The Epigenome Of Gender Stereotypes
August 29, 2015
There was a time, when we weren’t allowed to do whatever we wanted.
We couldn’t decide to sleep in until noon, or take a 4-year Arts Degree in Anthropology.
Although, if we did, we would likely realize Gender Stereotypes are an inaccurate leftover, of an archaic survival tool.
These days, we enjoy a tremendous amount of freedom, with food at our disposal, and an absence of deadly predators on our daily commute to work.
And even though we are essentially ‘safe’ every day, our genes still pull the strings, in our unconscious mind.
Our genes have survived, in some Australopithecus form until now, for at least 6 million years.
The fork in the road, which was really just a bit more head room in the Prefrontal area, occurred between our earliest Humanoid descendents, and Great Apes, between 6-15 million years ago.
And Epigenome studies indicate that the significant experiences that genes encounter, within their changing organism costumes, create permanent changes that last for every successive generation.
And you can imagine the kind of Natural Selection experiences that various versions of us had to endure, over the last 6 million years.
That’s why some of us have Anxiety Disorders, from an anthropological perspective.
We have a genetic memory of times when survival was difficult, and entire generations lived in frequent fight or flight.
Tools were only invented 2.5 million years ago, and the Bow and Arrow, about 60,000.
The theme of ‘Our Story’, slowly conquering Planet Earth, and all of its systems, is of smaller isolated groups of us, who slowly discovered each other, only in the recent past.
When you live in small groups of people, without modern technology, if you are lazy, you die.
And each person’s unique skills have to be developed, as much as possible, to benefit the group.
The differing physiques and functions of the male and female bodies, for millions of years, were specifically important, for survival.
That may sound obvious, as only the woman’s body is designed to conceive and create a child.
What is not as obvious, is that the act of carrying a potential person, develops another important skill, predominantly in females.
That is, the ability to deeply bond, with another human.
This skill can then become useful, as an emotional stabilizer for not only children, but the other adults, often aggressive males, in the tribe.
As an aside, it is truly fascinating, to watch the life cycle of the human zygote, as it matures.
The human organism, in the uterus during development, seems to replay all of its evolutionary animal parts.
During our 9 month slideshow, we have gills, flippers, breathe liquid, and essentially grow up in an egg with a placental yolk sac.
Anyways, because of these genetic skills, for millions of years, many women’s roles in small groups, revolved around child rearing, Mothering small and big babies, and renovating the nest that the cluster lived in.
Males, on the other hand, are equipped with Nature’s spear.
They are designed, due to musculature, and the chemical of aggression, Testosterone, to be the Hunter.
Their frontal lobes mature much later, compared to females, causing them to be more impulsive, and hyperactive, on average, as well as have less emotional control.
As a result, instead of resolving intense emotions with words, frustrated modern day males become good at fixing drywall.
The very act of procreation could be viewed as aggressive, likely the same way we view other species ‘in the mood’, and their various stabbing motions.
And with aggression, comes a need to be ‘calmed down’ which in those times, without police, required brute force, or kind words.
And it was the females that were more adept, at the soothing words, only Mothers perfect.
The consequence, of our several year Anthropological Fairy Tale, is that our genes have very strong memories of these survival experiences.
These unconscious experiences are not dormant, but rather color our views of ourselves, and others, especially in the way we view gender.
But the times, they have a changed.
While for most of our species existence, it has been brute force that has ruled the day, we now live in the Information Age
(For more info, on those Brute Force days, click on the picture to read Epigenome1. Why We Love Sports).
The speed of your reflexes, or power in your bicep, is irrelevant without an internet connection.
The challenge for humans, living in North America in 2015, is to realize that we are no longer fighting each other, or nature, for survival.
We have conquered the plants, animals, and even climate, and now we have the small task of figuring out how to take care of everything.
At this pinnacle of technology and health, we are no longer bound, to what our genes whisper.
We can ignore the memory, of when our very survival required women to take care of men, and men to hunt and kill.
We now have the luxury, after winning this lottery of consciousness, to rest on the accomplishments, of our ancestors.
And with that comes our new responsibility, to see each other as equals, capable of virtually the same things.
And given the right opportunities, and support, the only thing limiting human capabilities, is imagination, not gender.
We can all be nurturers, hunters, parents, and builders.
As long as we are building bridges to each other, and sanctuaries for the things we have conquered.
Instead of walls between us, because we are trapped in the collective fear, of yesteryear.
I will never run 10.49 in the 100m, and neither will over 99% of males that will ever live.
And I am okay with that.
What makes me happy, even though my wife has died, is that every day, I feel like I become a better Mother, to our daughters.
Simon Trepel, MD
Simon Trepel, MD FRCPC, is a practicing Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, in Winnipeg, Canada. He is an Assistant Professor, at the University Of Manitoba, in the Faculty of Medicine, and the Co-founder of the GDAAY Clinic. He is, more importantly, the proud Father of 2 beautiful Daughters. He writes in his spare time about things he knows something about, and occasionally about things he doesn’t; like Yoga, and Italian flavored coffees. Great people can be female or male.
Check out his Blog, called Simon Says Psych Stuff, at