What Are Men Good For?

Let me count the ways.

This extremely loaded question can only be asked and answered by a pro.  (And that is not me BTW.)   In his book, Is There Anything Good About Men?  How Cultures Flourish By Exploiting Men, social psychologist Roy Baumeister asks and answers this question.

Baumeister describes the way men and women differ in the social domain:

–       Women are more social and less aggressive than men stereotypically but are slightly more aggressive in close relationships

–       Men are more aggressive in general; they value relationships less than women

–       Women are more motivated to build intimacy

–       Men may be more social to make a superficial network of relationships

–       Men are more helping in communities; in intimate relationships women are more helpful than men

–       Women are more emotionally expressive which fosters intimate relationships; men are more evolved to lie to gain advantages

–       Women lean towards promoting equality and commonality; men (and large groups) lean towards equity (based on contribution) and distinction.  Of note, commonality, communal and cooperative behavior are better for intimate relationships, but are less advantageous in economic systems

That wasn’t so bad, was it?  I’ll bet you were ready to get pissed off.

Maybe you are pissed off.   And just think how pissed off you’d feel if you replace the word “Men” in the title with the word “Women.”  I know some of our classmates, when hearing this lecture, reacted strongly to the lecture.  However, I don’t believe we have to interpret these trends as black/white or all/nothing.  They’re just trends, tendencies.  Not rules.   We humans are so complex and unpredictable that we defy rules.

Even if generalizations and stereotypes are more true than false (as defined by more than 50% do X or Y), it doesn’t mean that we, as individuals, have to reinforce and subscribe to the stereotype.  I can lie too and defy the trend.  I can choose distinction over commonality in some situations and break the mold.

The point is, in the end we have autonomy as long as we have awareness.  It’s harder to have autonomy when I allow my subconscious processes rule my behavior and never question those processes or choices , especially when those choices give me a poor outcome.

So whether you agree or disagree with Baumeister, perhaps Baumeister’s work can help raise your consciousness about the topic so that you can decide whether to defy the stereotype.