Stumbled across this interesting article on NPR’s website about gender differences. Here’s an excerpt that I liked:
“What makes us different? We do. We don’t just happen to be boys and girls, men and women; we identify with ourselves as such, and we shape ourselves to conform to the rigid matrix of ideas and values that make up our conception of what it is to be male and female …
“Gender [what’s socially defined as ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ like the colors pink and blue] is real. People are men and women. And this makes a difference not only to how they live, to how much they earn, to how well they perform, but also to how they experience themselves, their bodies and their lives.
“But gender doesn’t happen in the brain, whatever sex differences on the brain there are. Gender, rather, is something we enact together…”
From “Social by Nature” by Alva Noë
Or as sociologists say, we “do” gender.
Just for clarification because the article wasn’t super clear: in sociological terms, "sex" is defined as biological (what makes someone male or female) but "gender" is defined as cultural (what makes something masculine or feminine whether it’s lipstick or a specific behavioral trait like aggression). As a result, how people "do" gender (what society defines as being manly or womanly) varies based on our historical and cultural context. The fact that gender is something we “enact together” doesn’t at all diminish it’s importance in our lives; it profoundly impacts all of us in a way few things do.