Marks and Remarks
Food for the Mind and Eye

No. 0107, January 29, 2017


Gender Fact and Fancy

     À propos de rien, a reprise of the 2016 Calendar cover. (The covers tend to go underappreciated.)

Copyright 2017 by S. W. Paul Wyszkowski

     Gender was invented by Mother Nature as a reproductive strategy with two primary objectives: a) to enable and encourage successful sexual coupling, and b) to maximize the chances of survival of the offspring. The system that evolved splits a species into two subspecies, male and female, physically and psychologically distinct, each adapted to its specialized role in the sexual reproductive process. This system has been around for zillions of years and has become thoroughly ingrained in the animal nature, including that of homo sapiens.

     However, h. sapiens has just (cosmically speaking, an eye-blink ago) taken off on an evolutionary tangent of its own, driven by conscious self-analytical feedback, accelerating exponentially. Suddenly, for h. sapiens the evolutionary priorities have shifted radically. Reproductive success is no longer the primary concern. Currently the dominant motive appears to be optimal utilization of human capacity for enjoyment of life, regardless of gender. But the long established gender distinctions persist and most of us are born into the world as an unambiguous male or female (which may actually be a good thing).

     Note, though, that the evolved male and female phenotypes define only the outer bounds of a continuous spectrum that runs from macho masculinity to nubile femininity. Distribution of individuals on this spectrum has been historically strongly polarized but the present de-emphasis of the propagation of the species as an evolutionary drive opens up new opportunities for self-expression to people whose psycho-physiology places them closer to mid-spectrum or beyond towards the opposite end. People who in the past were only allowed to think in terms of a masculine or a feminine archetype (conforming with their physiological male/female classification) now understand that they do not necessarily have to fit themselves into either one. Gender, more fluidly conceived, and even lack of a distinct gender, has become a matter of personal self-identity.

     Which is not to say everything is now hunky-dory and that we have finally arrived in the Age of Aquarius and pure, gender-free love. Actually, we've been there, done that but we're not finished working out the details. What the loosening of the traditional gender structure has made possible, among other things, is more creative ways to become confused about gender and its role in social and personal relationships.

     Prickles, our resident sociologist and philosopher, is also confused. "Why not just do your thing and relax about it?" she asks. "Be what you love being and share the joy with the world." Noble sentiment, Prickles. But it's complicated. "I don't wanna know," she says.

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