Defined Words: Y chromosome, X chromosome, pregnancy, estrogen, testosterone
First off, to all of the males reading this, I’ve got some news for you. You are different than females because of a single chromosome that we call the Y chromosome. Like your other chromosomes, it has a pair; but unlike the rest of your chromosomes, the Y is very different than its pair that we call the X chromosome. The reason your Y is different is because a mutation occurred that did not properly copy the second X pair. Instead the organism was left with a small, shriveled up version of an X. Guys, we’re a mutation.
Luckily, that random mutation allowed for the same species to have two different sexes that could recombine their haploid cells to produce more diverse offspring. More diverse offspring means there is a higher chance of one of them finding success and reproducing themselves.
The Y isn’t responsible for producing the male structures, though it does play a role in which hormones are released into the body throughout development. You’ve probably heard of two of the most common hormones: testosterone and estrogen. You probably also think that testosterone is the male hormone and estrogen is the female.
In reality, we all have a little of both, though males have a much greater amount of testosterone and females tend to produce much more estrogen. One of the key reasons for this comes from the adaptation of mammals to carry their young during the earliest stages of development; you know this as pregnancy.
Pregnancy is basically a leech inside the female that steals the nutrients from its host. It’s a good thing they’re so cute when they come out! The female’s need for pregnancy meant that estrogen became the main sex hormone to help in fat storage. This makes sense as you want to have plenty of energy in reserve for when the leech steals from you. It also meant that testosterone, a hormone that helps in the breakdown of fat and reallocation to muscle, was suppressed. This is why it’s easier for males to build muscle and keep off fat than it is for women, the hormones help.
We’ve painted a picture of two members of the same species: one that is much better able to build up muscle, and another that had a more difficult time and had the burden of carrying a growing leech for 9 months at a time. Unfortunately for females, predation is a violent game and more muscles meant that males were better at violence and therefore better at hunting. Violence is also a very primitive form of communication: violence inspires fear and if something fears you, it will obey you to avoid further violence.
Our species is one where males are generally stronger and more violent than females, who are the carriers and nurturers of the offspring. Hunting also brought in a large amount of food and inspired much greater stories than gathering. Males would be honored for great actions in the hunt while females toiled away with their less heroic tasks. Is it any wonder why those men thought they were better than women?
To our ancestors, the primary purpose of females was to produce offspring and since they could only carry one at a time (usually) they were seen as “occupied” when they were pregnant. Wanting for more offspring, particularly sons, men found a way to maximize his children. More women meant more children so the first marriages allowed for a single man to have many wives. Marriages helped to further solidify the role of women as property rather than fellow humans since men would sell their daughters to other men for resources or negotiation.
It’s taken a long time but we have slowly phased out the idea that women are property with the implementation of monogamy in various religions; but the idea lives on today! Brides are still walked down the aisle by their fathers as a symbolic “giving away.” Wedding invitations often request your presence for the union of Mr. and Mrs. “Guy’s Name Only.”
This mindset of male superiority only exists because it has been propagated over generations. Males are conditioned from a very young age to assume a dominant role while females are trained to be more subservient. Even today, women are more often raised with a mindset to remain quiet and listen while men are encouraged to speak their mind. Any equality between the sexes vanished when those roles are established. Our ancestors created a self-fulfilling prophesy to ensure males would remain dominant over females.
That sexist mindset has existed among both sexes for long enough for it to become institutionalized: the people in charge were raised to believe men are superior. The institutionalization has also inspired an extreme version of female sexuality. If you’re in the grocery store and see a magazine with a man on the cover and one with a woman on the cover, who is more likely to be half naked?
We have added expectations to the role that women play by requiring them to look good. While guys can just roll out of bed and start their day, girls now feel the societal pressure to put paint and powder on their faces to change their appearance.
It’s gotten to the point where it’s almost hard for women to fight this trend because of the societal pressure from other women. A girl not wearing makeup causes people to wonder why. We wonder “is she trying to make a statement?” “Is she against other women?” “Is she against the expectations?” It’s a very delicate line to walk.
We have a ways to go to rediscover true equality, but it helps to understand where the mindset comes from for us to solve it. Remember that all problems can be solved if the problem is fully understood. It won’t be easy, but there’s work to be done here.