Saturday summers, when I was a kid
We’d run to the schoolyard, here’s what we did
Pick out the captains, choose up the teams
It was always a measure of my self-esteem
Cause the fastest, the strongest, played shortstop and first. . .
“Right Field,” Willy Welch (popularized by Peter, Paul and Mary)
I enjoyed this podcast with Joyce Benenson, about her book, Warriers and Worriers. She and Roy Baumeister are the rare social scientists who see that (a) men and women differ on average in their behavioral tendencies and (b) male tendencies are not all bad.
Her book is grounded in observations of young boys and girls. My memories of my boyhood align perfectly with her picture of boys, and with the song lyrics above. We played team sports without supervision, put a lot of effort into setting rules, and competed to demonstrate skill. When we weren’t playing sports, we imagined ourselves fighting the “bad guys,” either in the Old West or in World War II.
One of her ideas is that men have a social strategy that works well in war: organize unrelated males, fight other groups overtly according to rules, then reconcile after battle. Women have a social strategy that works well for protecting their individual health and the health of their children: emphasize safety, covertly undermine the status of unrelated females, and exclude rivals rather than reconcile with them.
This leads me to speculate on the consequences of adding a lot of women to formerly male domains. Over the past several decades, a number of important institutions that were formerly almost exclusively male now include many women: academia, journalism, politics, and management positions in organizations. These institutions increasingly are discarding the values that sustained them when the female presence was less.
1. The older culture saw differential rewards as just when based on performance. The newer culture sees differential rewards as unjust.
2. The older culture sought people who demonstrate the most competence. The newer culture seeks to nurture those who are at a disadvantage.
3. The older culture admires those who seek to stand out. The newer culture disdains such people.
4. The older culture uses proportional punishment that is predictable based on known rules. The newer culture suddenly turns against a target and permanently banishes the alleged violator, based on the latest moral fashions.
5. The older culture valued open debate. The newer culture seeks to curtail speech it regards as dangerous.
6. The older culture saw liberty as essential to a good society. The newer culture sees conformity as essential to a good society.
7. The older culture was oriented toward achievement. The newer culture is oriented toward safety. Hence, we cannot complete major construction projects, like bridges, as efficiently as we used to.
I think that in each case, the older culture was consistent with male tendencies (what Benenson calls “warriors”); the newer culture is consistent with female tendencies (what she calls “worriers”). Keep in mind that men can have worrier personalities and women can have warrior personalities, but those are not the norm.
Overall, we have made institutions harder for warriors to navigate. College no longer helps men to make the transition to adulthood. It keeps them sheltered and controlled, and after graduation they end up living with their parents.
Why did opening up opportunities for women lead to this outcome? One can imagine other outcomes. Perhaps women would have assimilated into the male culture, adopting some male tendencies in the process. Perhaps women and men would have retained their different behavioral tendencies but agreed to accommodate one another.
Instead, both men and women seem to have agreed that a purge of male tendencies is in order. Some women scorn male values as tools of oppression, and most men would rather accommodate this view than voice disagreement.
I note that the readership of this blog appears to be overwhelmingly to be male, at least based on those who leave comments. Note also that this is the long-postponed “cancel-bait” post.