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Gender,
sex, and love are very important for philosophers to think about because they
are three things that affect every human being on the planet, whether
consciously or not.  Everybody is born a
certain sex, but as they grow, develop, and interact with the people and
society around them, some changes to their mentality around their sex may
change.  Science can only explore the
chemical reactions behind this change, but complicated changes and modes of
development are rarely so clear-cut in reality, and philosophers can go deeper
and explore the conscious and subconscious changes behind this reworking of who
a person is.  This is why philosophy is
important in this field of thought, because philosophers can explore natural
changes in sex and sexuality from a more human and emotional perspective to
figure out what causes these changes, past the basic science behind it.  Gender nowadays is much more outwardly fluid
and directly influenced by society than it has been historically, so if people
can think philosophically about it rather than scientifically, society can
release the shackles of rigid gender roles and biological determinism.  

            Science would have us believe that
there are two genders, male and female, and that these are determined by primary
sex traits such as genitalia and hormones. 
This is one possible way to understand “male” or “female.” However,
historically philosophers have thought of these opposites not in sex terms but
rather as gendered terms that derive from social and cultural factors such as
social position, and in doing so they have separated sex (male and female) from
gender (man and woman).  This is a
significant distinction because the former cannot be changed easily as it was
given without volition, from birth, whereas the latter is something that is
pursued early in life and discovered as different social pressures and cultural
phenomena shape who we are as we develop. 
Gender refers to the social and cultural differences that society gives
to people based on their biological sex, and these give way to gender roles
which are basically the expectations of a society that a certain sex will
correspond to a matching set of behavior for the different sexes.  This, as we have seen throughout history, is
much too rigid a way of understanding the gender differences as a biological
male might like to play with pink dolls while a biological female might enjoy
playing football.  How we conceive males
and females is not a natural disposition etched in stone from time immemorial,
rather it is the result of generations of a certain way that society has
thought about and defined these specific roles for the specific genders.  Hopefully by thinking in a more philosophical
way and less scientific way will allow society to unshackle the restraints of
this fixed way of thinking about gender. 
Furthermore, this biological determinism has historically been used to
oppress women, from Geddes and Thompson arguing in 1889 that psychological and behavioral
traits were determined by a metabolic state. 
This pseudoscience asserted that women being “anabolic” conserve energy,
making them passive, lazy, stable, and uninterested in politics while males, being
“katabolic,” are energetic, passionate, and interested in politics.  Not only does this have no basis in fact but
it seems to purposefully define women narrowly and negatively in order to
exclude them from basic social events such as voting or making policy whereas
men have seemingly been given free rein to do what they please, all on the
basis of women being “anabolic.”  These
defined roles justified the mistreatment and marginalization of women for
generations, making it ok to keep the woman in the home by citing the fact that
“that was how nature intended it.”  You
couldn’t possibly afford women political rights because their natural biology
just doesn’t allow it.  Of course
nowadays we can think of gender as something that is inherently fluid, and thus
impossible to define so narrowly.  For
example, Simone de Beauvoir claimed that a person isn’t born with a certain
gender but rather becomes a man or woman through interacting with their social
and cultural world around them. 
Therefore, in a philosophical sense, gender isn’t a word to be defined
so easily, but rather is a menagerie of extrinsic factors constantly working
and shaping the individual.

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One
way to think about this concept of “becoming” a man or a woman is to think
about it as an assertion about gender socialization, that males become males
through watching other males and how they interact with the world around them,
acquiring specifically male traits and behaviors.  Being masculine or feminine isn’t determined
at birth, rather they are something acquired through specific ways of nurture
from their parents or other extrinsic factors. 
In this way they can been seen as being causally constructed, with
social forces causing gendered beings to exist or shaping the way we are without
the labels man or woman, and the instrument of this construction is social
learning.  The way that we determine who
we are with respect to our gender is through observing the world around us and
modelling who we are after other important gendered factors in our lives.  For example, growing up as a biological male
you observe and learn how to act by watching your father, grandfather, uncles,
brothers, etc. who all learned how to act decisively “male” through watching their
male role-models and so on and so on until these rigidly defined ways of acting
are ingrained in the social identity of the sex.  The only way to make society more equal (by
that I mean less gendered and deterministic) is by unlearning these social cues
and being a model of equality for your posterity so that they may grow up and
develop into what they themselves define as their gender and act accordingly.  However, there is such a wide array of social
positions that make us think of gender in this deterministic way that it makes unlearning
these social positions very difficult. 
For example, a parent taking care of a newborn female baby are already
buying it pink clothes, dolls, and describing it as soft and delicate, while a
newborn male’s parents are painting its room blue and buying it footballs.  While these parents probably don’t see the
consequence of what they’re doing, they are already conditioning the child from
infancy to see itself as this narrowly defined role, and that wavering from it
is socially unacceptable.  Furthermore,
factors outside the parents are constantly enforcing male and female gender
roles such as the roles of males and females in stories that they read or in
media that they consume, making it doubly difficult for a child to grow up and
determine who they are without
reference to things and people around them. 
A male growing up may want to wear pink clothes but he doesn’t see any
other males in his society doing that so he suppresses the urge and tries to
define himself more rigidly and traditionally “male.”  This is detrimental to the individual because
now he must go through life constantly suppressing a natural side of his
gender, making him less than who he can truly be.  That exemplifies what is wrong with these
unwavering gender roles, that people throughout history have been forced to
accept the historical background of their sex and live their lives according to
what others want of them and not what they want for themselves.  In thinking philosophically about this issue
we can try to uncover the ailment in society that is causing this to occur and
by identifying the problem, we can work to fix it.  People want to live in an equal society, one
that doesn’t force people into places they don’t fit.  Philosophers aim to always think metacognitively
(think about the way they think) and in doing this with regards to gender
roles, they can uncover the reasons we consciously and subconsciously treat
different sexes differently. 

