Men and women are different in deep biological ways which endure.
Male and Female are sexes.
Men and women are different in shallow cultural ways which change readily.
Masculine and Feminine are genders.
“Sex vs. gender” is a good shorthand for this deep debate.
Most people through most cultures and eras thought and still think men and women are different sexes.
A small but strategic minority in developed societies in the past generation thought and still think that men and women are different genders.
The gender view has been dominant among the educated elite in developed societies for a generation. The gender view dominated in part because it had superior arguments and evidence, and in part because the people who promoted the gender view had enough political power to bring grief to those who argued against it. The gender view was, for a time and in a class, politically correct.
A new generation of thinkers is rising to challenge the gender view and promote the sex view. The arguments and research of the sex view have been good and getting better. The arguments and research of the gender view are more tired and strained than they used to be.
Where does this leave the gruntled center? Whichever view you think is ultimately true, we can agree that men and women, as a group, tend to think, value, and act in somewhat different ways in our society.
Beyond this center lie two unacceptable extremes.
There are some people who argue that men and women are so deeply and permanently different that they are practically different species. This idea contradicts the theory that most people have that human beings have essentially the same kind of human nature.
There are some people who argue that men and women are really the same now in the way they think, talk, value social relations, value competition, approach marriage, go about raising children, and in every other way. They argue that the differences that we think we see are really due to a sexist ideology in our heads. This idea contradicts the experience that most people have, especially the experience of married parents.
So, for the foreseeable future, men and women – and boys and girls – are and will be different. Our everyday interactions and our public policy should accept this as a fact and work with it, not deny it or try to socially engineer it away.