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Can women beat men at their own game?

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Analog Worms:
Brief Summary: Women are seeking full equality with men but are finding along the way that there are certain physiological as well as social factors that may not make this possible. Some of the most critical factors include reproduction, child-bearing and child-rearing.

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BACK in the Sixties, many ridiculed the idea of lifelong marriage because they saw it as inherently undesirable. Today the idea is ridiculed because it seems virtually impossible. The divorce rate is half again as high as it is virtually anywhere else in the modern world--and it is high virtually everywhere in the modern world. And increasing numbers of people choose not to marry at all.

This will not engender social disintegration; individuals and societies have a way of stumbling through. But the increasing fragility of marriage does threaten to make the breakup of the parents and absence of the father the typical experience of the child; years of loneliness the typical experience of the older woman; and self-destructive and anti-social behavior the typical contribution of increasing numbers of men not constrained by the intimacy and responsibility of marriage.

A tendency in this direction is probably inherent in modern industrial society's decreasing dependence on physical labor, its increasing need of huge numbers of workers skilled in the intricacies of modern work life, and the entailed requirement that women be socialized, educated, and trained to join the labor force in large and increasing numbers.

In many ways, this tendency serves women well; it makes possible a choice of lives and a legal equality in areas that were formerly rewards for simple maleness. Furthermore, while no modern society can accord women's feminine, maternal, and familial roles a status as high as that accorded these roles in some primitive and agricultural societies, no modern society--with its requirement of reward according to perceived contribution, equal treatment by the law, and other exchanges of status for rights---can treat women as chattels, as in other non-modern societies.

However, the tendency for females to be socialized and educated to compete with males in superfamilial areas--rather than to define their primary value in terms of the traditional roles for which men cannot compete carries a heavy cost, including a reduction of: the sense that one is doing what one should be doing; the satisfaction, perhaps even happiness, that this engenders; the sense that one belongs to a complete and self-contained community; and the support of the individual by this community.

Women bear the brunt of this process. The annoyance many men feel at having to take into account the corporate presence of women is--however noisy the men's complaints--insignificant compared to the conflicting demands on women of the public sphere and the home. Moreover, the socialization of women to value behaviors that are more strongly inherent in maleness, and to devalue behaviors that are more strongly inherent in femaleness, has had a terrible--and terribly ironic--effect: it has only minimally increased women's tendency to effectively behave in male ways while it has severely decreased women's ability to effectively behave in female ways.

Through most of our history one could assume of women an understanding of men. This understanding meant every woman had, in her armamentarium, a host of weapons with which to defend herself against male stupidity by deflating the male. Few women felt the need of the protection of dubious laws against the wolf whistle; women knew how to handle men. Today many young women, not having learned the self-defense that gives confidence, tremble at the sight of a male aggression they cannot handle.

Masculinity Rules
THE ASPECTS of modernization mentioned above render unavoidable women being socialized and educated to see the roles associated with males as the worthwhile roles. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that many contemporary women derogate the feminine. (There are feminist attempts to "redefine femininity," but the "redefinitions" are simply an acceptance of the non-feminine, supported by claims about how well women can do the things men do.)

In any case, the public arena, the marketplace, is becoming for great numbers of women the primary status arena. It is an arena in which femininity is far less powerful than it is when status is determined by marriage and family. The conflicts encountered by women represent not just the clash of physiological impulse with social reward (i.e., maternal possibility vs. the status now given women in the public arena), but also incongruous social demands (expectations of feminine and maternal behavior away from the job vs. the behavior expected in the battle for public status). When the physiological nature of those concerned conflicts with social expectation and when the natures of the required social abilities conflict with each other, a woman is being asked to possess a universality that very few human beings possess.

All this might be less of a problem if men were wired to respond to the infant as readily as women do. But the experience of China, the Soviet Union, Scandinavia, and a number of other countries--combined with the evidence of physiology--shows that equal child-rearing is an impossibility. American women are painfully and rapidly realizing that there are some things a man just won't do, and taking equal responsibility for child care is one of them.

Seeing What We Expect to See
EVEN IF modernization did not offer women any rewards and even if the costs were higher, our bond to modernization has long since been rendered indissoluble.

We are, in short, experiencing a masculinization of the world: the modern economic system tends to socialize and reward women for behaviors required in the public arena more highly than for the once-primary feminine, maternal, and familial behavior. This masculinization dwarfs in importance the more obvious, but superficial, feminization seemingly implied by cosmetic alterations of customs of male dominance and by denial of temperamental, cognitive, and behavioral sex differences that are obvious to all. And it forces women to neglect a game that they cannot lose in order to enter a game that nature has stacked against them.

