More in the Maketh?

By Luke Johnson | SIPA 2018

I am writing in response to two recent posts: “Masculinities: What Maketh a Man” by Paul P Mathew and Bhagirath Iyer and “Would a ‘Henry Clinton’ face the same opposition?” By Ori Wiener-Blotner. The pieces talk about the ‘subconscious assumptions’, stereotypes, and how social expectations pressure children into conforming to established gender roles, and how we have a natural inclination to subconsciously reject or denounce people who try to break the mold (i.e. Hillary Clinton). Few disagree that these norms and identities have weight, and that these (mis)perceptions and unfounded expectations are a significant cause of social tension.

These discussions, I’ve found, tend to really be a debate on what forms your identity; in other words, what forms who you think you are. Which, in turn, leads to the nature v nurture discussion. The debates goes something like: we are entirely a product of some unknown combination of genes (nature) and the social pressures we experience growing up (nurture).

But, nature + nurture do not sum to 1. I think there is a third element. If we are only the sum of our parents and the surrounding environment, then we are like a dried leaf floating idly down the river. Can change not come from within?

I think that within all of us is an internal struggle to shape ourselves into something we would like to become. There is an energy and drive in our core — our nucleus — which can change and shape us, and this shaping effect is not from our parents’ genes, or from our environment. Some more spiritual people might call it a ‘soul’.

After all, if we were all entirely conformists, then progress would halt within generations and society (and its norms) could not evolve or change. I should hope the nucleus factor is strong as well, since Ori’s call at the end was an appeal to this internal force which can shape us: “I only ask that people take an introspective moment and don’t’ oppose [Hillary Clinton] because of it”. Only with great flexibility and difficulty could you call this plea for introspection and change nature or nurture, but it fits well into the nucleus.

If this force is not present, then there is no hope for change and the debate will have to wait for the next generation of children to start to correct the imbalance. But, I think there is hope since it is not just nature and nurture, but nature, nurture and nucleus which shapes us.

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