Living on Mars or Venus? Try Earth...

How often have you heard (or even endorsed) the notion that "women are, by nature, catty and territorial while men are hard-wired to collect into gender-exclusive packs"? Both men and women often espouse this idea, including some alleged experts.  But consider this:

Imagine two rooms.  In the first room you find five women and a table with machine parts.  The women build machines with the parts and sell them for cash through a window in the room.  In the second room you find five men.  They have no window in their room and no table with machine parts.  If the men want money, and we'll assume that they do, they must knock on the women's door and see if the women will allow them to share in their industry.

Here are the possible outcomes:

A) The women will open the door and somehow be persuaded to share in the machine-building and money-making equally with the men.

B) The women will refuse to open the door, leaving the men to suffer.

C) The men won't give the women a choice in the matter, breaking into their room and taking over.

D) The women will bargain with each man in turn, being selective in who they allow in and perhaps even reserving the right to kick a man out again if he doesn't follow certain rules.

Sidestepping for now which of these outcomes would be most likely, let's imagine that option D turns out to be the winner. Here are behaviors we might expect to observe on the part of each group:

1. The women will spend a growing portion of their time and other resources solidifying their status as an homogeneous and authoritative group.

2. The women will convey an explicit expectation that each man feel compelled to compete with the other men for entrance into the "room of plenty".

3. The men will exhibit an increasing degree of competition with one another and a significant amount of obsession regarding whatever qualities the women present as those that make one worthy of entrance into their world.

4. The desire for work and/or money among the men will eventually be supplanted by a desire for female acceptance, which will further alienate each man from all of the others.

Now who has the gender-exclusive pack and who is catty and territorial?

It merits noting that, regardless of gender, for the group in the "parts room" option D is clearly the best one IF they desire to preserve their authoritative status against revolution OR dissolution.  If the "empty room" folks accept option D, it's reasonable to expect that they will exhibit each-one-for-oneself tendencies eventually, also regardless of gender.  So the sociological dynamic at work in this thought experiment clearly transcends chromosomes.  If you have two groups where one of them is perceived to hold all the keys to power, both groups have a very limited number of behavioral options.  What most often happens in Western society is the "powerful" group placates the "powerless" group by promising acceptance to everyone who knocks on their door; everyone who meets certain criteria, that is.  The "powerless" often take the bait and are thus divided and conquered.

When the so-called "powerful" observe the "powerless" preying on one another other, it's concluded that the members of the powerless must be morally inferior.  What caused that? Well, the powerless do differ genetically from the powerful in some significant way.  And one can easily see where that thinking leads.

The solution? Somehow people need to value strategies like option A rather than B, C, or D.  It isn't something that can be legislated, nor is it something that will emerge spontaneously in the marketplace.  Human beings simply have to decide that sharing the pie is more important than the size of the piece one gets.

And why couldn't we do that? We only risk learning that there's plenty to go around.

Intimacy & Mars/Venus Divide

I found this article about the effect of male and female styles of intimacy so-so at best.  In general I don't like this style of article--the "relationship" kind of article one often finds in the "lifestyle" section.  But this one actually did give a historical view of the Mars/Venus divide that I thought was useful:

"Back in Colonial days, marriage in this country was based on practical need rather than love and intimate connection. The ability to provide for her family was as central to a woman's identity as it was to a man's. And males took equal responsibility with females for nurturing social ties with kin and neighbors. Although husbands had authority over their wives in directing the household's work, men and women were not seen as innately different. Harvard University historian Nancy F. Cott notes that 17th-century men and women did not inhabit separate emotional and social spheres. No one thought it "unwomanly" to be hardheaded in business or "unmanly" to weep."

Industrialization brought about the work/home divide and the idea that men were the economic support and women the emotional: opposite sexes.  

I disagree though with the author's idea that the "opposite sexes" idea came about as a way to introduce love based on opposing roles as the bond in marriage (rather than what used to be shared goals in work and family).  I think the opposite sexes idea arose both out of economic forces (like industrialization) and the need to deny women rights.  The marriage bond based on opposition I see as more of an effect and a rationalization rather than a cause.

Another so-so article on Mars/Venus Divide

I thought this article on "male-relational dread" was on the whole pretty poorly thought-out and presented.  For one thing, the hypothetical scenario it begins with sounds completely artificial which is kind of odd given that the writer is not only a doctor but a novelist.  But there was something here about the message that boys generally get in relation to their mothers that I found interesting.  The author suggests that boy's receive the message that they need to disconnect from their mother's to grow-up, to become men, and that this is part of the general male identity as "loner" in our culture.  So that made me think of the stereotype I've heard so often that gay men are overly attached to their mothers--that this is one of their "symptoms."  If instead one thinks of the disconnection from mothers as symptomatic of a dysfunction in the way that our culture constructs masculinity, then that suggests, at the least, that a strong mother/son bond  not automatically be viewed as a "complex."

He won't open up, there's a reason

Women's Education in Afghanistan

Very disturbing story today about Kamil Kahn, a father who disguised his daughter as his son in order to give her an education under the Taliban. He was killed last December and there has been no investigation into his death.


so where is this window???????????????

re: re:

My response if you're a man:  It's in the room next door.  Just knock on the door in your room and ask the woman who answers to show it to you.  Thanks for proving that men do sometimes stop and ask for directions!Wink

My response if you're a woman:  Well, in the United States it's been rather inconveniently installed in the ceiling.Undecided