It is as certain as anything empirical we know about the sexes that there will not be anything approaching changes that would satisfy the feminist who expects women to earn an equal share of status, wealth, power, and achievement in superfamfilal areas. Even if women were not so terrified of the male willingness to use violence, and even if males never resorted to violence, the drive that underlies the male willingness will always lead men disproportionately to achieve and attain. While there are many areas in which differences will be significantly reduced--and some, perhaps, where they will be eliminated nonetheless, women will never threaten the percentage of men in high office or prison, and college females will never be drawn to mathematics and theoretical physics in numbers even approaching those of males.

This would matter less if the members of a society could "treat everyone as an individual." But it is never the case that the unique qualities of an individual entirely determine our attitude toward that person. A person's sex, class, and education are but a few of the socially important characteristics that affect one person's view of another. (Sex is the most important of these; it is the first thing you notice about someone and the last you forget.) Expectations can be eliminated or even reversed if the source of the expectations is social. But the difference between the sexes' basic expectation each of the other is reflected in the population's observation of cognitive and behavioral differences that are rooted in physiological differences. These cannot be eliminated by a social denial that they exist.

It is ironic, but not contradictory, that never have so many women been talking about women. If this talk were in the service of a new definition of femininity, all that I say here might well prove incorrect. But this could be the case only if the new definition comprised qualities associated with women by women's physiology (as was the case with the traditional view of "femininity"). This is precisely what the modern woman has been socialized not to accept.

Modernization limits the range not only of sexual roles, but of expression of sexual personality characteristics as well. Formerly, societies had the "option" of incorporating sex differences of emotional and behavioral tendency in their cultural expectations to a greater extent than physiological differentiation would require. This gave such societies a head start in the eternal social enterprise of channeling the amorphous psycho-physiological tendencies that must be restrained if civilization is to bring more than discontent.

The contemporary urge to refuse to acknowledge sex differences has rendered impossible our giving respect to men and to women on the basis of the characteristics rooted in their respective physiologies. This does not change the impulses and basic behavior of most men and women very much; men and women are still men and women, much as they might deny it. However, this new attitude is the effective opposite of acknowledging the specialness of the other sex. And if maleness and femaleness are not qualities seen as special and inherently worthy of respect, our respect for our spouse or lover--indeed our respect for ourselves--is diminished.

Do as You're Told
WITHIN THE constraints imposed by psychophysiologica1 reality, most people have always tended to do what they were told and to be most satisfied when successfully filling those roles society tells them--through its socialization and its status rewards--are important. This is true whichever the specific society and whatever its specific values.

This means that: a) the wife and mother in a non-modern society (or the older, rural woman in ours) sees the modern career woman as desiccated, unhappy, unmaternal, naive, and neutered; and b) the contemporary urban woman sees one who is "just a housewife" as hoodwinked into a lobotomized happiness, or as driven to become a seething cauldron of resentment at being forced to sacrifice satisfaction in the public arena to the requirements of the female role.

But there is no reason to believe that the average woman of today is more (or less) satisfied than was the average woman of a century ago (discounting such factors as medical improvements in the reduction of physical pain and physical hardship). The feminist belief that the woman of today is more satisfied, like the traditional woman's belief that the woman of today is less satisfied, represents nothing more than the universal psychological necessity to believe that the path one has been socialized to accept is the one path to happiness. After all, it does make sense to one who has internalized a specific set of values that those who serve these values must be happier than those serving other values. Indeed, it is the ability of subjective social values to seem objective that give values their strength.

Never the Twain Shall Meet
THE SOCIALIZATION is, of course, far from totally successful; women are, after all, women, and, when the bullet hits the bone, they know only they can fill the only role that ultimately matters. They know men are expendable: if 90 per cent of the males were lost, the lucky 10 per cent would assure that there was no population loss to the next generation; each woman lost reduces the size of the next generation.

The psycho-physiological reality guarantees that many women will always harbor doubts--whether acknowledged or not--about the value of roles in the public arena when compared to those in the home. Thus, even today over half of American women acknowledge that they would prefer to devote themselves to home and children, were that a financial possibility.

And real life does still have some influence. Young wives see that their daughters would rather have a doll with dresses than a GI Joe figure, and that their sons would rather have their heads catch fire than be caught playing with a doll that lacks even a rudimentary weapon for wasting the bastards.

They also quickly see that their husbands don't seem to be getting with the program. Even when national policy (as in the Chinese, Soviet, and Scandinavian examples mentioned above) charges men with sharing the work at home when women join the labor force, men simply ignore the charge, and women, or at least those not able to afford "nannies" and "mother's helpers," are forced into two full-time roles. These roles, each potentially life-satisfying in itself, can become back- and spirit-breaking when combined without compromise.

