“Many pop psychologists (like John Gray, author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus) and also more serious natural scientists (like endocrinologists, who focus on hormone research) tend to perpetuate existing gender stereotypes by trying to persuade us that there exist essential differences between men and women”. These people claim that women have different characteristics from men based on the two sexes.
There are theories however that prove of similarities between man and woman and show very little difference between masculinity and femininity as it is described. These theories are; the Poststructuralist Afro-American theory, the Thinking Straight, Acting Bent theory, Biology Constructs the Sex’s theory, and so many others.
Drawing on the theory of biology constructs the sexes, the poststructuralist Afro-American theory, the gay and lesbian theory, and the Thinking Straight, Acting Bent theory, the following discussion will show that men and women are persons that are similar and do not differ based on their genders, but differ due to environmental, cultural and social factors.
According to the Poststructuralist Afro-American theory, the distinction of one’s race is not defined. Identifying if one is a ‘negro’ or not is not easy since the characteristics of telling if one is a ‘negro’ or not are actually so different. An example of such a case is evident in the story where a white man was found on a black man’s train. The train conductor became confused and did not know whether to let the man stay in the train or send him to the white man’s buses. The conductor ended up with the decision to let the white man stay on the black man’s train, a decision made after looking at the white man’s legs (Fuss 73): He was a Negro!
Who really is a Negro then? According to history and what the society knows, a Negro is a black man, but in the above case, a white man was accepted into the Negro community as a Negro. What could possibly have qualified this white man as a Negro?
There are so many ways of categorizing people. This is the same way in which identifying the difference between men and women is not easy. Harris argues that men and women are almost the same and their differences are due to different biological cells, environmental and social factors (Harris 4). Another author also noted that the differences among men and among women are more decisive than the differences between men and women (Kimmel 10). Men and women should not therefore be seen as different based on their genders.
During the September 11th terrorist attack rescue operation, the rescue teams comprised of both women and men. Those who performed their roles better did not depend on if the person was a man or a woman. The heroes acted on their capabilities brought about by their biological nature (Davis et al 308). This shows that people are different but not because of belonging to a different sex group.
Another example of no difference between man and woman is in the classroom. In schools, colleges and learning institutions, women get more marks or grades than men in some subjects; and men too get more grades than some women in some subjects. This is a clear indication of different people with different capabilities and a contrast to the assumption that men are different from women stereotypically due to their sexes. People are different in so many ways, a woman who gets the same marks as the man in one subject has the same capabilities as the man. There is one thing that makes them similar and different from others who are not as intelligent as they are, yet the two are of different gender. One who gets lower marks or grades is not ranked similar to the one who gets higher (Kimmel 11).
According to the theory of Thinking Straight; Acting Bent, some practices are taken as normal while others are considered abnormal. People have always believed that heterosexuality is normal while the other forms of sexuality are not. Heterosexuality is just an institutionalized practice that came about due to the social practice that most people accepted (Davis et al 311). It then came to be taken for granted and not given much attention as an abnormal practice. Gender too, is a social classification of people which has been accepted and institutionalized; hence a normal classification to the society. This means that gender is a social classification of people and should not determine how people behave or their characteristics (Butler 3).
It also shows that the differences are made due to social practice that make the women be considered normal if they have low self esteem, are more suggestible and better at rote learning and simple tasks and so many others (Hyde 581).
Men have always been considered top in academics especially mathematics, this has since changed with women leading in mathematics or scoring higher. Additionally, not all men are good at mathematics although a good number are. This shows that what is made normal becomes normal to the society hence considered a difference between the sexes. When one is born bright, he or she will remain bright unless affected by different circumstances.
In Fuss’ book, black men were not just black men by their skin color. “Not only has the black man be black, but he has to be black in relation to the white man’ (Fuss 75). According to this statement, being black should not only be by the skin color, but also according to what the white man wants. The differences therefore are according to the people who identify the differences. Scientists (endocrinologists for example), say that there are differences between man and woman in their hormones making them have different stereotypes. How comes there are women who can fight as men, how comes there are women as intelligent as men, and how comes there are women who can do the same jobs men do and even better?
People influence what the sex should look like or do. Another example explaining this is the story about the reports made by the media after the September 11th terrorist attack on United States of America. The men were revealed as the heroes while the women were revealed as the vulnerable; those in need of help. Reports indicated that women were left as widows, and children left without their parents. How comes the media did not recognize the men as being widowers? It is only what the society wants that is heard, accepted and institutionalized, hence made normal. Abnormality arises when someone acts differently (Davis et al 307).
Men have been believed to be stronger than women; and women believed to be more social among so many other beliefs (Hyde 581). The society has always accepted this and any woman who acts differently is considered abnormal or different. As has been explained above, the theory of Thinking Straight and Acting Bent shows that there is little difference between the so named masculinity and femininity groups (Fuss 75).
Kimmel also notes that the terms femininity and masculinity are inaccurate since they imply that there is one single definition for masculinity and femininity. The author of “The Gender Society” does not agree with the postulation that women and men are different based on their gender. “To speak of one male or one female sex role is to compress the enormous variety of our culture’s ideals into one, and to risk ignoring the other factors that shape our identities” he notes (Kimmel 89). This is proof enough that stereotypes are due to personal traits and not due the institutionalized gender characteristics as specified by most scientists and psychologists.
Additionally, to biologists the source of human behavior lies in the cells (Kimmel 21; Harris 9). If women had similar behaviors making them have low self esteem, what of those without low self esteem. If sex would show the differences between man and woman, where would the homosexuals belong? Where would the men with low self esteem belong?
Butler, Judith. Bodies that Matter: on the Discursive Limits of “Sex”, London, UK: Routledge, 1993.
Davis, Kathy., Evans, Mary., and Lorber, Judith., Handbook of Gender and Women’s Studies, New York, US: SAGE, 2006.
Fuss, Diana., Essentially Speaking: Feminism, Nature & Difference, London, UK: Routledge, 1989.
Harris, Ian M., Messages Men Hear: Constructing Masculinities, London: UK, Taylor & Francis, 1995.
Hyde, Janet Shibley, The Gender Similarities Hypothesis, The American Psychological Association, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Vol. 60, No. 6, 581–592, 2005. Web.
Kimmel, Micheal S. The Gendered Society, Oxford University Press US, 2000.