Lately, more and more it’s been impressed upon me, by observation, and by reading about research studies, that there are indeed a fair number of general differences between men and women. Maybe this is super obvious for you, but it’s sort of new for me. In the recent past, I’ve thought that most of the real differences between men and women are just the biological body differences, that we have different bodies, but not necessarily really different personalities. I thought that really the differences between men and women as far as roles and behavior were due to cultural expectations (and biblical commands) and while not being a bad thing, was not something that was necessarily inherent. I’ve even written about that to some extent on this blog. Well, now I’m changing my view.
I still am really against harmful gender stereotypes. I still think much of our differences are the result of culture and being raised with different expectations, and boys and girls being treated differently. But research continues to show real differences between men and women, boys and girls, that go beyond just having different bodies and family treatment. These are general differences in how we behave, and in how we think, and how we relate to other people and objects.
Take this article for example – Surprising Differences Between the Male and Female Brain.
Now, it’s important to realize that these differences are “general” differences. This is not to say that “men are like this and have to be like this” or that “women are like this and have to like this.” It’s more like “men tend to be like this” and “women tend to be like this” but each individual man and woman is different. Imagine a spectrum from masculine to feminine along the traditional understandings of these terms. Say extreme masculinity was 0 and extreme femininity was 10. From other articles I’ve read, it seems like almost all people are somewhere between 2 and 8, both men and women being anywhere in there. And then a few men are on the extreme side towards 1 or 0. And then a few females are on the extreme side towards 9 or 10. This would mean that while we can see clear general differences between men and women, it would not mean that all men are on the masculine side of the spectrum, or that all women are on the female side.
This would also mean that you can’t look at a particular person and say whether they are a man or woman based on how they behave. You might have a man that is number 8, who is very healthy and secure in himself. You might have a woman who is number 2 and very healthy and secure in herself. I would assume though, that those individuals on the opposite extreme sides may experience some gender confusion and some may end up thinking they are “transgendered”, especially in our culture which tends to make people think they are not “okay” and healthy if they don’t fit the stereotypes.
If this spectrum idea is true as the research seems to show from all the things I’ve read on blogs and books and articles lately (can’t remember or find them all to cite here), then my wife and I fit quite well into it. Whenever we read marriage books I am more like the woman and she is more like the man, and yet right now, we both are happy and content as who we are and don’t wish for a sex-change. She might be at a 3 towards the masculine, and I might be at a 7 towards the feminine. But we are both still in the middle of the spectrum where most men and women are. It makes for an interesting marriage that we both are on the opposite sides as might be expected, but it works for us.
See, I used to take our experiences, my wife and I, and conclude that there really aren’t that many true gender differences, and it just depends on each individual person. But I now think that there are general sex/gender differences, and we personally just don’t happen to fit them. But, there is a part of us though that is wrestling with this thought – Is it okay that we are so different from the norms? Or is there something wrong with us and we should try to change? That nags at us once in a while when we look around us and see other people that fit the stereotypes much better. Especially when we see young children, of friends and relatives, who their parents treat them exactly the same from what we can tell, and the boys and girls still end up acting very differently from each other, just naturally, as babies and toddlers even. But neither of us are trying to change who we are. For the most part, we are content.