When women take charge, when they hold positions of executive leadership, men react badly. They believe that answering and deferring to a woman makes them less manly, so they compensate by becoming more aggressive. It’s the default position.
The London Independent has the story:
Men tend to be more assertive when working for a woman because they feel threatened by having a female boss, psychologists have found.
A deep-seated fear of their masculinity being questioned could explain why many men react against a female colleague in a more senior role by behaving in a more self-assured and difficult manner, the scientists suggest.
A study has appeared to confirm the “precarious manhood theory” of psychology which supposes that men react more strongly against more senior women because the concept of masculinity is more easily threatened.
“Male subordinates experience especially strong levels of threat when interacting with a female superior, which further leads them to act self-assertively,” said Ekaterina Netchaeva of Bocconi University in Milan.
“The explanation is rooted in the idea that men’s masculinity or manhood is elusive and tenuous. It is something that needs to be continuously bolstered, especially when it is threatened by close association with femininity,” Dr Netchaeva said.
The story continues:
“The concept of masculinity is becoming more elusive in society as gender roles blur, with more [females in] management positions and becoming the major breadwinners for their families. Even men who support gender equality may see these advances as a threat to their masculinity, whether they consciously acknowledge it or not,” Dr Netchaeva said.
One understands that ideologically driven researchers would chalk it all up to male insecurity, to men’s tenuous grip on their masculinity. They ignore the fact that in cultures where women are in charge, where fathers are relatively absent, adolescent boys tend to behave more aggressively and more violently. And they do not consider the possibility that a systematic assault on masculinity might not usher in a golden age where the lions lie down with the lambs and where everyone bathes in feminine empathy. For all we know, it might usher in an era of more violence against women.
As the old saying goes: be careful what you wish for….
One understands that ideologically driven researchers, the kind that are looking for a way to diminish and demean men—thus making them more likely to react aggressively—would ignore the possibility that having women leading men might just be a bad idea.
After all, men know, as women know, that men are constitutionally stronger than women. In nearly all cases men are bigger and stronger than women. Besides, a woman’s appearance designates vulnerability in a way that a man’s does not.
For example, many women like to wear shoes with stiletto heels. God bless them. Apparently they believe that having a heel that can serve as a weapon makes them stronger. And yet, I do not have to tell you that a woman walking on stiletto heels is more vulnerable… to falling or to being pushed over.
So when a woman comes across as strong, tough, empowered… and even manly in her assertiveness, most men understand that it’s a bluff. Seeing their manhood caricatured must also seem to many men like an insult.
Just because a woman has a title and sits at the head of the table does not mean than men are going to naturally respect her authority.
We might consider another possible motivation here. People on a status hierarchy emulate their betters. If your chief executive dresses a certain way and behaves a certain way, you are more likely to imitate his way of presenting himself and of doing things. Leaders lead by setting an example. All underlings follow that example, most often without even thinking about it.
But if male underlings have a female boss, this emulation game becomes a problem. On the one hand these men want to move up on the hierarchy. Thus, they are likely to emulate the good habits evinced by their boss. And they are likely to do so unthinkingly, whether they like it or not.
But, they do not want to become women. So, when they find themselves copying behaviors that are feminine they will react aggressively, the better to assert a form of masculinity that is inalienable.
What’s a woman to do?
Margaret Thatcher, for one, surrounded herself with men. To overcome the sense of female weakness she made herself one of the guys.
Hillary Clinton, however, tends to surround herself with women, in particular with one Huma Abedin, a woman who, if Hillary becomes president, will have her own room at the White House. And yet, Abedin's family has very close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Her gender might be the least of America's problems.