Note on sex differences

(I’m aware that these sorts of arguments are controversial and it pays to alwasy develop one’s points at length, make all the clear up-front qualifications about exceptions to the rule, note that there is more variation between individuals than between groups, etc. But I’ll just charge ahead and make the fast-and-loose case anyway.)

One approach to arguing for different sexes giving rise to different personalities would be this:

Different powers cause different personalities.

Men and women are born with and naturally develop  different powers.

Assume for a moment that all persons arose as identical as ball bearings. Then assume we took half of  made them comfortable with being outside when it was 10 below. There’s little doubt that this would lead them to have different ways of acting and responding to the world. Even very remote things would be affected – the housing prices for land in the Yukon territory would change, the seasons for playing sports would change, “winter” would cease to be a metaphor for desolation and discomfort, we’d cease to spontaneously associate it with disease (since there was never causality involved here anyway).  But this sort of change in our responses, beliefs and actions just is a personality change.

 True, these powers would have to be significant in order to cause significant change, and so to apply this analogy to sex differences involves an appraisal of just how significant they are. The primary sex characteristics (ability to bear children, ability to impregnate, etc.) are clear enough, but there are secondary characteristics worth keeping in mind as well: Skeletal structure is stronger in men, as is the male hand, which is the primary organ of manipulation of the things in the world. This greater strength comes at a cost, however, since attunement to the environment requires less rigidity in the organs of contact. Power to manipulate the world is inversely proportionate to our attunement and sensitivity to what is going on in it. Again, manipulation makes the thing manipulated an extension of the self, and so does not relate to it primarily in the thing’s own subjectivity. In this sense, power and even authority is inversely proportional to the acknowledgement of subjectivity and interpersonal relation, at least so far as these things have a bodily component. Other more obvious secondary sex characteristics, both in humans and in other primates, point to the same zero-sum-game between domination of the environment and the sensitivity and attunement to the environment, especially the other subjects of the environment. We can strike balances between these things and develop modes of cultivaing the skills that do not come to us spontaneously, but even these developments will be conditioned and built off of innate habitus.

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