The Biology of Gender

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by Michael Maciel

Authority is a masculine trait, whether it manifests in a man or a woman. And obedience is a feminine trait, whether it manifests in a woman or a man. It is the TRAIT, not the body, that defines us. Some of the most humbly obedient people who ever lived were men, and some of the smartest, most courageous leaders among us have been women.

But obedience shouts loudest in a woman during childbirth. And she is strongest when she lets go to the process but endangers herself when she rebels against it. Her mind naturally accepts subordination to the law of her body, because when the baby starts to come, it cannot be stopped. It’s as though her body has been invaded and occupied by another, and she has nothing to do but surrender to it. But when it is born, the foreigner captures her heart and becomes her entire focus. She then lives as two, not as one. The world fills up with child — HER child. And she would die, if necessary, to protect it.

ramA man, on the other hand, cannot duplicate himself except by impregnating a woman. His mind, therefore, is not prone to submit to his body but to hunt for someone who will. And in order to be the first to find her, he must learn to plan and to strengthen his will so that he can execute his plan. He learns to present himself so that he will be more desirable to her than all the other males who are also seeking her. He learns to strategize. He learns to fight off contenders. And like any good hunter, he perfects his aim. He learns to narrow his focus and to stay on target. He doesn’t know this consciously, but his body does. His body needs to procreate as much as it needs to breathe—only the tempo differs. And he is willing to die to achieve his goal.

The limbic system didn’t atrophy when the prefrontal cortex started to bloom. We carry these primitive instincts within us. They are the platform upon which our body and mind are built. Just as we keep everything we learned in elementary school, middle school, and high school, so do we keep all of the evolutionary stages we have gone through over the past several million years. And in the same way that what we learned in those early years of our schooling was “how to learn,” that foundation is more sophisticated than the facts we learned as we went along.

cerebellum

The lower brain is in many ways far more intelligent than our conscious mind. The cerebellum even has more neurons than the cortex. After all, it runs our body. It regulates the heart. It takes care of our liver. It knows everything about us and how to keep us alive. Just imagine if we had to do all those things consciously!

The body knows far more than we do, and it has a built-in, primary agenda, just like every other life form on this planet. And that primary agenda is PROCREATION. That is what forms the basis of our instinctual self, the one that resides in the lower brain, the one that runs our body. The entire biosphere vibrates with this primary agenda. It’s even more powerful than our fear of danger. How many people are willing to risk their lives for sex?

The background of the procreative intelligence is inescapable. Why? Because if it weren’t the most powerful instinct, the one that absolutely cannot be ignored, no life would have evolved. It would have simply gotten distracted by something more interesting and died off without progeny. Procreation is nature’s life insurance policy. It’s what got us here, and it’s what will keep us here.

But now we have the cortical cap, the higher brain with all of its marvelous functions, including self-awareness. It grew out of the lower brain like cauliflower grows out of its stem. With it, we have learned to reflect on our actions, to ask why this and why that. We can abstract commonalities from an array of seemingly separate objects and events, and with those abstractions, we can surmise nature’s underlying principles, rhythms, and seasons. Hence the modern age.

But the lower brain is still there. It is much older and wiser than we are. It knows how to keep the species running. And even though we think we can outrun it, everywhere we think we get to, we find it already there waiting for us. Smiling. No matter how hard we try, we simply cannot build a civilization that is hermetically sealed from nature. There is always a snake in the Garden.

Humans are binary beings. We have two sexes. It is that way for a reason, and that reason is procreation. If it wasn’t a good mechanism, it would never have evolved as far as it has. And just as childbirth forms the brain and sensibilities of women, so does the procreative urge form the brain and sensibilities of men. We think differently, we feel differently, and we have different reasons for being. This doesn’t mean that one of us is smarter than the other or that one of us is more valuable, existentially speaking. How could that be? That would be like saying that inhaling is more valuable than exhaling, or that the day is more valuable than the night.

What it does mean is that we have fundamentally different ways of looking at the world. And as long as we ignore that fact, we will never be able to communicate with each other. Nor will we be able to fully appreciate the unique gifts we each have. We might be able to venture into the other’s territory from time to time and explore what it’s like to live there, but our body will eventually call us back. We will always be tethered to it, as long as we are alive. The best we can hope for is a symbiosis, a melding of consciousness, to live so completely in tune with the other that we function as one, each one giving the other what the other lacks. And as we do, we find that instead of becoming a unisex, androgynous creature, we become more comfortable in the gender of our sex, because we each have the other’s back. It is then that trust becomes the highest moral virtue.

Now I know that monogamous, heterosexual relationships aren’t necessarily the gold standard in our culture anymore. But while they aren’t considered the ONLY way, they are still the foundation of a viable society. Most people agree that a two-parent family, one man and one woman, are necessary to fulfill the needs of little boys and little girls. This doesn’t mean that gay families can’t be happy and healthy or that communal, extended families aren’t better than the so-called “nuclear” families. It just means that without the biologically determined baseline of the family formed by the need for procreation, no social system can long survive. It is the core pattern for human life—all life, really. It is the “Holy Family.”

So the important thing to remember is that men and women think differently, because the unconscious, biological underpinnings of our psyches have different orientations based on the respective roles that each plays in the reproductive process. That process is hardwired into the oldest parts of the human brain. It is our “operating system, 1.0.” This doesn’t mean that it controls everything that we think or are capable of experiencing. But no matter how high we fly, we will always be pulled back to earth, at least as long as we inhabit this mortal flesh. Our most noble agendas and exalted philosophies will always speak to us in its language, the language of gender and procreation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to The Biology of Gender

  1. Good one. Your simple observations are always so profound.

  2. Tina Quinn says:

    A voice for sanity in an upside down society. Amen!

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