There have been a few topics in both the ladies' and mens' rooms on "what makes a man" and "what makes a woman", so I thought I'd start up a similar discussion where all genders can participate.
When we're little, we're told that boys have a penis and girls have a vagina (neglecting the whole clitoris, vulva, cervix, ovaries, womb thing, but that's another matter)- we're taught to believe that our gender comes from our body- the sex geneotype that we're born with. Or we might read books that talk about gender being a part of the soul. And then we do cultural studies, which tells us that it's all a social construct.
For myself, I acknowledge that it's mostly social, but whatever those social forces are (they're too multifarious to identify them all), I also feel like my body plays a large role in why I identify as female. Of course that's only my unique case, for other's it is vastly different- people's bodies certainly aren't an intrinsic part of their gender.
I pretty much agree, Beppie. I think gender is mostly a construct, and so the main thing about me that is female is my body. The other thing I think makes me different from boys is the history of my gender. Those are two things I think are almost possible to escape. We can work to minimize stereotypes, (and therefore, social limits on gender expression) but I don't think we can escape our bodies or our history.
Posts: 582 | From: Montreal, Quebec, Canada | Registered: Aug 2000
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Hmmm... I had an awesome discussion on this topic on another list, about two and a half years ago. Started reading some cultural anthropology (IMO, a must for anyone interested in gender. Start with William Haviland's wonderful text, "Cultural Anthropology")...
There is some gender-based division of labors in ALL known human societies, quite likely for the obvious, and purely physical reasons (mels in general are stronger and can run faster, fems can't be expected to hunt as well when they're lugging babies around, &c). However, everything -else- looks to be pretty darn flexible, and even the division of labors bit isn't set in stone for all -individuals-.. in some cultures females are expected to be agressive and males quiet and gentle, in others, vice versa.. sometimes everyone is expected to be agressive, or quiet and gentle, or whatever...
I thought this one was especially interesting/charming. For the Mbuti, there is basically no gender differenciation among children, and not much among adults. Their most significant cultural divisions are by age--children, youths, adults, and elders. The first time sexual differences are really highlighted are when they reach puberty. They have a village-wide wild festival at the menarch of a village girl, during which
"...The adults begin to play a special form of "tug of war" that is clearly a ritual rather than a game. All the men are on one side, the women on the other. At first it looks like a game, but quickly it becomes clear that the objective is for _neither_ side to win. As soon as the women begin to win, one of them will leave the end of the line and run around to join the men, assuming a deep male voice and in other ways ridiculing manhood. Then, as the men begin to win, a male will similarly join the women, making fun of womanhood as he does so. Each adult on changing sides attempts to outdo all the others in ridiculing the opposite sex. Finally, when nearly all have switched sides, and sexes, the ritual battle between the genders simply lapses into hysterical laughter, the contestants letting go of the rope, falling onto the ground, and rolling over with mirth. Neither side wins, both are equalized very nicely, and each learns the essential lesson, that there should be _no_ contest."
I do think that hormonal differences between males and females count for something.
And of course, please remember that there aren't just two sexes...
indeed... gender can mean many different things to different people. as a society we're pretty hung up on biology, but there are other places where your plumbing doesn't matter as much. lots of native american groups see a person's gender as determined by (and the thing that determines, mmm circularity) their social role, and biology kind of takes a backseat to that.
don't remember what tribe it was, but if a kid was displaying "other-gendered" behavior, the kid's parents would put it in a tipi with a weaving loom and a bow, and then set the tipi on fire. whatever the kid grabbed as it ran out of the tipi signified what gender it wanted to be -- bow for male, weaving loom for female. kinda neat.
i may seem to get a bit confused here about gender vs. sex, but the way i see it "gender" is one of those overarching terms that encompasses not only the social and cultural meanings that are ascribed to having a certain set of genitals, but how your performance of that gender interacts with said physical characteristics and others' ideas about them.
To quell your curiosity, David, I put your post to my partner, who is Cherokee and an Ojibwe-speaker, and has his masters in Native American Studies.
Here's what he said (no holds barred -- I figured you'd prefer it undiluted):
"Honestly, this "set the tipi of fire" story is nonsense. Ever build a tipi by hand? Would YOU set your house on fire just to test if your kid was median-gender?
