So, following on the heels of yesterday's discussion on Gender Bending, I want to talk about gender and society. Now, before we begin I need to point out some things. 1) This is not intended to offend. 2) This is not a statement of my opinion, this is a statement of observations I have made personally or by asking other people for their views on things.(I'll give my opinion at the end) 3) Nothing presented here gives you an excuse to harass either gender for any reason, so try to stay cool to each other. That being said, lets begin.
Men and Women are fairly equal, yes there are incongruities, but in game worlds they should still be depicted more or less equal (unless something in the setting specifically says otherwise and your play group wants to handle that). However, even when treating Male and Female characters the same in game, there are a lot of things that are different in small ways. Using some of these as a GM can help make a game feel more authentic or set a base line to help make characters who break the norm spread out. Being aware of them as a player can help you make a more realistic character of the opposing gender, and otherwise just enrich your playing experience.
So, from the point of view of a guy, Women have a fairly sweet deal. Getting out of trouble with authority figures can be easier, getting into places with charm can be easier. Getting information out of male targets is generally viewed as easier. There is just a lot that women can do with that weapon they have had seemingly since the inception of time, namely sex. The best part is that Women don't even have to actually give up sex to employ it as a tool. Just hinting that it could be on the table can often get them enough. Not to mention all the other little things like free drinks, discounts for Ladies Night events, preferred attention, and of course all those wonderful old chivalric ideals that also explain the things above. Yep, being a girl is pretty sweet isn't it?
Actually no. See, Guys see those things, and we tend to only see the good when casually looking. But if you actually look at those things, things an intelligent woman can definitely turn to her advantage (but what clever person can't turn a bad situation good for them). On the inverse side of those things you also have views that girls are just generally worse at things - especially physically. I mean, we've all heard these three phrases right? "You hit/throw/scream like a girl!" Those are not kind phrases to women and they are wide spread views. Women also have trouble getting respect in a lot of places, especially male dominated fields. The reason they can cry their way out of a speeding ticket? Because either that cop doesn't respect them or hold them as accountable as he would a guy, or it's some male driven thing to try and get in their pants. (note, I am talking about it being EASIER for girls, not that guys can't get out of tickets). In the work place, a lot of male bosses view female workers as if they should be secretaries, or worse go-fers for coffee and such. Female bosses will have problems with male workers not respecting them as much. Also, don't forget other societal obligations, like a woman is expected to take care of the children - this is changing, but it is still here. So sure, there are a lot of places where being a girl is great, but you also have a lot of bad things that need to be dealt with, things that a lot of guys just won't see because we're either not looking or blinded by the good parts. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence after all.
That is just some of the good, and some of the bad parts of being a woman. Keep your eyes open and I'm sure you can see the rest, if you haven't already.
So, from the point of view of a girl being a guy can be pretty sweet. On average in modern society you get paid more. Police and other authority figures tend to respect you more. You are not expected to be the one staying home and taking care of the kids. Often times when with a girl, you will be the one defaulted to for an authority figure. The world is a man run world right now, and as such being a man is fairly sweet. There are more ways to say this, but really that is the best way to cover it all. The world is currently male dominated, and has been for a while. Women are only now coming to be viewed - as a whole - equal to men, something women have had to fight for. So yeah, there are a lot of advantages to being a guy.
Now game wise, most of these don't necessarily come into play because they're already just taken for granted by most games. This isn't to say there aren't negatives associated with being a guy, just that they're different. For one, there is the social pressure to appear to be a "man". You get this in phrases like "man up!" and "Boys don't cry". There is more - generally though this is changing - emotional repression in men because of this view that they are not supposed to be emotional. For another thing, that same greater level of respect guys will get from police and other authority figures will often also translate into higher expectations and slightly worse - or at least harder to escape - punishments coming for violations of the rules. This is true especially when you get transgressions involving both a man and a woman, odds are the starting assumption will be the guy is in the wrong. In fact, in most situations involving women the guy will lose out, either in the actual event or from the societal views. Beat a girl in a fight? "Guys shouldn't hit girls", lose to a girl in a fight? "Hah! you got beaten by a girl!" Now these also show that view of women I spoke about above, but it is something for guys to deal with as well. Finally, Chivalry is not dead, despite how some try to act. Chivalry is however the propogation of sexism that 'favors' women but hits guys. The casual expectations that the guy buys dinner, should protect the woman, shouldn't hit a woman (specifically because she is a woman), and that if there is only one escape pod that it goes to the woman.
These are only some of the pros and cons for each gender, I'm sure you can find - or already know about - more than what I mentioned here. I also want to point out again that these aren't necessarily a view of my opinions, just what I have observed or been told when I have asked people about these things. They are however modern day societal norms (at least for the North Eastern United States) that you may want to keep in mind when running your game. Ways to ground the NPCs around the players at times to make a more authentic experience.
However, this is not an excuse to hammer either gender with flaws, or perceived flaws just because. You shouldn't be harassing your players with this at all. In my opinion (and I promised I would give it) you should be treating both genders as equally as you possibly can. Even the best intentioned of us have issues with this at times, but it is something you should be trying for. Women are just as capable as Men. Men are just as capable as Women. Strengths may lie in different areas, but that doesn't necessarily make for an inequality on the whole, and they should be treated equally. Just keep in mind that the real world often doesn't, fictional worlds often don't, and the differences - however slight they may be or however big they get - will shape a character's life and world view, turning them into a different person. Just keep it in mind, have fun with it, but do so safely.