Sunday, October 13, 2019

Should Men Be More Like Women?

I count Ruth Whippman as one of the better columnists writing today. Thus, I brought a positive attitude to her latest piece about gender identity. I was happy to note that she debunks the absurd “lean-in” advice as detrimental to women. I have made the point over and over again myself, so I am glad to have distinguished company.

But then, Whippman takes a foray into gender theory and comes up seriously short. Her point, if we wish to call it that, is that we should stop telling women to be more like men and start telling men to be more like women. That we, as a culture, have been doing this for decades now, by telling men to get in touch with their feminine sides, with prescribing empathy and emotion to potential warrior princes, seems to have escaped her ken.

She has also missed the obvious point, noted here over and over again, that assertiveness and macho posturing are not signs of masculine behavior. They are caricatures of masculine behavior. Being macho and being a gentleman are not the same thing. And yet, when you see gender through the clouded feminist lens you end up conflating the two.

As for why you conflate the two, the reason is simple. Feminist theorizing does not recognize the role of the gentleman, or the role of the lady, for that matter. And when it chooses to diminish boys in order to enhance girls, it produces a generation of young men who are angry, surly, nasty and brutal… toward women. 

Deprive men of their codes of good behavior and they behave badly. Tell men to be more deferential and to capitulate more often… and they will react against the advice, against the explicit humiliation, and will behave badly toward women. In short, the feminist longing for men to be more like women has helped produce a generation of men who disrespect women, who treat them badly, who use and abuse them. Congratulations on a job well done, feminists.

Unfortunately, Whippman does not see that if men are taught to capitulate, to use her term, on the battlefield or the arena or in the marketplace, they will more often lose. And will feel diminished, and will need to assert their manliness by abusing the group that told them to learn how to be weak and whimpering. Those loser men will show how strong they are by beating up on the weaker sex. The reality is, until the new order arrives, men are constitutionally stronger than women.

So, with regrets that Whippman has gotten lost in a maze not of her making, I examine her reasoning. About the lean-in movement, she is partially correct:

For women in this cultural moment, assertiveness is perhaps the ultimate in aspirational personal qualities. At the nexus of feminism and self-help lies the promise that if we can only learn to state our needs more forcefully — to “lean in” and stop apologizing and demand a raise and power pose in the bathroom before meetings and generally act like a ladyboss (though not a regular boss of course; that would be unladylike) — everything from the pay gap to mansplaining to the glass ceiling would all but disappear. Women! Be more like men. Men, as you were.

There are several problems with this fist-pumping restyling of feminism, most obviously that it slides all too easily into victim blaming. The caricature of the shrinking violet, too fearful to ask for a raise, is a handy straw-woman for corporations that would rather blame their female employees for a lack of assertiveness than pay them fairly.

There’s also the awkward issue that it turns out to be untrue. Research shows that despite countless attempts to rebrand the wage gap as a “confidence gap,” women ask for raises as often as men do. They just don’t get them.

But even if we leave these narrative glitches aside and accept the argument that female unassertiveness is a major cause of gender inequality and that complex, systemic problems can be fixed with individual self-improvement, we are still left with a deeply sexist premise.

For all I know biology is the primary reason for gender inequality. And the fact that women prefer to work less and to spend more time bringing up their children. And the fact that women more often choose occupations that do not pay as well. Again, feminists systematically disrespect for the choices women make.

Research that Whippman does not know about tells us that women are paid fairly for the time and effort that they put into their jobs. To think otherwise is to traffic in a caricature, based on an unrealistic assumption, namely that men and women are fundamentally the same thing.

So, Whippman wants men to learn deference, as well as chronic apologizing and capitulation:

The assumption that assertiveness is a more valuable trait than, say, deference is itself the product of a ubiquitous and corrosive gender hierarchy.

OMG, the corrosive gender hierarchy. Five decades of feminism and we still have a corrosive gender hierarchy. In fact, if we examine the last presidential campaign, the newly feminized United States has lost the habit of winning. It is so into capitulation and empathetic considerations that it is having trouble competing on the battlefield, especially. It excels at diversity, however... how much more womanly can you get?

You see, female qualities are systematically devalued in the world outside of the home. Within the home—something that Whippman does not consider—female values are of paramount importance. Without empathy a woman would have serious difficulty dealing with an infant. With empathy she will be at a disadvantage in the workplace.

As a rule, anything associated with girls or women — from the color pink to domestic labor — is by definition assigned a lower cultural value than things associated with boys or men. Fashion, for instance, is vain and shallow, while baseball is basically a branch of philosophy. Tax dollars are poured into encouraging girls to take up STEM subjects, but no one seems to care much whether boys become nurses. Girls are routinely given pep talks to be “anything a boy can be,” a glorious promotion from their current state, whereas to encourage a boy to behave more like a girl is to inflict an emasculating demotion. Female hobbies, careers, possessions and behaviors are generally dismissed as frivolous, trivial, niche or low status — certainly nothing to which any self-respecting boy or man might ever aspire.