            All in all, gender and sex are
difficult to define as the latter is determined from birth and directly
influences the former, but the former can be extremely fluid and is determined
by a constant stream of ever-changing social and cultural factors such as the
people you grow up with and the media you consume.  Philosophy’s role in all of this is to think
about what exactly defines these genders and when and why changes occur.  By thinking like a philosopher, with an
emphasis on rationality and ethics, society can start to unlearn some of those
rigid gender roles and start to build its way to a more equitable and open
community.

One
way to think about this concept of “becoming” a man or a woman is to think
about it as an assertion about gender socialization, that males become males
through watching other males and how they interact with the world around them,
acquiring specifically male traits and behaviors.  Being masculine or feminine isn’t determined
at birth, rather they are something acquired through specific ways of nurture
from their parents or other extrinsic factors. 
In this way they can been seen as being causally constructed, with
social forces causing gendered beings to exist or shaping the way we are without
the labels man or woman, and the instrument of this construction is social
learning.  The way that we determine who
we are with respect to our gender is through observing the world around us and
modelling who we are after other important gendered factors in our lives.  For example, growing up as a biological male
you observe and learn how to act by watching your father, grandfather, uncles,
brothers, etc. who all learned how to act decisively “male” through watching their
male role-models and so on and so on until these rigidly defined ways of acting
are ingrained in the social identity of the sex.  The only way to make society more equal (by
that I mean less gendered and deterministic) is by unlearning these social cues
and being a model of equality for your posterity so that they may grow up and
develop into what they themselves define as their gender and act accordingly.  However, there is such a wide array of social
positions that make us think of gender in this deterministic way that it makes unlearning
these social positions very difficult. 
For example, a parent taking care of a newborn female baby are already
buying it pink clothes, dolls, and describing it as soft and delicate, while a
newborn male’s parents are painting its room blue and buying it footballs.  While these parents probably don’t see the
consequence of what they’re doing, they are already conditioning the child from
infancy to see itself as this narrowly defined role, and that wavering from it
is socially unacceptable.  Furthermore,
factors outside the parents are constantly enforcing male and female gender
roles such as the roles of males and females in stories that they read or in
media that they consume, making it doubly difficult for a child to grow up and
determine who they are without
reference to things and people around them. 
A male growing up may want to wear pink clothes but he doesn’t see any
other males in his society doing that so he suppresses the urge and tries to
define himself more rigidly and traditionally “male.”  This is detrimental to the individual because
now he must go through life constantly suppressing a natural side of his
gender, making him less than who he can truly be.  That exemplifies what is wrong with these
unwavering gender roles, that people throughout history have been forced to
accept the historical background of their sex and live their lives according to
what others want of them and not what they want for themselves.  In thinking philosophically about this issue
we can try to uncover the ailment in society that is causing this to occur and
by identifying the problem, we can work to fix it.  People want to live in an equal society, one
that doesn’t force people into places they don’t fit.  Philosophers aim to always think metacognitively
(think about the way they think) and in doing this with regards to gender
roles, they can uncover the reasons we consciously and subconsciously treat
different sexes differently. 

            All in all, gender and sex are
difficult to define as the latter is determined from birth and directly
influences the former, but the former can be extremely fluid and is determined
by a constant stream of ever-changing social and cultural factors such as the
people you grow up with and the media you consume.  Philosophy’s role in all of this is to think
about what exactly defines these genders and when and why changes occur.  By thinking like a philosopher, with an
emphasis on rationality and ethics, society can start to unlearn some of those
rigid gender roles and start to build its way to a more equitable and open
community.

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