Recently I have been hearing and focusing a lot around ideas of gender identity-in politics, in my personal life and in my academic life. As a skeptic, I’m generally suspicious of the idea that girls and boys naturally tend towards certain roles, likes, dislikes and actions. As a woman, it seems to me that a lot of people have used gender roles in the past in a way that is extremely detrimental to women. And recently, it’s becoming more and more obvious to me that not enough people are currently skeptical about gender, gender presentation, sexuality, and the variety of topics that are related to these ideas.
I was talking to a friend of mine who is pre-med. This girl is smart. She’s pretty up to date on current issues, politics, etc etc. And yet when I told her that female doctors earn significantly less than male doctors, she was incredibly surprised. At first she didn’t even believe me. When I was talking to my boyfriend (a pretty feminist kind of guy) he was surprised to hear that Bill Clinton was accused of raping multiple women. Embedded sexism. It’s great. Violence, discrimination and condescension are considered acceptable in our culture when they’re directed towards women. For example Johann Hari explores how violence against women is ignored http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-why-do-we-ignore-the-abuse-of-women-400397.html . There have been horrible bills introduced surrounding abortion and women’s rights in a variety of states recently.
And one of the things that I wonder about is why the conservative forces in our country generally think that gender roles (and strict ones at that) are really awesome. We were talking in one of my classes this morning about the idea that women and men are particularly suited to certain things and that only by acting in their gender roles can they be fulfilled. We also considered the idea that gender roles are one of the ways we base our society and our structures, and that without them everything would fall apart. These gender roles seem to be the reason that when women step out of the home to work or to speak up against a famous man, people view them negatively. And often people who are big on family values just love the idea that we can only live harmoniously and well if we stick to these strict gender roles.
So my question is…where is the evidence that gender roles are beneficial??
When women get out of the house, into the work force, educated, the quality of life nearly ALWAYS goes up tremendously.
There is very little by way of neuroscientific evidence that gender differences are based in the mind, or that females and males are patterned to certain behaviors based upon gender.
In addition, the whole concept of sexuality isn’t even a given in every society. Gender roles differ hugely based on time and place, and the concept that a heterosexual norm of a family is the building block of everything is ridiculous since some of the most powerful civilizations in history haven’t even had a concept of sexuality at all (see the Greeks).
Finally, there isn’t even such a thing as a binary of gender. There are people who are intersex, somewhere around 1% of the population, who have genitals of both sexes (usually one less well formed than the other, but still with some of both present). How does that fit into the nice neat box of gender roles? I think it blows open the whole concept of strict gender roles and essentially proves the necessity of gender fluidity.
Why do skeptics ignore this HUGE fallacy that is propagated by conservatives and family value proponents?
If as scientists and skeptics we have a problem with religion being used as a cover for bad behavior, shouldn’t we also be worried about other faulty and fallacious beliefs being used to cover up bad behavior?
Isn’t the consistent oppression of half the population bad behavior? This issue should be bigger for the skeptical movement, and I’m still uncertain as to why it isn’t. Thoughts?