To some extent, of course, women will cope with the impossible demands by devoting less time to former roles. This may be for the best when it represents, say, a decrease in the obsession with cleaning the home that was fashionable in the Fifties. However, it is difficult to be sanguine about the effects on children of the analogous reduction of maternal accessibility. That many women worry about this is clear from the endless discussions of "quality time" and its ability or inability to substitute for the constant background proximity of mother to infant.

Not Separate, Not Equal?
FEMINIST "theories" deny the physiological roots of maleness and femaleness. In doing this they persuade the contemporary woman not merely that she can have it all (an eventuality impossible for those with male physiologies to believe about themselves), but that marriage can ignore crucial differences between males and females, differences that (if acknowledged at all) are incorrectly alleged to be "merely cultural" and, therefore, amenable to elimination.

Most wives of fifty years ago understood that men were just men, and that men cannot be expected or socialized to be anything else. This made the marriage agreement a realistic one that was not inherently enraging to the woman (in the way it is when there is a pretense that men are simply less lumpy women who could just as easily accept an "egalitarian" role).

The woman of the contemporary ideology--unlike all the women of all other societies that have ever existed-no longer recognizes this. When wives have expectations of an "equality" that demands not merely equal reward for different behavior, but equal reward for the same behavior, marriage as an institution is in trouble, and would be even were there not numerous other forces tending toward this end. (There is, to be sure, a range of possibilities in practical terms; the treatment of women in the United States is different from that in Saudi Arabia. But the core statistical male-female differences of cognition, temperament, and behavior are the same everywhere: no society--and only a feminist sub-culture in ours---claims to believe that women could be as aggressive as men or men as nurturing as women; no society fails to associate dominance and crime with males or familial stability and child care with females.)

Similarly, the conflicting demands of feminine attractiveness and the maternal disposition, on the one hand, and success in the public arena, on the other, have generated a feminist psycho-social view of the world as protective armor. For example, it is received wisdom among the more feminist-oriented career women that men are threatened by female success, and there is no doubt a great deal of truth to this. Unexpected competition from former allies always causes anxiety, even if the new competitors do not add to the competition one faces.

But the deep cause of the feminist emphasis on this male anxiety is the realization that even those men who are not threatened by female success are not especially drawn to it. While the perimeters of conceptions of femininity vary from time to time and culture to culture, the core behavior that defines the feminine and attracts males everywhere and at all times does not much vary. And dominant behavior is not a vital component of this femininity. Women through the ages knew that males are drawn to the feminine and that characteristics not disproportionately associated with the female elicit, at best, a male lack of interest.

But women through the ages were not told that they had to exhibit these male characteristics. Contemporary women are told that their status will, to a great extent, be determined by their ability to mimic qualities associated with the male, and women know that these are, at best, qualities that do nothing to attract males. Males have never faced an analogous conflict because women everywhere have--for reasons rooted in female physiology--been drawn to men who exhibit dominance. Despite contemporary values claiming the desirability of males with a female portion of sensitivity and nurturance, the actual behavior of even those women who give lip-service encouragement to men who claim to agree casts serious doubt on the attractiveness to women of such men. The change in the attitude of each sex toward the other is at the heart of the matter. As women have come to have less use for men, and have refused to grant their husbands the special position both sexes once took for granted, men have come to have less use for women. Both look for satisfaction on an occupational playing field on which, statistically speaking, men as a sex cannot lose and women as a sex cannot win.

At the Head of the Table
THE WOMEN of every society save our own have understood that the male's nature is such that he must be given a special position in the family if he is to peacefully take his place in it. These women have understood the male's greater readiness to choose competition over compromise, his greater resistance to socialization, his inevitably lesser role in his children's lives, his lower threshold for sexual arousal, and, perhaps most powerfully, the attraction to the new that constantly threatens to overwhelm his mere social and moral agreements. Women have realized that men will not even attempt to suppress these tendencies if they are offered no distinctive and respected position in the family, a position that can act as counterpoise to both the limits marriage sets on male behavior and the centrality that the woman's unique physiological and psychological bond to the infant automatically gives her. If being "the man of the family" means nothing special, many men will find it not worth the cost.

Men have always expected the family to be a respite from the war outside, a peaceful harbor that they protect from attack. It is a fact--a fact so obvious that only a sociologist or a feminist could deny it--that male physiology is such that males react to competitive situations by fight or flight, usually fight or, in the context of marriage, a stonewalling that reduces the marriage to a formal understanding and replaces intimacy with civility (at best). In response to the refusal to grant them their traditional role men will tend to either a) disrupt the family as they attain through aggression that which they were once granted, or b) channel their energies into sexual conquest outside the family. Women will find that they are raising their children either on a battlefield or alone, wondering why loudmouthed Rambos have replaced strong, silent defenders of justice and protectors of women.

