Gender Revolution

Chat about a topic supported by books, TED Talks, podcasts, personal experience, philosophies of mankind mingled with humor (shout out to IOT), and maybe we’ll even do a google hangout or conference call once a month.
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Gender Revolution

Post by Jeffret » Thu Nov 09, 2017 12:13 pm

On one of the now-deleted threads, someone mentioned a National Geographic issue earlier this year about gender. It is the January 2017 issue, likely available at your local library if you don't have a subscription.

It is titled, "Gender Revolution", with articles "Making a Man", "The Science of Gender", and "Girls at Risk".

I checked it out and read through it. It is really quite a good overview and introduction to a variety of the issues, status, and understandings around gender. I highly recommend it. It doesn't cover any of the concepts in great depth but it touches on a number of them and is well done.

As I mentioned previously, the editor's intro is titled, "What if All Could Thrive?" That's really the key question. Can we work to improve society so that all can thrive and not just those who happen to have the correct genitals or who are interested in the things society tells them they should?

In the article "Rethinking Gender", author Robin Marantz Henig states,
At the same time, scientists are uncovering new complexities in the biological understanding of sex. Many of us learned in high school biology that sex chromosomes determine a baby's sex, full stop: XX means it's a girl; XY means it's a boy. But on occasion, XX and XY don't tell the whole story.

Today we know that the various elements of what we consider "male" and "female" don't always line up neatly, with all the XXs. ... It's possible to be XX and mostly male in terms of anatomy, physiology, and psychology, just as it's possible to be XY and mostly female.
This article introduces some of the specific conditions and pieces in play. For more detail on much of the biology involved, I recommend Between XX and XY: Intersexuality and the Myth of Two Sexes, which while detailed is still quite readable and interesting for a layman such as myself.

One concept that comes out in this NG issue that wasn't brought up in some of our earlier discussion is that not all cultures observe the gender binary. Some cultures recognize more than two genders. With some it is merely the increase of one additional one, but others also accept several. The issue discusses how in the U.S., and other Western countries, once you go from a strict limit of solely two genders, there is no clear reason to stop at any other small, limited number. It cites surveys that millennials are very accepting and comfortable with a continuum and variety of genders, including gender fluidity and unspecified. Much as the young drove rapid, radical acceptance of gays and lesbians leading to relatively quick enactment of marriage equality, the younger generation will drive our understanding of gender.

The last third of the book is a little depressing. It starts out interestingly enough, as the author compares the "Making of a Man" for his son in the U.S. with a boy in the Bukusu tribe in western Kenya. He discusses how his son doesn't have any clear, simple guidelines for what it means to be a man or how he becomes one. There are still gendered expectations, but changes mean it isn't always clear which ones still apply. There is no strong ritual that indicates the entrance into manhood. In contrast, the Kenyan boy knows the point at which he became a man -- when he completed the initiation ceremony before his family and community and had his foreskin slashed off. The contrast and compare between the two boys growing up is interesting but neither one really feels like it provides a solid, productive approach. The one is too brutal and the other too uncertain, though I'd certainly prefer the uncertainty over the brutality.

After a fairly pleasant article about parental leave for fathers, the next article is about the problems girls face growing up. This one focuses on body image and eating disorders. While the American boy growing up without clear gender guidelines represents some difficulties the problems faced by girls described in this article are far worse. The attacks on their self-image, opportunities, and value are substantial.

Continuing on from there, it talks about the dangerous plight of girls in some parts of the world. While the Kenyan boy underwent genital mutilation in his transition to manhood, the female genital mutilation forced on many women is much worse. The situations they face, the dangers, and the oppressions around the world are scary.
"Close your eyes, for your eyes will only tell the truth,
And the truth isn't what you want to see" (Charles Hart, "The Music of the Night")

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