Nature, Nurture, Both, Neither?

mXb9EXiOver time on this blog, I’ve demonstrated how male privilege has gripped most every aspect of our culture, from politics to economics to the church. Truly, male privilege is a powerful and pervasive influence on all of our lives.

Still, as yet we haven’t explored the idea of gender differences. More to the point, we haven’t tried to figure out how to account for what seems to be clear gender distinctives. Are they a result of nature? Or are they a product of nurture? Or do they even exist at all?

Now, I’m going to declare myself completely “in process” with these questions. In fact, here are the very few things that seem clear to me:

First, and I hope this won’t be news to anyone, there are at least anatomical differences between the genders. Duh. And yet this seems baseline and significant, because it declares and demonstrates that God made two genders for a reason, for a purpose. In the end, we are fundamentally, physiologically, not the same.

Second, in the same breath, let’s note that even though there are anatomical differences between the genders, there are far more anatomical similarities. So, for those of you scoring at home, physically we’re different…and we’re also the same.

Third, I can say with confidence that nature has a significant role in establishing the appearance of differences. There is too much evidence out there to deny that culture shapes us into prescribed gender roles. And as I’ve demonstrated, it starts early on with the toys kids play with, the shows they watch and the clothes they wear.

What’s beyond these two points, I’m not totally clear, and it bears further study.

Recently I noticed this article with interest. It’s about one key way that men and women are (or appear to be) different: self-confidence. Specifically, the article posits that men are blessed (or cursed) with an abundance of confidence, while women are the opposite, preferring instead to operate in teams/groups. I appreciate the writer’s final prescription for closing the confidence gap, with its emphasis on balancing out and constructively using gender differences:

“This isn’t just a story about gender wage gaps; it’s a story about motivation. In manufacturing and other complex processes, teamwork is vital. It’s not enough to focus on making brilliant women feel confident. It’s also key to make overconfident men trust that their colleagues just might be competent.”

On one hand, this particular distinction of self-confidence certainly rings true. Most men I know, particularly those with power, tend to have an abundance (or an over-abundance) of self-confidence. And, most women I know, including those with power, tend to prefer working in teams. So, it seems right.

And it also seems wrong. Heck, I’ll be the case study. As a guy with a bit of organizational power, I have long struggled with self-confidence. Oh, and give me a team any day as opposed to forcing me to work solo.

So what is it? Nature? Nurture? Neither? Both? Some of one, less of another? Vice versa?

Maybe the best answer, for now, is “yes.”

What about you? How do you account for gender differences? What resources can you share with me on the topic?

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