When Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In was published a couple of years ago I posted several times about it. I suggested that Sandberg was offering a lot of bad advice, advice that was ultimately detrimental to women’s career success and even their relationships.
This week Amy Alkon also debunked Sandberg’s concept, explaining that the Facebook COO was trafficking in ideologically driven pseudoscience.
She reports on the research conducted by Joyce Benenson, from Emmanuel College in Boston. Benenson just published a book on the difference between the sexes, “Warriors and Worriers: The Survival of the Sexes.”
Alkon summarized the results of Benenson’s study:
The upshot of the research on sex differences, Ms. Benenson explains, is that men evolved to be “warriors” — the defenders of the species — and are prepared to do physical battle and do battle in the boardroom in a way that women, the “worriers,” who evolved to care for vulnerable children, are not.
Men have far greater muscle mass than women, far more physical strength, and far more of the hormone of aggression, testosterone. Even very young boys show a love that girls do not of play fighting, of declaring an “enemy” to battle, and of weaponry—to the point where Benenson reports that they’ll shoot “bullets” out of a doll’s head if no toy gun happens to be available.
Of course, feminism is well aware of the disparity between male and female strength. It has decided, even mandated that any time you refer to a woman you must tack on the qualifier “strong.” Since strength is just another cultural construct, the more you say “strong woman” the more women will be stronger.
If it sounds idiotic, that’s because it is. The same principle has caused feminists to drone on endlessly about female empowerment.
These tricks might not have changed anything about a woman’s muscle mass, but now liberated women believe that they are as strong as men.
What is the psychiatric term for a shared illusion?
Folie à plusieurs….
In her book Benenson explored the psychological consequences of the strength difference:
Research finds that women are not only physically weaker than men but more fearful—from infancy on—and rarely engage in physical fighting. This makes sense, Benenson notes, as a serious injury could jeopardize a woman’s ability to have children or to live to protect the ones she already has. Women did evolve to compete—with one another, for male partners and for resources for their children. But they compete differently from men.
This means that women are not designed to assert themselves, to act as though they are strong… because they know it’s a bluff. Others know it too.
Women are more naturally inclined to share vulnerabilities:
In fact, research finds that women bond through sharing their failures and vulnerabilities—an essential bit of information that helps explain what Sandberg merely laments: women’s not proclaiming their greatness in the workplace and not finding it natural to just march right up and “sit at the table.”
Among the other pieces of pseudoscience is the commonly held belief—not a fact—that men are more individualistic and women are more communal. As I have had occasion to point out, compare the number of men’s sports teams with the number of women’s sports teams and you will reach a more accurate conclusion.
Although Ms. Sandberg, like other business advice writers, repeats the stereotype of women as “communal,” it is actually men who evolved to be cooperators in a way that women, ever-vigilant that another woman might get one over on them, did not. When men aren’t fighting each another, they are quick to band together against a common enemy. Or, after kicking each other’s asses, they’ll go and have a beer.