If any parents wondered what gender their kid was, they'd go to an older median-gendered person and ask her-him what she-he thought. Or possibly if most people in your community thought of you as neither male nor female, they'd talk about you as the third gender and thus your identity would be defined by common consensus.
If I remember correctly, "winkte" is the term for a median-gender in Dakota. Most Siouan and Algonquian groups recognize three genders, Iroquoian groups usually recognize five (a "beyond male" and "beyond female" are included on the spectrum.) In the vast majority of differences a person who was median-gendered was considered to be more powerful than a mere male or female person. We're not talking about physical power, but spiritual or community-acknowledged power.
There isn't much reliable information published on gender identity in American indigenous cultures, I think mainly because in the early 1900s when the majority of first-hand interviews were being made anthropolgists either didn't want to ask about that subject or didn't want to publish about gender issues. Now the subject is more open but the indigenous perspectives have been overrun by two-gender systems to an extent that few people even know that their culture includes additional genders."
Hmm. Well, I'll definitely relay that information back to the two queer studies professors who told me that. Bah. Hopefully the rest of the stuff they taught me about indigenous cultures isn't too off-base. anyway, my point (I think) was that gender means different things in different societies, and that some societies aren't as convinced that biology is destiny as the US is.
------------------ r.d.m. * riotboy * http://f0o.org "and you say i'm just a kitty cat in disguise" -- estrojet
(And David, my partner is actually always really pleased as punch to talk about the gender-stuff in Native American cultures, so should you ever want to gab at him about it, or find out new stuff, you're welcome to email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
I can't believe I just said "411," by the way. The things I pick up from y'all, I swear.
I like this topic; I think it should come back
What makes a woman? What makes a man? My Dad has a friend who had breast cancer and had to have her breasts... cut off? but she is still very much a woman. This is a very controversial topic, and very hard to answer. What do you all think about it?
I'm a female. Why? Because those are the physical bits and pieces I received at birth.
For me there really isn't anything more to it than that. I don't need a gender to identify myself. However, society demands that I have a gender so I take the obvious road and choose what my body indicates.
Some days I feel more masculine, some days I feel more feminine but I never truly feel as if I am definitively one of the other. I have no desire to change myself, to concretely be one gender or another. I'm in an emotional gray area and gray just happens to be my favorite color.
------------------ There is a time and a place for everything.
I'm female, for the reasons ookuotoe mentioned and others. Mentally i'm female. I just know i am. I'm very feminine in certain ways and i know that if i'd been born male, it wouldn't have worked out too well.
My body plays a large role in my sex as well. Of course i have feminine parts, and that only adds to my frame of mind.
------------------ 'Steve, sex with two whole women, think of the advantages...they can't both fall asleep. If one of them suddenly leaves or punches you, you've still got one left. If one of them plays that old sneaking out of the window trick, there's someone there to untie you. It's total genius.' -Jeff Murdock
It's hard for me to bring a lot to this topic because I haven't thought about so much. I don't think of myself as a girl as much as I think of myself as a...I don't know. Just a giggly wiggly little person. Most people who look at me would guess that I dress girly, but I think that guys in my clothes look pretty darn cute (guys complain that girls steal their boxers, well I complain that boys steal my skirts!) So I don't really identify the way I dress as being girly.
I've got all the girly bits and pieces (breasts, ovaries, all that good stuff), but...I'm not sure where I was going with that one. In my fantasies sometimes I'm a guy, sometimes I'm a girl. The same with my dreams. It's not so much that I desire to be a man, I guess it just never seemed to be a big issue to me. Why not be a guy? Why not be a girl? Why prefer one gender over another?
To answer heather's prolly rhetorical(sp) question, why choose one, in my opinion.
I have to choose one. I don't mean like, " you have to choose a gender!!" I mean that i'm a girl, and forever will be and i have no desire to be a guy and i would truly hate it. It's hard to explain i guess. I spose it's not really a choice, it's the way i was born and raised. I will always be a girl and i know that it's what i'm meant to be.
Now that is a difficult question. I do not identify with a gender.
I have some masculine characteristics, and some feminine ones--but choosing to bring out the feminine aspects makes the masculine ones stronger as well. Why? It's just the way I am, as is orientation or eye color.
