Bits of Books - Books by Title
Is There Anything Good About Men?
How Cultures Flourish By Exploiting Men
Fight for female suffrage. Women got the vote because a majority of men voted to give it to them. They weren't cowered into submission, or forced or conquered. But to the suffragettes, the support from the silent majority of men was less visible than the overt hostility of the most vocal minority.
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Same thing applies, with roles reversed, to men and feminists. There are many women who ID themselves as feminists who like men, do not regard them as the enemy, or attempt to shout them down in debate. But the outspoken and confrontational feminists are the minority that men experience.
One of their more strident themes is that men have always oppressed women. But if you question that view, the feminist doesn't respond with reasoned argument. Instead you usually get accused of being prejudiced and oppressive for even questioning. Only evidence is usually 'men get paid more than women'.
But does the fact that women get paid less prove that society oppresses women? There are multiple possible explanations, and several have much clearer support than oppression. Across the population, men are more likely to work full-time, they are more likely to work longer hours, and they are more ambitious. (These are all attributes which have been measured).
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Matriarchal societies have been tried, but have not stood test of time. Not because of competence, but probably to do with willingness to take risks and make the sacrifices that are involved in competing for power.
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Yes there are mostly men at the top, but there are also mostly men at the bottom. Law enforcement has a strong bias against men. Men are far more likely to be charged and prosecuted, and when men and women are convicted of the same crimes, the men get a far longer sentence. far more homeless men than women, and the men are 'hobos' whereas the women are 'bag ladies'. Ninety per cent of Americans who die in the line of work are men.
Furore when Harvard U President speculated as to why far more men than women in top science and maths positions, and Nobel Prize winners.But again same pattern - there are far more mentally retarded men than women. Can't blame this group on society - difficult to avoid conclusion that there is something about maleness that produces more cases of extreme intelligence.
Positive Psychology Center at U of Pennsylvania created measures of the two dozen most impt human traits, and have assessed several hundred thousand people on these. Found that for every trait, men outnumber women at both extremes. Bell-shaped curve, so most in the middle, but whether talking about kindness vs cruelty, curiosity vs closed-mindedness, self-control vs self-indulgence, there are more men than women at both good and bad extremes.
Up until 1960's most studies ignored gender - assumed men and women basically the same. But then a meta-study found that many differences had been found, but had been ignored. This was at the same time that feminists were asserting that men and women were basically the same and all the variations were due to prejudices and socialization. Compromise was that they started out the same but brought up differently - 'boys raised to be aggressive' and 'girls to attend to feelings'.
Books like "Men are from Mars, Women Are From Venus" treated genders as polar opposites. But when sociologists looked at the data, they found a) vast number of differences, but b) the differences very small, usually around 3 or 4 per cent of behaviour variation down to gender. So yes, boys on average have a higher aptitude for maths, but the difference is about 3%. Nowhere near enough to justify hiring a man rather than a woman for a number-crunching job.
Need to realize that American society has been trying for decades to eliminate gender differences, whereas most other cultures tend to perpetuate it - they steer boys and girls into different roles. Usually culture builds on nature, and so most likely males and females come out of the womb slightly different, and then, by virtue of their social experiences, become more different over the years.
Performance depends on 2 things - ability and motivation. Motivation is impt, because one reason why there are a lot fewer women math or science professors is not because of ability, but because the subjects don't interest them. If you look at men's sports reporting, it's dominated by numbers - stats on everything. Men LIKE numbers; they want to compare things and see who's top ranking.
You cd say women have higher sex ability - they can hae sex even when not aroused, they can have multiple orgasms quickly, they can have sex again straight after an orgasm. But of course men have much greater motivation - they want sex a lot more than women do.
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Study on glass ceiling for women at work concluded that it probably didn't exist. Men and women start working as equals, but more men than women want to make it to the top. The people who make it to the top, both men and women, are those who have strong ambitions and care enough to make the personal sacrifices that are necessary. Only women's widespread unwillingness to put in the long hours that keep them from the top. Those who are willing to pay the price succeed as well.
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Women tend to choose careers that are family friendly rather than high paying, men have opposite priorities.Would you take a stressful and unpleasant job that paid a high salary? Far more men than women would.
A riddle: what percentage of our ancestors were male? The answer is not 50%. Consider wild horses. The alpha male sires almost every colt in the herd for perhaps 3 years, before he is deposed by a younger (less exhausted) stallion. He monopolises reproduction because few mares want to mate with lesser males. When scientists look at human DNA they conclude that we have about twice as many female ancestors as male - ie about half the males in any population have not successfully passed on their genes to our generation. This is a recent development for mankind since polygamy became much less common. Most women who lived to adulthood had at least one baby, and has descendants today. But the majority of men did not and do not.
