A Sleep Drug Wakes Us Up To the Great Gender Dilemma

Lets begin with a popular thought: men and women are fundamentally the same. Although they don’t share reproductive organs and a few pesky hormones, they are basically the same. Everything we associate with “gender” is a social construct. Boys play with Tonka trucks, and girls play with Barbies, because we teach them to. What we think of as “man” is actually just an socially conditioned act (that a woman might easily step into). What we think of as “woman” is a mask, and hardly fundamental to the person. Children do not need a mother and a father, because the idea of “mom” and “dad” are human inventions, which any person may fill or disregard. The Christian notion that God made male and female equal, yet different, sounds like a misogynist holdover from the ancient world of patriarchy. At best the Bible is unenlightened; at the worst it’s a dangerous weapon against equality.

The Bible is remarkably positive toward both men and women (which is relieving in a society which refuses to affirms misappropriated gender identity a la Don Draper). Just read Proverbs 31 for a picture of the ideal woman: hard working, savvy, loving, intelligent, motherly, and engaged. She’s not brow-beaten and locked in a closet. Paul is the only ancient writer I’ve come across who clearly affirms the latent potential of both femininity and masculinity. Nonetheless, not even the most able theological gymnast can safely square away Biblical teaching with the popular notion that gender differences are merely social constructions. Gender makes us different.

In a recent story on 60 minutes Lesley Stahl reports on how the sleep drug, Ambien, recently released separate dosages for men and women. The FDA discovered that woman on the lowest dosage of Ambien woke up with 45% more of the drug in their blood stream than men. That’s enough to impair driving. Worst of all, this difference was noted during the first test studies in the early 90s, yet they did nothing. Why? Because they rationalized that there’s no difference between men and women.

As the story unfolds, Stahl shows how the pharmaceutical industry has consistently ignored gender differences in research! Everything from stem-cells to heart attacks to neurology are effected by gender. And ignoring this truth has created serious health risks for both men and women.

It’s a marvel how our philosophical assumptions blinded us to the biological truth: men and women are different. According to society gender differences are negligible. According to science they’re fundamental.

Now, science can’t disprove that gender is a social construction. There are many biological differences (race for example) that the pharmaceutical companies take into consideration when developing drugs. Unique biology does not equate existential differentiation.

Nonetheless, we might as well ask: if our brains and our heats and our bodies work differently, then maybe we ought to revisit this whole “social construct” idea. Certainly, many of the superficial differences between men and women are socially developed. But isn’t it strange that all societies share this feature in common: we all seek ways to delineate gender.

Perhaps beneath all the construct lies a foundation. A shared foundation (men and women both in the image of God), but also a separate foundation. Like a God who is three-in-one, mankind is mosaic two-in-one. With man and woman we see the whole kaleidoscopic range of human potential. When we flatten genders, we limit our palette. When we call gender a “construct,” we malign the creativity with which we express these colors.

You may think we’re elevating all genders when we declare them “same,” but we might also be squashing them down into an indecipherable muck. As a young man who grew up intuitively believing that gender is a construct, I didn’t feel free, I felt confused. I desperately wanted someone to tell me what a man was, but all I heard was what “we” are, and why man is wrong.

Gender-specific drugs can’t prove our souls are different. But can’t we at least be open minded enough to ask the question? If you can’t apply your worldview to something as basic as medicine, then maybe it’s time to rethink your position?

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