If it is emasculating for a boy to be told to be more like a girl, why would Whippman not understand that men will react to the demotion, by becoming more hostile to women and by picking more fights with other males. The Whippman approach will more likely produce more gang violence than male nurses.

She continues:

Rarely do we stop to consider that many of life’s problems might be better explained by the alternative titles “Men Who Love Too Little,” “ … Think Too Little,” “ … Worry Too Little” or “ … Do Too Little.” But instead we assume without question that whatever men are doing or thinking is what we all should be aiming for.

Unfortunately, Whippman does not understand the difference between the home and the marketplace. At a time when women are increasingly having careers outside of the home, they are also learning how to play games that were devised and designed by men. They are welcome to play the game by the same rules, and if they can trick men into laying down their arms and being more empathetic… more power to them. Most men will obviously not fall for the trick.

If women want to compete on the battlefield according to more feminine values, they have a right to propose such. In truth, our current military, hobbled by an excess of lawyers, often seems to care more about not being unkind than about winning wars.

The male standards persist because they are more effective. No one is against trying different, more touchy-feely standards, but they will need to prove themselves in the arena.

Whippman continues:

We in turn barely question whether the male standard really is the more socially desirable or morally sound set of behaviors or consider whether women might actually have had it right all along.

Women do have it right, because their behaviors are more effective in bringing up children, making homes and indulging in concupiscent pleasures in the boudoir. Surely, we do not want the values that pertain in the home or in the bedroom to be imposed on the marketplace—some would call it the essence of socialism.

Whippman wants men to learn how to shut up. These are the very men who have been told for decades now to get in touch with their feminine sides. Naturally, the advice is rude and insulting. It provokes over-assertiveness:

In the workplace, probably unsurprisingly to many women who are routinely talked over, patronized or ignored by male colleagues, research shows that rather than women being underconfident, men tend to be overconfident in relation to their actual abilities. Women generally aren’t failing to speak up; the problem is that men are refusing to pipe down.

Women are more deferential and more apologetic because they are weaker, and naturally more timid. It’s a survival mechanism, built into the organism. And thus, they defend themselves by apologizing. It’s in their DNA. Whippman might not like it because it defies feminist ideology, but perhaps she should give some serious thought to the intellectual deformity of feminist ideology:

In the workplace, probably unsurprisingly to many women who are routinely talked over, patronized or ignored by male colleagues, research shows that rather than women being underconfident, men tend to be overconfident in relation to their actual abilities. Women generally aren’t failing to speak up; the problem is that men are refusing to pipe down.
Take apologizing, the patient zero of the assertiveness movement. Women do too much of it, according to countless op-ed essays, books, apps and shampoo ads. There’s even a Gmail plug-in that is supposed to help us quit this apparently self-destructive habit by policing our emails for signs of excessive contrition, underlining anything of an overly apologetic nature in angry red wiggles.

The various anti-apologizing tracts often quote a 2010 study showing that the reason women say they are sorry more often than men is that we have a “lower threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior.” This is almost exclusively framed as an example of female deficiency. But really, isn’t a person with a “high threshold of what constitutes offensive behavior” just a fancy name for a jerk?

Rarely in the course of this anti-apologizing crusade do we ever stop to consider the social and moral value of apologies and the cost of obliterating them from our interactions. Apologizing is a highly symbolic and socially efficient way to take responsibility for our actions, to right a wrong and clear space for another person’s feelings. It’s a routine means of injecting self-examination and moral reflection into daily life.

Indeed, many of our problems with male entitlement and toxic behavior both in the workplace and elsewhere could well be traced back to a fundamental unwillingness among men to apologize, or even perceive that they have anything to apologize for. Certainly many emails I have received from men over the years would have benefited from a Gmail plug-in pointing out the apology-shaped hole. The energy we spend getting women to stop apologizing might be better spent encouraging men to start

It is certainly manly to apologize, but the price is very, very high. If you apologize you will need to resign or remove yourself from society. Most men make it a last resort. Most women make it first resort. These habits are difficult to unlearn. But in a chief executive, too many apologies will compromise the ability to lead because they will undermine any confidence that the staff has in its leader.

The simple fact is, that Whippman does not understand apologies. Nor does she seem to understand the consequences of teaching men to be more deferential. When boys on the playground are more deferential and more inclined to capitulate they are often beaten up. Does she want that?

So perhaps instead of nagging women to scramble to meet the male standard, we should instead be training men and boys to aspire to women’s cultural norms, and selling those norms to men as both default and desirable. To be more deferential. To reflect and listen and apologize where an apology is due (and if unsure, to err on the side of a superfluous sorry than an absent one). To aim for modesty and humility and cooperation rather than blowhard arrogance.

