourgogne in Dijon have created an up-to-date version of our Gender & Sexual Identity diversophy®.
Remember, our gender identities are brought to life and shared from our inner conversations the actual behavior which they inform. They are:
- Historical – they come from our past, genetic or cultural.
- Different – by reason of sex, age, race, region, family, etc.
- Not reality – they are only our mind's best theories about certain facets of reality, but they do shape what we perceive and believe to be our realities.
The conversations we have with ourselves as men and women are what make us different from each other. We speak a different inner language even though the words we actually speak to each other may sound alike. This has several consequences: We say things like, "Just like a man," or, "Just like a woman." We can accept ourselves each as we are, and work with each other even though we may not ever fully understand each other.
While our gender identity genes are relatively stable, they can change over time under various influences, including culture. Cultures change and flow more quickly in a variety of ways, so what is masculine and what is feminine will be different in various cultures and will change within a given culture.
- What changes in male and female roles have you seen take place in your lifetime, in the lifetimes of your parents and grandparents?
- Which of these seem like deep significant changes to you and which seem like they are superficial and passing?
A century ago, little boys wore skirts... This is my father...
Image: Question from the Gender & Sexual Orientation diversophy® game.