Today we had an interesting group discussion about gender roles in America today.  We discussed traditional gender roles first.  Inevitably, we had to get into how much of our gender role is biologically based.

This is a tricky topic to discuss.  In this part of America anyway, we don't like to have roles assigned to us by our society.  We have, in our small midwestern UUCE community women scientists and engineers and we have a stay-at-home Dad.  We have men who cook and clean even while there is a group of women solving our water problems in the basement.  We don't like to think of gender roles as having any basis other than an individual's choice.

and yet...

The ideas of such psychologists such as B.F. Skinner who tried to prove that there was no inherent difference between males and females have been thoroughly discredited.  It is obvious that we biological differences.  There is something that we call a maternal instinct even if there are some women who are almost completely devoid of it and some men who are loaded with it.  On average, human males are stronger than human females so it is not by accident that firefighters are mostly men.

The most compelling arguement of all that there is a biological basis playing a deep part of our gender roles, is that we find that in the animal world, there are assigned gender roles.  Male lions take on the role of lookout while the female lions hunt down prey animals for dinner.  There is no societal push to make them do that.  In the bird world, in some species you find the females assigned the role of nest builder and in some species you find that the male is assigned that role.  Even among the great apes, the roles are different.  In the Bonobo species the females are the leaders of the group while in the Gorilla species the male is the leader of the group.  I don't know how that happens.