Regressive Biological Determinism. What? (3 of 3)

We are not all Greek gods and goddesses. Even if we were pragmatism—our experience in nature—tells us that clothing is necessary. What it doesn’t tell us is what that clothing should look like. Jr. Thorpe in the article “The History of Men & Skirts” writes:

“Skirts were the matter-of-fact wear of many of humanity’s most ancient civilizations, on both sides of the gender divide. Gauzy wraps and loincloths for Egyptians, togas denoting class and status for Greeks and Romans, ornate military costumes for Aztecs: many ancient costumes were based around the idea of the skirt, purely because they were easy to construct and created huge freedom of movement. Whether you were fighting, building, farming or engaging in some kind of religious ritual, skirts provided cheap and efficient use. Short skirts among soldiers from the height of the Roman Empire . . . were considered proof of virility, and allowed for swiftness while in combat.” (From Bustle.)

And how did the dress of women differ from men?

“Not surprisingly given the hot climate Egyptians wore only light clothing. Women wore dresses with shoulder straps. Clothes were made of linen or cotton. Later in Egyptian history clothes became more elaborate and colorful. Egyptians wore jewelry. Those who could afford it wore jewelry of gold, silver and precious stones. Poor people wore jewelry made of copper or bronze. Both men and women wore makeup.

“Originally Greek women wore a peplos. It was a rectangle of cloth folded and pinned together. It was tied at the waist. Later Greek women began to wear a long tunic called a chiton. Women also wore cloaks called himations. Women wore jewelry like necklaces, bracelets and anklets. Rich women carried parasols to protect them from the sun. Greek Women did not cut their hair unless they were mourning. It was worn in many different styles.

“Roman Women wore long dresses called a stola, dyed different colors. Often they wore a long shawl called a palla. Ordinary Romans wore clothes of wool or linen but the rich could afford cotton and silk. Roman clothes were held with pins and brooches. Both men and women wore wigs and false teeth.” 

No one wore pants.

“The oldest known trousers are found at the Yanghai cemetery, extracted from mummies in Turpan, Xinjiang, western China, belonging to the Eastern Iranian people of the Tarim Basin; dated to the period between the 13th and the 10th century BC and made of wool, the trousers had straight legs and wide crotches, and were likely made for horseback riding.”

The point of this is that what we wore was nothing more than based on convention, a construct created in different societies that fit their cultural expression. Convention did distinguish between men and women whose clothing in style differed significantly. Women didn’t purchase their dresses from the men’s boutique and men equally didn’t shop in the women’s boutique.

Now historically there were some societies were women did wear some fashion of pants.

“Other names for pants throughout history include slacks, trousers, pantaloons, breeches, and knickerbockers. In Ancient China as early as the first millennium BCE, historians believe working-class men and women commonly wore trousers or leggings. In Ancient Greek culture, you can see warrior women depicted wearing pants on painted pottery in the late 400s BC. Early nomads and coastal peoples near Ancient Greece, such as the Scythians, commonly wore pants. The oldest pair of preserved trousers ever discovered were dated from about 1200 to 900 BC and were thought to have been worn by both male and female horse riders. In the 1700s women like Hannah Snell donned pants and took on secret identities so they could fight alongside men in battles. Much later, as many as 400 to 750 women wore pants and posed as men to serve in the American Civil War.”

The cultural construct where men wore the pants and women the dresses in the Western world didn’t come without a fight. While it wasn’t called gender roles it was exactly that,  men were to be men (as defined conventionally) and women were to be women. To cross dress, as it were, was an insult if women wanted to look masculine (again as conventionally defined) and men feminine.

“Historically the war of the sexes was a war brought on mostly by women to break out of narrowly constructed conventions they were forced into, gender roles that was arbitrary and false and limiting. Clothing was just one aspect of this. In WWII when so many men went off to war leaving their factory jobs behind women filled them, including shipbuilding. But sports, as well. With the entry of the United States into World War II, several major league baseball executives started a new professional league with women players in order to maintain baseball in the public eye while the majority of able men were away. The founders included Philip K. Wrigley, Branch Rickey and Paul V. Harper. They feared that Major League Baseball might even temporarily cease due to the war because of the loss of talent, as well as restrictions on team travel due to gasoline rationing. … The uniforms worn by the female ballplayers consisted of a belted, short-sleeved tunic dress with a slight flare of the skirt. Rules stated that skirts were to be worn no more than six inches above the knee, but the regulation was most often ignored in order to facilitate running and fielding.” (Wikipedia, “All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.”)

