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I Say Gender is Not a Social Construct

Photograph: Andrew Johnson/Getty

Photograph: Andrew Johnson/Getty

Reginald Walden, Contributing Writer

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Of all the ideas taken seriously by people in gender studies, it is difficult to find one more ludicrous than the idea that gender is a social construct.

Denial of biological influences on gender roles requires rejecting almost everything we know about human psychology, anatomy, and evolution. It is as absurd as denying plate tectonics or the greenhouse effect. The debate regarding gender differences is often mired by underhanded redefinition of words, so I am going to focus on the idea that gender is independent of biological influences and almost entirely socially or culturally constructed. I also make many generalizations in this article, and there are always exceptions to any generalization, especially on an individual level. This does not, in my view, invalidate the generalization.

Obviously, some differences between male and female human behavior are cultural – typically trivial matters such as the color of clothes. However, men and women have different nervous and endocrine (hormone) systems, which influence their behavior and psychology. For example, men’s higher levels of testosterone make them generally more aggressive, competitive, and likely to take risks than women.

The existence of gender dysphoria further complicates the theory of gender as a social construct. Gender dysphoria is a condition where individuals believe they are “a boy in a girl’s body” or vice versa. This causes stress in dysphoric individuals, which is sometimes remedied by taking hormone supplements. If gender was not connected to biology, then how could anyone be “born in the wrong body?” To assert gender is a social construct is to spit in the face of anyone who has suffered from gender dysphoria.

This is not simply the pet theory of some eccentric professors or edgy teenagers on Tumblr. The idea of gender differences being influenced by outside factors with little to no biological input permeates feminist ideology and influences their beliefs and practices, such as the movement for gender-neutral toys.
I am not arguing people should be ostracized or shamed for not following typical gender norms. People should be free to do what they want as long as they aren’t hurting anyone else. I am arguing that generally, inherent biological differences in men and women are the primary factor behind gender differences. Humans, in the end, are mammals.

Almost every mammal on the planet is sexually dimorphic, but we are the only ones with culture. If culture primarily decides gender difference, then how do hyenas, gorillas, and elephant seals have strict sex-based behaviors? At what point in human evolution did our instincts mystically disappear? We evolved struggling for survival in the African Savannah, not in air-conditioned coffeehouses where we can negotiate our personal pronouns.

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I Say Gender is Not a Social Construct