Contemporary values, for example, see as indefensible the idea that the husband be seen to deserve the favored seat at the table and be deferred to in other, analogous, ways. Often ignored--for obvious psychological reasons--is the cost inherent in the elimination of any former benefit of marriage to the man: an increase in the number of men who stay single or who find the marriage they are in less worthy of effort.

In 1970 only a sixth of Americans older than 17 had never married. In 1980 it was a fifth. Today it is nearly a quarter. Between 1980 and 1991, the percentage of 35-to-39-year-old women who had never married doubled to 12 per cent. Various factors undoubtedly played causal roles here: demographic changes, the invention of "the pill," women putting off marriage for career and then facing the reality that it becomes more difficult with each year after the mid twenties to find someone to marry, a recession that made the choice of marriage and children a heroic act, a greater acceptance of homosexuality, and the like. But the view I have given makes this prediction: when these factors have reversed or been accounted for, the future will a) still exhibit an increasing percentage of never-married people and b) provide clear evidence that the increase in single males represents a male refusal to marry, while the increase in single females represents primarily the loss of the males from the pool. And this increase in never-married people will complement a marital discord that is already mirrored in an unprecedented rate of divorce.

The Sexual Revolution
ONE'S ATTITUDE toward the realities I have discussed is analogous to one's attitude toward the "sexual revolution" of the Sixties. There is no question that that revolution had the effect of reducing pathological female guilt and shame. But it is also true that this revolution took from young women their greatest source of power. (Much of the strength of the women's movement is owing to the need to replace the lost feminine power.)

Traditionally, sexual intercourse was deferred, the sexual pressure strengthening the bond made by less intense and slower-acting emotions. Only after such bonds were set did the intelligent woman permit release of the sexual pressure. In the name of equality, the sexual revolution pressured the woman into surrendering this power long before the bonds were formed, and sex came to be an immunization against deep emotional involvement rather than the tie that bound them. Accepting the desirability of the "sexual revolution" many women denied the truthfulness of the unpalatable (to them) insights about men that mothers have passed on to daughters from time immemorial, and these women have, by becoming breathtakingly ignorant of what men are all about, left themselves without the weapons that women everywhere else have always had. And men claiming to be their allies smiled the smile of the fox in the chicken coop.

A woman's conclusion about whether the surrender of power for a reduction of guilt was worth it is a function of her values and desires. Most men were, of course, perfectly willing to accept an increase in sexual power and immediate satisfaction of sexual desires.

The institutions governing sexuality, like all other aspects of social life, represent compromise, in this case between too much restriction, with its unnecessary guilt and its suppression of desire, and too little restriction, with its reduction of female power and male civility. The contemporary eye sees the former balance between desire and propriety--people weren't all that chaste fifty years ago--as hypocrisy. Perhaps such "hypocrisy" is the most civilized resolution of the inherent battle between desire and psychological-social necessity. It is, however, a resolution impossible when extreme social movements hold sway.

Just as the women's movement has found that, for all the energy it has expended, it has had no serious effect on male attainment of positions of power, so does the wife find that marriage is not a democracy for the same reasons that bed is not a democracy. She finds that the basic male impulses she so enjoys in bed preclude marital equality of the sort she has envisioned (however she may attempt to explain this fact).

And there will be many women--perhaps the large, if less vocal, majority--who will find that they prefer a man to be a man. In some cases men will repay this with loyalty and love, in others with the astonishing selfishness that this arrangement permits. These are the women who are grateful that they belong to the sex that has the option of deciding to do that which is most important--even those among them who choose not to take the option. But there will be other women who have been so completely socialized that they consider the female's unique ability to act as agent for the continuation of the species and culture as insufficient recompense for the male retention of positions of dominance. Such is the power--and limit---of socialization.

There's a sense, of course, in which none of this matters. Whatever their beliefs, men and women are still men and women, and beliefs that require the impossible are not taken seriously by reality. But the attitudes and values held by men and women do determine whether they live their lives on a dance floor or a battlefield, and this is not such a little thing.

D:
Good call.  Its not really a feminization of the world we are seeing, but rather a masculization of the world.

Though those with the twig and berries are being put into second place because of it.  Simply because women can not compete against men are their own game, so women need a head start.

The head start is ambiguous and is only determined by what distance it allows the woman to win from.

So in the 100 metres women start at 80.  If they lose there they now start at 70, if they lose there, just make policy where women can start from 60.  

Men either give up or become supreme.  Interesting.

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