So for women the odds were that they wd reproduce without having to do much - someone wd have them. But for men, no such calculation - they had to be worth choosing. So for women, evo favoured a conservative, play-it-safe approach. But the average man didn't get to reproduce, so men had to take risks. Some men lost the gamble, and died before they cd reproduce. But we are descended from the men who took risks and won.
Men's urge to compete even over trivial things get labelled 'childish' or 'immature' but in fact it is inescapably part of our nature. We are descended from the men who cared enough to compete. Those who didn't fight, didn't reproduce. We are descended from men who managed to out-compete other men. So ambition is likely to be more pronounced in men than in women. Women didn't need ambition to reproduce. Men who were ambitious left behind more children than those who weren't.
Probably most successful male in history, in terms of descendants, was Genghis Khan. By some estimates, most people born in central Asia have some of his bloodlines. No woman cd do that. ("At least not by her own efforts. I do realize that everyone descended from GK is also descended from his mother. But exploring the implications of this will lead to considerations that are even more politically incorrect than the rest of this discussion.")
For men, if you might not get many chances to reproduce, it's crucial to capitalize on any opportunity. If turn down chance of sex, that may have been only chance to pass on yr genes, so the guy who isn't wired to grab every chance doesn't leave survivors. For women, the need isn't so urgent. No matter what, she will have some chances for sex and repro, so for her the game is mostly about finding the best quality mate.
Speculates that nature rolls the dice more with men. Thought expt with horses. In the wild herd, the alpha stallion mates with all the mares. All the colts are his. Suppose there were four mutants in the new colts; two males and two females. One of each is faster and stronger than all the rest, the other two are weaker and slower. The superior male has a better than average chance to become the alpha male, and will mate with all the females. His traits will be passed on to all the next generation. The other male with the weakening mutation, will have no offspring and his genes will vanish from the mix.With the two females, each will have one foal, so the genetic makeup of the herd won't change much.
Most people, both men and women, like women more than men. Studies have shown that spending 10 minutes talking to a woman during the day makes you happier (than if you didn't), but talking to a guy makes no difference.
Cliche that 'women are better at relationships' and 'men are better with things'. Ask men to describe themselves and they'll tell you something that makes them different. Ask a woman and she'll describe her relationships with others.
But, the need to belong to a group is universal. Affects both emotions and physical health.
Women are 'more' social in terms of intimate, one-on-one relationships. But if you look at bigger groups, men are more social than women. These interactions aren't as close or intense, but just as impt in other ways. In close relationships, women are more violent than men, but also do more helping and caring. But with strangers, men are both more likely to help and to be violent. Neither is 'better'. They are just different.
Moral issues. Suggestion that men avoid personal feelings and appeal to abstract rules, whereas women care more about personal feelings. Study where watched group playing a game in which some played fairly and others cheated. Then the players shown being given painful electric shocks. Brain scanning showed that men felt sympathy for the fair play shock victim, but not for the guy who'd cheated. Women felt equal empathy for both. As before, men's reaction suited to large group where fairness and equal justice impt. And women's equal empathy for all better suited for personal relationships where you usually value yr friend or child over the sin.
Culture is a system. It coordinates multiple parts and helps them work together. Culture is partly made out of information. Info is both shared values and beliefs, and shared knowledge of how to do things. The shared knowledge makes life much easier. First cars were built by a few, very skilled (and well paid)mechanics. But when Henry Ford adopted production line, with every piece standardized and installed by unskilled workers, the cost of a car dropped, everyone cd afford one, and the transport revn started.
Having more culture an be crucial. A small group of Spaniards wiped out Montezumas people. Our ancestors outcompeted the Neanderthals.
Culture is a multiplier. Alone, we can barely eke out a subsistence living. We can have afar better lifestyle inside a culture.
Language means whole group can accumulate knowledge, and pass it on to next generation.
In every society on Earth, men rank higher than women. Historically two explanations for this. Traditional one that men are inherently superior than women. Feminist one that men have oppressed women - have conspired to keep them down.But first is wrong, and second has no proof. So Baumeister suggests a third possibility.
Because women set up to run personal relationships, and men to run larger groups, it's overwhelmingly men that produce the culture. Originally that culture was just better ways of organizing hunting and fighting groups and developing better weapons.
