Sunday, July 12, 2015

Women in Charge

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. 


Anonymous said... said...

Stuart, will there always be a glass ceiling because we NEED a glass ceiling to preserve order? I have heard or read Lacanians speak to this. Makes some good sense to me, as a psychoanalytic type , as a Catholic who sees a psychological wisdom in male priests only, in addition to the Catholic teachings of this, and finally, as a mother, who understood why my five-year old son told me he would "never marry a girl who was taller or smarter than himself!"

David Foster said...

This isn't really consistent with my own experience. I've known several women, including direct reports to me, who are excellent managers/executives and who are respected by their male as well as their female subordinates.

Larry Sheldon said...

I worked (in a highly technical environment) for a lot of years for a female boss. Many of those years her boss was a female. Quite a few of these years, her boss's boss was a female (Iranian or some such.)

Kaiser Derden (aka TDL) said...

"When women take charge, when they hold positions of executive leadership, men react badly."

same theory different labels ...

When men take charge, when they hold positions of executive leadership, feminists react badly.

If anything men get less aggressive under a woman leader ... in fact in todays PC world they better curb their competitive nature in the workplace lest the be accused of something ...

In then end its simply projection by supposedly "strong" women ... they know that men don't fear a strong woman because for one thing there is no such thing ... the only time a man is labeled "strong" is when he has obvious physical strength above and beyond the average ...

nobody ever says a guy is a "strong" man unless he is actually strong ...

its all about skills in todays business world ...

these supposed "strong" women leaders are not such thing ... they are usually political animals of the first order and have almost no real talent except for playing politics ...

n.n said...

Any authoritarian (e.g. legal or moral proscriptions), and especially totalitarian (e.g. social coordination or direction), will evoke a defensive response. Case in point, the selective exclusion established with the "equal" campaign and ruling. Also, the response of sexual libertines to identification of elective abortion as indiscriminate killing. Pro-choice doctrine is the source of especially dangerous policies that are predisposed to create moral hazards and a commensurate response.

As for women and men, treat each other with respect. The feminist political movement, along with other class discrimination (e.g. "diversity"), does not engender positive relationships.