I have been thinking about the New York Times piece on race and gender, which argues that it is much easier to overcome race than it is to overcome gender.
I have long thought about this. It's easier (not easy!) to overcome race because race, at least as we understand it in this culture, is simply a cultural construct. We arbitrarily decided at some point that people with darker skin would be treated as an underclass.
Studies of the human genome have underscored how culturally constructed race is. While there are some genes that lead to superficial differences in appearance, I understand that a random white person is as likely as not to have more genetic similarity to a random black person than to another random white person. And vice versa. In other words, I may have more genetic similarities to a sister in Cameroon than a sister in Norway.
Gender, on the other hand, is not merely socially constructed. Men and women really do have pronounced genetic differences. Women can have babies, men can't. There are anatomical differences and hormonal differences between men and women. There are also culturally constructed differences. The problem becomes eradicating the culturally constructed differences that hurt women while valuing and taking into account the genetic differences.
For this reason, I worry that placing the grid of the civil rights over the women's movement, while a politically very potent tool for gaining rights, has been a false fit in many ways. While there is a one-to-one identity between black males and white males, black females and white females, that same one-to-one doesn't work between males and females.
I think we need to construct a better paradigm. But how?