Men's groups are 1) larger and 2) competitive. Larger groups meant specialization possible - so room for designers/artists etc. Competition meant new ideas cd be tried out, and failing ones discarded, enabling progress.
So wealth, knowledge and power created in the mens' groups. Women made far fewer contributions to (material) progress. Don't believe this? Look at childbirth. For centuries it was the task of women to assist. But when men (scientist doctors) started helping, mortality rates plummeted. The women had provided nurture but did nothing to stop women dying. The women handed down their knowledge through intimate relationships (sisters, daughters and aunts) but men brought much wider knowledge from their shallower but far more extensive groups.
Men formed armies, churches, corporations, unions and governments. When women did start forming large organizations, they were ones protesting what men did.
Women probably have just as much creative ability as men, but difference in motivation. If look at patent applications in US, 95% are exclusively by men. Suggest that because men care more about seeing ideas through development and risks of trying to commercialize.
Men didn't 'make' culture through some noble desire to make world a better place. They did it to compete with other men, so they cd win the hearts of women. Culture is 'based' against women not because of a male conspiracy to oppress them, but because women didn't make culture or its big institutions. The women showed up later and demanded to be included in the culture that men made.
In recent books both Gloria Steinem and Naomi Wolf repeated claims that 150,000 women die each year from anorexia. But when trace it back, the actual stats are 150,000 cases and 75 deaths. And that number pales into insignificance compared to young males dying on roads etc.
Every adult female is a 'woman', but not every adult male is a 'man'. Women are judged on appearance, something she cannot control. No substitute for youth and beauty; a woman who lacks them can't obtain them; and even the woman who has them knows they won't last. Men are judged by achievements. Men have to continually earn Respect. Author illustrates by describing a trip to New Orleans Mardi Gras and the bar entertainers. The guys all had a skill to offer - magic tricks, music acts etc. The women just had to take off their clothes.
We have an implicit understanding of this - if someone says "He is no longer a man" we know what is meant - he's failed in som social expectation such as not supporting family, or behaved in cowardly way, but "She is no longer a woman"? - does it mean she's had a sex change op?
Suggest that core achievement that defines manhood is that a man produces more than he consumes. A woman is a woman no matter how much she produces or consumes. A man must be able to be self-sufficient, plus provide enough for a family.
Women have rights, men have responsibilities. Society has taken away most of men's privileges, and at same time men are reducing their responsibilities - abandoning families or pregnant girlfriends no longer the same shame.
Culture benefits disproportionately from achievements of great men. But to achieve great things, men can't settle for an easy pampered life. There are too many rivals - both within yr cultural group and outside - to rest on yr laurels. In fact the only people who get a pampered life are the wives and children.
(And it may be justifiable to give outsize rewards to the very top achievers, if only to motivate the rest.)
What do women want? Nancy Friday in her book My Mother, My Self surveyed women and found that for many, the ideal was to marry a millionaire. Very few woman said they wanted to become a millionaire. Both sexes want money. Men see no alternative but to earn it, if necessary through a tedious job with ugly compromises and dirty sacrifices. A woman's first impulse is to get it by being lovable enough to attract someone who already has it, or is likely to get it.
Women do not crave sex as much as men do, not least because they can usually get sex if they want. Men pursue greatness partly because of the elusive promise of more sex. To men, women are not the competition or the enemy, they are the reward.
Feminists have portrayed women as having same sex drive as men but that's obvious nonsense. Surveys of long married couples consistently show women being happy with amount of sex they get, and men wanting about twice as much. Men initiate sex far more often and rarely refuse it. Women rarely initiate sex, and often refuse it. Classic study where stranger accosts members of opposite sex and asks if they'd like to have sex with them tonight. When it was a girl offering, even quite a plain girl, 75% guys accepted, and most of those who refused asked for a rain check. In the reverse situation, none of the women accepted.
Societies have tried to control male sex drive, but cultures have to work with what Nature has given them. Plenty of cultures have tried to prevent their adolescent boys becoming sex-crazed monkeys, and plenty of parents have tried to do the same.
Both men and women fantasize abt having sex with celebrities, but only women can do it. Women can offer sex, and often that offer has enough value, even to celebs (alpha males) for them to accept it. But male fans who offer sex to female celebs will find themselves angrily rebuffed. male sexuality has no value that can be exchanged for the attention of someone famous.
Culture promotes belief that love will burn strongly forever. When the man signs up for the deal, he is high on love, and sharing his earnings for life seems a reasonable price to pay for having this wonderful feeling (plus great sex) forever. He does not realize that his commitment to pay will likely last longer than the passion.
