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The difference between men and women; cats, dogs, and gypsies.
This post is well overdue. The question is a known one, is there a born difference between the sexes or is it all education?

I don’t usually consider such questions very interesting as yes there is a born difference and a huge educational difference. But several recent events and conversations brought me to think that this topic might be very interestingly developed, and moreover that it should be developed.

1. Visiting friends with cats it was strange to notice how cats act so differently from dogs, and how much they reminded me of women. Why aren’t there guard cats? This is nothing new but you notice animal species have certain characteristic which is inherent to them, and some of these characteristics we call feminine and some masculine. (Friendship is a characteristic that historically was considered masculine, and one which is associated with dogs and not with cats.) Perhaps certain basic characteristics which we credit/blame education for are really inherent? If they are inherent to species, why not to the sexes?

2. I later had a conversation about gypsies with a Czech. Gypsies are forced in many countries in Europe to live in houses, to send their children to school, and so on. To behave as we think people in society should behave. But they are a free spirit and like to roam free. They don’t like schools. They like to sing and dance (and steal). They don’t want to learn, at least in the way we teach. But this isn’t allowed anymore. People don’t accept that as a possible way of being. They don’t accept the possibility that it is not only part of their culture but part of their very being. The gypsy experience of life is not acceptable anymore and they are caged into houses and schools. (I remember a concert where a violinist played and immediately hearing the gypsy ancestry in his music, though he was at least several generations removed from being a gypsy. That spirit was still unmistakeably there.)

Is this the case with women? Is being feminine allowed anymore? Or are women forced to live differently than their essential being calls for? What are these essential characteristics? Similarly with men and masculinity.

3. A recent mother, and a woman who thought much about sexual difference, told me of how she was sitting with her new born daughter in the playground, looking at the children playing, and she just couldn’t believe it was all education.

Some related discussions:
Girls aren’t funny .
How to inoculate girls from gender stereotypes
 

Can we try to characterize what might be essentially feminine, essentially masculine, and what is purely education?
Don’t underestimate education. The language we use, the color we dress, our basic movements is education and it has a massive effect in the creation of femininity and masculinity. Still, what do we think is even more inherent to the sexes?

So, what do you think? I’m sure everyone has some opinion on the matter. I also think it is important to try to investigate this point.
Hi Arthur,

How to start approaching this subject while avoiding the danger of falling into generalizations that are untrue? Everything we might say could be true, but its opposite could be true just as well, so how can one generalize? Also, why do you compare women to cats and men to dogs? We each have a bit of doglike and catlike characteristics, and anyway, wouldn’t it be more correct to compare men to dogs and women to bitches? (I mean it literally of course)

Compare men to the masculine cats and women to the female cats?

As for that comparison, having had many cats and dogs in my life, it is certainly true that the female had always to deal with the sexual unrefrained behaviour of the male and take all the responsibility upon herself of their puppies, find them a roof and food, while the male went on happily with his life...It is not completely the same with humans, but it certainly is in some cases.

Education can do a lot to change the basic character, even of cats and dogs.
Well, Arthur, if there is a 64,000 dollar question, the one you've posed here would certainly be it.
Nature vs nurture.  I've been thinking about it for an hour--which is ridiculous given the enormity of it--& I know damn well there's no answer that even approaches simple.
But I think it may boil down to something like this:
Men and women and cats and dogs and...are born into an infinite number of situations and circumstances some of which we have some control over and some which we do not.  So we are born, we are educated, we experience things over the course of our lives and all these things play into how we develop and behave.
In the end I think that our over ruling influence is the testosterone/estrogen load we carry.
If testosterone is primary we tend toward 'king of the hill' behavior and estrogen primary persons,cats,dogs...tend to be caretakers and nesters.

This is not meant to be a simple answer because there are countless ways that 'king of the hill' vs 'caretaking and nesting' can mix and manifest.

We are bundles of education and experience and chromosomes (and opportunity) that have given us personalities, bodies and a worldview of some sort.  The testosterone/estrogen factor trends us this way...or that way...and sometimes a little of each.

In response to Linda OReilly
Also the corpus collossum is larger in women. This is the connective tissue between the two brain hemispheres. The evolutionary reason for this that women needed to be aware of more things at once than men did in our hunting gathering stage of development.
The example I remember from Johansen's book "Lucy" was that while gathering women had to attend to multiple things: what was being gathered, as well as testing the unfamiliar, where the children were, where the other women and their children were and watch for preditors as well. 

The males were hunting in a band. Stealth, speed and aim were important but right brain focus was crucial. From this one might extrapolate that men may make better surgeons and that women better family practitioners and emergency room doctors. I wouldn't doubt it. It seems to me this difference is observable in most role differences. But it answers very few fairness issues.
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