gen·der·ism, noun, (from Latin gener-, genus birth, race, kind, class + Greek ismos act, practice, or process; state, condition, or property) 1. a : the assumption that psychocultural traits and capacities are determined by biological sex and that sexes differ decisively from one another – usually coupled with a belief in the inherent superiority of a particular sex and its right to domination over others b : the according of differential treatment to persons of an alien sex – as by formal or informal restrictions imposed in regard to housing, employment, or use of public community facilities.
Biological sex is not a determining factor in total traits and abilities. It is trumped by our species (homo sapiens) and culture.
Biological sex matters because it’s how homo sapiens reproduces itself as a species. Biological sex is “hard-wired” in our bodies: female bodies are somewhat smaller, have ovaries and a womb, and respond more to estrogen; male bodies are somewhat larger, have testes, and respond more to testosterone. But these biological differences are trumped by biological similarities. We’ve made too big a deal over the differences, for a variety of reasons which seemed valid at the time. But these differences versus similarities have been up for review this last century, and now more than ever going into this new millennium.
There ARE measureable differences in traits such as brain patterns – but brain patterns have been shown to be fluid and capable of change. Adaptive brain patterning is a capacity of a homo sapiens brain. Characteristic patterns are a function of adaptation: not inherited through genes, but learned through upbringing and experience – not through Nature, but through Nurture. There are measurable differences in how people are treated based on their looks. There are measureable differences in how people solve problems. There are measurable differences in how people socialize. There are measurable differences in how people work, manage, create, invent, cope, etc. But these are individual, adaptive, and culturally transferable traits, not biological sex traits.
Nature and Nurture apply to all members of homo sapiens. But biological sexual differences have not been nearly the determinant or justification for differential treatment and domination that they have been claimed to be. Not in the last 200,000 years, when homo sapiens appeared as a species and we began having babies. And not in the last 6,000 years, when cultural evolution became rampant with the emergence of recorded language.
We can learn, and many of us have done so, to own our biological hard-wiring rather than have it own us. Men do not have to mandatorily drool over every woman they see. Women do not have to mandatorily coo over every baby they see. We can, and many of us have done so, reclaim the full expression of our individual range of traits and abilities, regardless of our biological sex. Men have room to be intuitive; Women have room to be logical. Men have room to be passive; Women have room to be aggressive. These are human traits, not gender traits.
The claim that biological sex differences are decisive for important matters other than reproduction is doubtful. Instead of Women’s Lib or Men’s Lib, we need Human’s Lib.
gen·der – sex; one of the two divisions of organic especially human beings respectively designated male or female; the sphere of interpersonal behavior especially between male and female most directly associated with, leading up to, substituting for, or resulting from genital union
-ism – abnormal state or condition resulting from excess of a (specified) thing or marked by resemblance to a (specified) person or thing
stereo·type – a standardized mental picture held in common by members of a group and representing an oversimplified opinion, affective attitude, or uncritical judgment (as of a person, a race, an issue, or an event); from Greek stereos solid + typos blow, impression, image, model, type, from typtein to strike, beat [viz “stamped from a cookie cutter”]
gender identity – the totality of physical and behavioral traits that are designated by a culture as masculine or feminine
rac·ism – the assumption that psychocultural traits and capacities are determined by biological race and that races differ decisively from one another which is usually coupled with a belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race and its right to domination over others
sex·ism – behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex
dis·crim·i·na·tion – the according of differential treatment to persons of an alien race or religion (as by formal or informal restrictions imposed in regard to housing, employment, or use of public community facilities)
race – the descendants of a common ancestor; RACE is anthropological and ethnological in force, usually implying a distinct physical type with certain unchanging characteristics, as a particular color of skin or shape of skull; used popularly and interchangeably to designate one of a number of great divisions of mankind, each made up of an aggregate of persons who are thought of, or think of themselves, as comprising a distinct unit; more or less controversial and often lending to great popular misunderstanding or misuse; from Italian razza
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002.