Many of the things we are tempted to chalk up to goodness and decency are really just patterns.

    For example, being "masculine" or "feminine". In the past, these were seen as characteristics that decent people should possess. Men worked physically demanding jobs, women managed houses. Men played sports, women took up quiet hobbies.

    Of course, I'm oversimplifying. These characteristics have always been in flux. The ancient agricultural societies expected both men and women to work at home; with the industrial revolution, it became a "man" thing to leave home and work in the city, while the woman kept the house, or idled away her time. The slight cultural controversy in the 20th century over women having careers is amusing, simply because a hundred years earlier, no one had careers.

    That these patterns change so much is evidence that they are just that: patterns, not fixed measurements of behavior. And as time goes on, they fluctuate more and more.

    Many times these fluctuations become their own patterns. At a certain point in time, being good at sports was a distinct virtue. Not being good at sports meant your future wasn't going to be that bright. But certain people rebelled against that mold, and geeks, nerds, and musicians took on their own identities.

    Being a computer geek has a definite masculine flavor, and yet is focused on "soft skills", skills that have little to do with traditional masculine patterns.

    Being a "rock star" is considered the height of status in our culture, and yet, being a rock star usually means being the opposite of sports "jocks", possibly having ambiguous gender identifiers, and being advanced at the "soft skill" of conveying emotions through music.

    These are all patterns - patterns you can use or break as desired.

    Just because something is a pattern does not mean it should be discarded. Traditional masculine and feminine roles are sometimes useful and beneficial. Concepts like "being a provider", or "bringing home the bacon", can give a productive focus to one's activities. People often enjoy more traditional role-play while they are courting, with men often taking on the suitor role, and women taking on the role of the one being sought.

    These patterns are useful, because they help us define boundaries within which to let our creativity and personality take form.