Women have every right to rebel against gender constructs both historically and now where it still exists. And yes, by and large men make the rules. When Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence “All men are created equal,” philosophically he understood the “men” here was the generic “men”—male and female—but on the practical it wasn’t practiced that way. Some men were more equal, some (women) less equal. He pulled his reference to being equal from Genesis where God made mankind, male and female. The point of that story is that they are one flesh like a lump of clay split in two each side fashioned to look different and function differently in some ways but equally they are accountable to their creator. In Genesis 5:1-4 we read: When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.”

 Men and women were never created as rugged individuals that didn’t need each other, together they made a whole. The only gender roles that apply to our “being” that we find here has to do with our sexuality, male and female, and that for the purposes of creating likenesses of ourselves, our children. The curses on Adam and Eve, and all of us in them, was not God assigning gender roles based on our ontology but practical roles based on our condition. Whether inside the idyllic life the Garden of Eden represented or outside in a harsh nature the female would be the host of new life (a baby). From her body the baby would find its first nourishment (milk) but beyond this there is no reason that the female is the primary nourishment for the child. Her gender role is not limited to that.

Pragmaticism, however, made changes but these changes were constructs to fit the situation. What situation? The man took on the role of providing for the family simply because that in itself would become time consuming and very difficult for him to be with the family and the woman because of this would take on the role of raising the children. The ontology here is limited; it was the woman’s body that housed the shared child and fed the child when the child was hungry until such time the child could take nourishment other than the mother’s milk. Beyond this whatever rules were made up were just that, made up, constructs.

There is another part to this, chemicals. There is no way we can say what role those different chemicals in both the male and female would play in an idyllic world. If, as we seem to want to do today, suppose there is a unisex, something other than male-female, our chemical compositions won’t allow us. I’m not going to go into depth here, I will quote this:

“But why are men’s and women’s brains different? One big reason is that, for much of their lifetimes, women and men have different fuel additives running through their tanks: the sex-steroid hormones. In female mammals, the primary additives are a few members of the set of molecules called estrogens, along with another molecule called progesterone; and in males, testosterone and a few look-alikes collectively deemed androgens. Importantly, males developing normally in utero get hit with a big mid-gestation surge of testosterone, permanently shaping not only their body parts and proportions but also their brains.

“Another key variable in the composition of men versus women stems from the sex chromosomes, which form one of the 23 pairs of human chromosomes in each cell. Generally, females have two X chromosomes in their pair, while males have one X and one Y chromosome. A gene on the Y chromosome is responsible for the cascade of developmental events that cause bodies and brains to take on male characteristics. Some other genes on the Y chromosome may be involved in brain physiology and cognition.” (From Stanford Medicine, “Two Minds”)

Actually what this tells us is that ontological gender roles are greater than just creating babies. Men and women have a number of differences, genetically, that defines us. If we want to wash the chalkboard clean of those differences and rewrite what we want on the blackboard it’s not really going to mean anything because we cannot wash our chemical differences out of us. We are different, we always were different, we will always be different.

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, is John Gray’s attempt to psychologically explain our pragmatic differences and is a good psychological explanation but don’t confuse it with philosophical ontology, being. Our behavior, male or female, doesn’t always reflect our chemistry because, yep, we can pervert those chemical impulses in different ways than our body intended. So even here defining some behavior is nothing more than our constructs.

Have I confused you? I said I wouldn’t give you a hard and fast definition of what a male is and what a female is but there are some structures of being that are clear, beyond that not so clear. That none of us want to be boxed in by gender roles that are constructs of our mind rather than our being is spot on. But we can’t just shed our clothes and yell out I’M FREE! Don’t forget freedom comes with responsibilities. Our arguments over ontology is just childish. Our arguments over constructs we’ll always have because one’s idea of gender role is not another’s, but if we can all get to the fact that they are constructs, changing them will be much easier. And neither can we throw out conventions because they did come with reasons. We can argue those reasons to see if they are valid, if not we can find ways to change them, if yes then we can find ways to keep them with less troubles.

That all of us are always going to be happy just isn’t going to happen. That all of us are always going to agree isn’t going to happen. But if we all go to extremes none of us will ever be happy. Recognize and accept extremes as what they are, extremes. Find ways to be agreeable even when we disagee.