Are men "commitment-phobes"? In women's interest to delay first sex to gauge male's commitment. Also in men's interest to put off marriage as long as possible. Higher his salary will be, and the older she gets the less her looks will be valued. It's like a marketplace. Sellers are urging the buyers to act now, because some of the goods are being snapped up, and a few buyers do. But the buyers can wait till next week, when the sellers will be cutting their prices, and new sellers will be entering the market. And next week the buyers will probably have more money.
Marriage commitment to be faithful "till death do us part" when yr 25 and will probably live to be 80 is making a 65 year promise. Who, in their right mind, wd do that? It's a bit like getting a tattoo when yr really drunk.
To be fair, they both make the promise. But all the evidence tells us that it's much harder for the man to stick to it than the woman. Men want more sex than women do, or provide. Priests and nuns both make same celibacy vows to God, but by all measures, the men are far less able to keep that promise than the women.
Men marry an illusion. They think they have found their sexual soul mate, who wants to have sex (with him) as much as he does, and the woman thinks this suits her too. But then the passion subsides and she finds herself stuck with a partner pressing her for far more sex than she wants to provide. In some times and places, women accepted that this was part of her wifely duties, but not so much today. Plus, she gets fat.
Conventional sympathy for women who are getting fatter to be confronted by all the ads featuring slim women. But the guys see these ads too. And they're still supposed to fancy their fattening wives?
Despite the fact that stats show that more than half of married men will be unfaithful at some time, feminists continue to regard the behaviour as aberrant 'cheating'.
And will get worse - today's generation brought up 'entitled' to have what they want, and taught little self-discipline to control temptation.
Feminist joke abt "a world without men - no crime and a lot of fat, happy women." But in fact there have been many opportunities for women to set up man-free spaces, and it's never happened. Both men and women want the other around.
(New Scientist review)
LET me start by revealing a prejudice: I don't like book titles that end with a question mark. They make me worry that the author doesn't know the answer, that he or she is looking to the reader for homework help.
And if the question posed is Is There Anything Good About Men?, I want some clear conclusions, a nice strong sense of what social psychologist Roy Baumeister thinks is "good" about the Y-chromosome community. A summary of key points might be handy in case there turns out to be a quiz.
Unfortunately, that is not what we get in this book. At times Baumeister seems dubious about men's good points. "To be blunt and undiplomatic, I like women better than men," he says. He cites studies showing that people who chat with women for 10 minutes a day are happier than people who don't get that lucky chance. By contrast, conversations with men appear to be downers. "This is not to say that talking to men is bad," Baumeister adds encouragingly.
Or at least I think he is trying to be encouraging. The message is so muddled here that it is a little difficult to tell. That is partly because - or so I deduce - the real story here, the subject that Baumeister is actually passionate about, is in the subtitle How cultures flourish by exploiting men, which, you will notice, doesn't follow entirely logically from the question raised in the title.
When Baumeister is focused on that idea - that we have built our successful civilisation in part by treating men as expendable building blocks - then the argument gains some momentum. He notes not only that men perform the riskiest jobs in society today but that "ninety-two per cent of Americans who die in the line of work are men". And he reminds us how casually we accept that imbalance, without the outrage that might result if the statistic applied to women.
Unfortunately, even when arguing this important point, Baumeister continues to muddy the message. He proposes the not-so-revolutionary idea that men are culturally motivated to take risks - the dangerous jobs, the big gambles that allow them to become rulers of their domains. "These competitions produced immense progress in the men's sphere," Baumeister writes. For instance, men bought ships and explored the world. Women, he continues, did not do such things. Why not? They lacked motivation. "Women could have done it if they wanted to. But they did not want to."
I find it hard to believe that during the 15th and 16th centuries, when motivated males were accidentally discovering the Americas, women simply lacked the adventurous spark. Here is another possibility: could it be that not too many women in the days of Columbus and company had the opportunity to captain a ship or map a continent?
Baumeister repeats his heroic history argument - "The fact is that America's greatness was propelled by its men more than its women" - so often that one starts wondering if the answer to the question in the book's title is that there used to be something good about men, but their strengths are better suited to the past.
This very idea is gaining some currency in feminist circles. But I suspect that Baumeister actually is trying to lead us in another direction. Lurking in the book, obscured by the somewhat clumsy provocation, is a fair-minded message: we should value our differences. It is not a new thought, but surely one that could bear repeating. Because if we are still asking ourselves whether there is anything good about men (or, in other circles, women) we have yet to really grasp the point.
Take note of that. We may need a quiz after all.
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