Again, Whippman does not understand the masculine ethos. She does not see that gentility is not weakness, it is not deferential, it does not manifest female cultural norms.

As long as the threat of emasculation is a baseline terror for men, encouraging them to act more like women still instinctively feels like a form of humiliation.

It feels like humiliation because it is humiliation. It will make a man look weak to other men. And when a man looks weak to other men, on the playground or on the battlefield, he will be bullied until he learns how to stand up for himself.

So, Whippman wants the business world to function according to female standards, thus, according to rules that pertain in the nursery and the boudoir. That we have been working hard at this for decades now, she does not understand. In fact, trying to make the business world more closely resemble the boudoir has certainly not benefited women. Duh.

Teaching men the art of capitulation will also, dare I mention it, leave women unprotected. Who is going to protect women from the toxic males out there, if not their virile brothers and fathers. If we want to teach these men the art of capitulation, as Whippman does, we will discover that women are unprotected, thus, more subject to abuse and harassment.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps men should be more emotional like women. Men would be more sensitive and feel guilt for their actions. Allow a Holocaust survivor explain the pain insensitive men have inflicted on her.
Living 70 Years with PTSD After Surviving the Holocaust (And Still Holding on to Hope)

Sam L. said...

INCOMING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Duck, cover, and stand by to repel boarders!!!!!

n.n said...

Men and women are equal in rights and complementary in Nature. Reconcile.

Anonymous said...

Ruled over by women?

Are we sure that this is not paranoid hysteria in its masculine form?

Perhaps there is a failure to communicate as these claims sound almost as insane as the feminist propagandists.

Christopher B said...

I'll believe feminists are interested in gender equality when they start enforcing equal opportunity hiring for garbage collectors.

UbuMaccabee said...

The historical empiricist has all of human history on their ledger, from Thucydides to Hobbes to Machiavelli to Spengler. There is nothing paranoid or hysterical about the past; it is quite clear. it is a long chronicle of conquest, slavery and military power punctuated by brief interludes of stability. It is a killing floor better than half the time. And women do not, by-and-large, have a starring role in it. There are very few societies that have treated women with dignity, and they are almost entirely within the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Feminism has no tradition or intellectual lodestar worth noting. It is a shallow and transitory outgrowth of modern Leftism. It exists as an ill-tempered chimera within the nihilistic fun-house called the university. A few more waves of Islamic invaders and it disappears from Europe entirely. Asia has no use for western feminism, and neither does Africa (except SA, which will not exist for much longer. Sorry, more masculine hysteria) or Islam. Most of the world views our deference to feminism as a vice, not a virtue. History would be no more kind. I wonder what Machiavelli would say about Merkel, or Theresa May, or Samantha Power?

The last conversation I read about paranoid masculine hysteria was between two secular, female Jewish intellectuals in Weimar Germany in 1931. Good thing they escaped to teach nonsense at Columbia before that masculine hysteria became a self-fulfilling prophecy. But who could possibly have predicted mass killing? Only every perceptive historian who ever lived. But, as Ibsen noted, “People just don’t do such things!”

What claims? That the Nazis were monsters or that the most decent men in world history stepped up to kill them? Or that a society run by women would have been entirely ill-equipped to deal with the multiple evil of Hitler, Imperial Japan, and the incipient Cold War with totalitarian Russia that was to follow? Does anyone seriously think that an administration of Hillary Clinton and her wimmin’ warriors would have defeated any of the above? What about a hot war with China? Thank God we still have Madeline Albright to safeguard us.

The feminization of any culture is the last stop before slavery (unless you think that sort of thinking is just paranoid masculine hysteria) But if it’s any consolation, the best looking women will be married off to the Persians/Romans/Saxons/Angles/Huns/Normans/Visigoth invaders, so at least they will continue half the bloodline.

Been reading an illuminating book about the Spanish Civil War by Stanley Payne. A great deal more paranoid masculine action against the leftists, anarchists, and communists early on might have prevented a bloody war later. But who takes exactly what the Left says in print and on the radio seriously, anyway? It’s practically a blueprint for our current Civil War; we are just waiting for Oviedo.

trigger warning said...

"The feminization of any culture is the last stop before slavery..."

As the sales demographics of "50 Shades of Grey" clearly illustrates.

UbuMaccabee said...

Trigger, that is another dark secret about women best left to places that tend to congregate in urban warehouse districts and isolated farmhouses and require both a vetting process and a membership fee. Except in Berlin, where it’s widely available in public during lunch hour.

R Devere said...

If women were in charge of civilization, we would still be living in caves....but they'd have nice drapes!

UbuMac's most important insight:

"It [Feminism] is a shallow and transitory outgrowth of modern Leftism. It exists as an ill-tempered chimera within the nihilistic fun-house called the university..."

University = Life-long children who are paid to play at being "ADULT". PhD = a credential proving one knows more and more about less and less!