Saturday, September 12, 2009

What Makes for Gender, or Race?

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Culture Is King and Queen

A colleague was telling me about the National Graphics special that I missed last weekend, on the Genographics project for which IBM partnered with National Geographic. He was saying that so many of us hail from the same place originally that race is not really what differentiates us from one another. Rather, our cultures make us different from one another.

Similarly, Peggy Orenstein's article from today's NYT magazine reminded me that culture is what makes men men and women women. Coincidentally, I received a TrueChild donation request today as well. The organization's premise is the same; our culture breeds stereotypes of what is feminine and what is masculine.

Personally, four years ago, I swabbed my cheek, sent it into the Genographics project and learned that I am of Haplogroup K, which hailed from the middle-east...ern part of Africa, or at least that's what I thought when I looked at the map that accompanied my certificate, but perhaps I mis-read it, according to this article...but if not, my colleague had a point. If *I* came from Africa originally, then I know that my origins are not so different from his; he's Black...but maybe when he gets his results -- he just sent his swabs in -- he'll learn that he's *not* originally from Africa.

Also, regarding gender, I *feel* like a woman, but according to my culture, appear to be gender-ambiguous, depending on my hair-length and what I'm wearing. And what do I mean, "I feel like a woman?" All of my answers betray my own sexism, e.g., I feel especially sensitive; I cry readily; I scream blood-curdlingly when I'm terrified; I am visibly, unabashedly tender and compassionate/empathetic. Other than the screaming in terms of pitch, I know that the "evidence" I'm citing here is not/should not be unique to a particular gender...but that's how ingrained my cultural upbringing is in me. I know, I'm an adult and need to take responsibility for my outlook, and reject my culture to the extent it divides genders and races so binary-ly.

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