Ultimately, gender is a chicken-and-egg problem: are girls girly because they are naturally girly, or because they're taught to be "ladylike"?
------------------ Sapphire Cat The world needs me, to know not everyone is the same. Artist, poet, programmer, dreamer, and crossdressing bondage kitty
One thing that I think has seperated men and women for a long time and generally still does is one simple fact:
Men can't have children, and Women can. Life comes from Women naturally, and that will always be a division between the sexes IMO. I think a large amount of "what makes a man" and "what makes a woman" is largely cultural.
Posts: 117 | From: Where does my name remind you of? well it's wrong! | Registered: Feb 2002
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This question is interesting, and to be honest, I don't think there is a right or wrong answer.
This is like asking what the difference between gay and straight is. Sure, you could give the obvious answer that straight people are attracted to the opposite gender and gay people are attracted to the same, but what are the causes? Why does a straight man like women? Why does a gay man like men?
The same is true for gender. I have a penis, but I do not at all identify with anything male or masculine. I know that I have the mind, heart and soul of a female, and have since my earliest memories. I don't think there is a particular reason for why I am transsexual. It's just who I am. I am as sure that I am female as I am sure that I breathe air. I could give example after example of feminine traits I have: I paint my nails, I wear female clothes, I'm soft and sweet and sensitive, etc... But it all comes down to the fact that I know in my heart that I am a girl, and I've cried myself to sleep on more nights than I could count wishing that I would wake up in the body that fits my gender.
So, with the variety of people in this world: gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, MTF straight, MTF gay, MTF bisexual, FTM straight, FTM gay, FTM bisexual, MTF post-op, FTM post-op, MTF pre-op, FTM pre-op, intersexed, etc... how can anybody really pinpoint a set of differences between boys and girls? There may be a higher percentage of one type of person than another, but the human race runs the spectrum, and to draw a line in the sand separating common boy traits and girl traits is to leave a lot of people out simply because they don't fit the norm.
------------------ There she goes. One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.
Posts: 6 | From: Hazleton, Pennsylvania, USA | Registered: Mar 2002
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i would agree (with whowever it was that mentioned it)that 'girly' traits and 'masculin' traits stem largely from physical abilities. Men are, by nature, more muscular. they just are. This would, make them physically stronger. And i think everything just goes from there. Men are stronger, therefore can survive better, but women are more than a little neccessary for survival, so men protect them from predators. Men where pants because it makes it easier for them to fight. Women 'shouldn't' fight, therefore, they wear skirts. Men don't ask for directions because they should be strong and self sufficiant. Women ask because they should depend on others. Because they are 'weaker' I think gender has a lot less to do with it. In my opinion, if women were stronger physically, the roles would be reversed.
------------------ "Everybody thinks i'm such a horrible person, but i have the heart of a little boy. In a jar. On my desk." -Stephen King
I think it's mostly to do with how you are brought up. I wasn't really brought up as a girl,(although I'm female) so I don't really fall into the 'girly' group. This may sound strange, but I don't think of myself as being a girl (or a boy) just a person. *lotsa hugs from da bajjah*
Posts: 388 | From: UK | Registered: Apr 2002
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quote:Originally posted by badly_behaved_badger: I think it's mostly to do with how you are brought up. I wasn't really brought up as a girl,(although I'm female) so I don't really fall into the 'girly' group. This may sound strange, but I don't think of myself as being a girl (or a boy) just a person. *lotsa hugs from da bajjah*
I don't think it's entirely how you're brought up--I don't remember anyone telling me "Boys can wear skirts" or "Put on some lipstick so you look your best for the world." I don't remember anyone painting my nails or letting me grow my hair long.
On the other hand, society puts a lot of pressure on me to present as male when I venture outside my living space. No other guys are pretty when they go out in public, unless they're drag queens en route to a show. I know there are people out there who would love to drag me into a dark alley and beat me for being a pretty boy, too.
Finally, (the point I originally started writing to make) I don't think it's strange that you consider yourself a person without one of the polar genders. That's how I think of myself, and it kind of reminds me of what Miz Scarlet once (or possibly several times) has said about orientation--we fall in love with people, not genders. So it seems logical that each of us is a person, not a gender.
------------------ Sapphire Cat Looks won't tell who's living inside. Artist, poet, programmer, dreamer, and crossdressing bondage kitty
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