Marks and Remarks
Food for the Mind and Eye

No. 0152, December 30, 2017


  Aspiring to Gender Equality

     The Lomographic Project: Item No. 004:
    "Collision in Space"

Copyright 2017 by S.W. Paul Wyszkowski

     The question is, after all is said and done, in the future, will men still be men and women women? Once upon a time, long ago, it is said men were men and women were women. I wasn't there but I have no reason to doubt it. Evidence suggests this may still be the case. More or less. Definitions nowadays are more fluid than in the days of yore. The least ambiguous markers seem to be the chromosomic XX (woman) and XY (man) but how they are expressed in actual living specimens varies widely. Nevertheless, there are tendencies. XXs tend to be more empathetic and more interested in interpersonal and social relationships than XYs who tend to be more aggressive, more competitive and less risk averse (suggesting they may be more expendable but also potentially more powerful). Of course, these being statistical tendencies, counter-examples are not hard to find.

     In terms of human reproduction and population growth, this state of affairs proved to be more than adequate. In terms of human happiness, not so much. In the natural course of events the most masculine (i.e., aggressive, competitive, risk-taking) men typically end up wielding the most power and dominating (and bullying) women and less masculine men. Some argue this is natural Darwinian justice and evolutionarily sound; others feel it is fundamentally unfair, especially to women. Of course, nowhere is it written that the universe must be fair. But it is a tenet of some civilized societies, ours among them, that all citizens should be treated with equal respect for their fundamental human rights be they male, female or indeterminate. The question is, which is more powerful: the hormonal soup in our veins or a society's ideal of justice? Can men, in fact, be made to act with more empathy especially towards women? Can women be made to act more aggressively and competitively? Many actually do already but they are not representative of the mainstream of the society.

     Unfortunately, the democratic process which grants all persons an equal vote does little to level the playing field genderwise because majority of candidates for the most powerful public offices continue to be males. Yet to require that at least 50% of all candidates must be women would be sexist and impractical besides.

     Suppose, as is likely, that the ideal of gender equality in terms of access to power is not achievable by regulation or by education or any combination of both. Then, a society that still insist on it would have to intervene biologically by resetting the normal hormonal balance of the majority of population to "correct" behavioral tendencies and, incidentally, to reduce or perhaps even eliminate differences between genders. With some fine tuning and constant maintenance, this might bring about more equal distribution of power but I can't see it ever actually happening (I could be wrong).

     Which brings us to the fifth and the most radical approach to the problem of inequality of power distribution: love. Let the most powerful take care of the least powerful. Let the competition be only among equals. Let the bullying of the weak and taking advantage of the powerless stop. Just because it's the right thing to do. That, some optimists claim, is the true nature of humanity. So what do you think, Prickles? (Prickles is our resident anthropologist and a thoroughly rational hedgehog whose opinions I value.)

     "It's nice to be an optimist," says Prickles, "even though pessimists are funnier and live longer. The fact is, there are and will likely continue to exist among you, brutal, conscience-less power seekers (of either sex but predominantly men) who are incapable of love. They will always end up with the most toys at the cost of those with the least. If you let them, they will rule the world. It's a chronic problem and I don't see any permanent and universal solution. You may just have to keep on muddling through as best you can on a case-by-case basis. But do check out Lysistrata." And with that she disappears into the woods to look for lunch.