I claim this with all my liberal, academic, post-feminist, cosmopolitan credentials at my back: there are fundamental differences between men and women which are inborn, which cannot be dismissed as simply “heteronormative,” and which cannot be reduced to sociocultural programming, odious and unfair and arbitrary as many of the forms of that programming are. But this is a good thing. You can’t—and probably shouldn’t want to—ignore a few million years of primate evolution. I have faith that, honestly recognized, these traits can be integrated into the theory of a liberal, pluralist society, in which men and women treat each other as human equals. As E.O. Wilson says, our genes keep culture on a leash. The corollary to this is that the kind of culture we form is up to us, not that we can somehow sever the leash.
The first problem, of course, is deciding what exactly the sex-specific traits are. The empiricist in me says all we can do is look at the world and try to draw some reasonable conclusions, or even, if we’re really audacious, offer some reasonable guidelines for putting these conclusions into practice. The other problem is, of course, that those conclusions and guidelines will be . . . uh . . . equally provisional. And any observer’s previous cultural training keeps getting in the way. But some provisions will be funnier than others.
With that in mind, I point you toward Walker Lemond’s humane, generally realistic blog, 1001 rules for my unborn son. He’s up to 438 so far. If you’re a dude, or can conceive of yourself having kids, or just have any sort of interest in maleness whatever, check it out. Speaking as a guy, I can say that he’s occasionally very perceptive. Occasionally atavistic and corny, too, like a Dockers ad (can’t tell if all those old photos and the overall ’50s-schlock vibe are ironic). But the main thing is, I admire that a youngish man who doesn’t yet have children / a wife / a family is nonetheless thinking seriously about the kinds of ethical, social, and intellectual habits he would like to pass on to his children.
ENORMOUS CAVEAT: Lamond’s attitude is generally middle-American. A hint of genteel pre-Gingrich conservatism. David Brooks and all that. TGR does not personally subscribe to that part of the old cultural spectrum, although he does pick and choose from it.