Thursday, February 25, 2010

Men & Women -- Why Are We So Different?

Differences abound between men and women. And all the people said, "Duh!"

Ken Wilbur puts it this way:
Men tend toward hyperindividuality, stressing autonomy, rights, justice, and agency, and women tend toward a more relational awareness, with emphasis on communion, care, responsibility and relationship. Men tend to stress autonomy and fear relationship; women tend to stress relationship and fear autonomy.

A broad brush, but containing much truth nonetheless...

Women's friendships focus more on mutual help and problem-sharing, and much intimacy ... wheras men develop friendships based on common interests, with less intimacy.

More differences:

- Women seem to need less power and status than men ... women's speech is more cooperative,reciprocal and collaborative, and their conversations last longer, filled with feedback, both verbally and non-verbally -- empathy prevails. Disagreement is often in the form of a question, rather than a statement. The goal for women seems to be to develop and maintain intimate, reciprocal relationships.

- Men tend to be more blunt, competitive and direct. Feelings are not as important as logical truth. Their speech is punctuated with imperatives and commands ... men are more apt to brag, threaten, to talk over each other, and to ignore what's said. For men, language can tend to be more of a tool for domination, and a display of status. The goal for men seems to be to impress others with their skill and knowledge.

(Now, I know women who are blunt and aggressive in their speech, and I know men who are sympathetic, kind and thoughtful in their speech ... this is a general tendency.)

This need for male dominance shows up early among boys ... studies at summer camps show that the moment boys get together, they begin to battle each other for status, using ridicule and even violence to establish their hierarchical pecking order. The girls instead used milder ridicule, and flattery of the more dominant girls ... while the boys maintained their hierarchy the entire time they were together, the girls quickly forgot the distinctions, and formed "bonding pairs" in groups of two or three, forming "best friends."

According to some sociologists, the most fundamental difference between male and female psyches is the differing capacities for empathy. In "The Essential Difference," Simon Baron-Cohen says that most men suffer from a mild form of emotional "autism" ... an empathy-disorder. In it's extreme form, it's a type of "mind-blindness", wherein they cannot put themselves into the "shoes of another" ... they cannot feel another's pain, can't even imagine what another is thinking/feeling, and thus cannot respond in a helpful way. These men could be said to have poor social skills ... obsessive interests, and even appear to be somewhat emotionless and overly-logical. According to Baron-Cohen, most men have this struggle to one degree or another ... (& yes, there *are* exceptions -- I'm married to one). Men are just generally not as adept at reading others' emotions, reading facial expressions, or interpreting body language, as are most women.

In studying toddler groups, it's observed that boys have a much harder time sharing than girls ... with girls permitting 20 times more turn-taking than boys. Girls tend to have more egalitarian groups, while boys tend to give orders and make demands.

Criminality is almost solely the domain of men ... with rare exceptions. Statistics across international studies show the same thing -- 80-90% of all crimes are committed by men -- and when the crimes are defined as the violent ones (robbery, murder, sexual assaults), the percentages go up to the 90's. Male on male homicide is 30-40 times more common than female on female (including in prisons).

The opinions about why we have these differences are myriad. But Steve Taylor, author of "The Fall" contends that the differences are just a consequence of the Fall ... that the Fall affected men far more than women ... resulting in a more pronounced ego in men, than in women.
The feminine characteristics - more relational, more feeling-based, less concerned with power and status, a greater sense of empathy, and so on - are exactly those we would associate with a less developed sense of ego, and a less "fallen state of being. On the other hand, the male characteristics - autonomy, obsessiveness,lack of empathy, a high degree of systematising - are exactly those we would associate with a strongly developed sense of ego... In other words, what we think of as "masculine" behaviour is largely the result of the Ego Explosion... It's probably possible to say that the "female psyche" ... is a kind of midway point between the unfallen psyche of primal peoples, and the male fallen psyche.

So, *why* did the Ego Explosion affect males more than females?

One possible reason is that the female psyche never got "walled off" as the male psyche did ... largely due to the woman needing to care for children. Being a mother is about empathy -- feeling with/for another. Having to second-guess, intuitively, what the infant/child's needs were, and responding to them ... while the man was "out there" literally in the wild, fighting each other off for enough food to survive.

Beyond that, women are cyclically "tied to the earth" and to nature ... our biology is rhythmically cyclical (conforming to the lunar calendar), whereas men are steady and "inert". Men are better able to "rise above" their biological pullings, whereas women cannot get away from our connection to nature. In general, women were less exposed to the harsh pressures and realities of the fallen life, which created the "sharpened male ego."

This sharpened male ego also began to perceive the female as a threat to his survival. Men became mind-focused, and saw the body as "less than". Women were a constant reminder of the body, with their menstruation, birthing, and nursing ... so, too, did their sexual allure pose a threat to men's survival ... as man sought to rise above his body's urges, woman became seen as a sexual temptress ... eventually leading to the concept that women were impure and sinful creatures, used by the "devil" to lead men astray from purity.

Woman was blamed for the "fall" according to the story in Genesis (or at least the male perspective's interpretation of the myth). Woman thus could not be trusted ... she was weaker, easily deceived, dangerous. This basic view was expressed by the Jewish Testament of Reuben:
Women are evil, my children ... they use wiles and try to ensnare [man] by their charms ... They lay plots in their hearts against men: by the way they adorn themselves they first lead their minds astray, and by a look they instill the poison, and then in the act itself they take them captive ... So shun fornication, my children, and command your wives and daughters not to adorn their heads and faces."

This antagonism toward women has led to all manner of atrocities ... including the European witch-killing mania from the 1400's through the 1700's (later in some areas), and has been a feature of the three monotheistic Saharasian religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam).

The more men have believed that their bodies are "less than" their minds, the more women have been punished for displaying a connection to the body. Men = purity of mind, whereas women = impurity of body.

Women came to be likened to all that is disgusting ... Marina Warner writes:
"In the feces and urine - in St. Augustine's phrase - of childbirth, the closeness of women to all that is vile, lowly, corruptible, and material was epitomised - in the 'curse' of menstruation, she lay closer to the beast; the lure of her beauty was nothing but an aspect of the death brought about by her seduction of Adam in the garden."

As men came to see that sex was sinful, and that his own sexual desires were to be despised, they thus felt extreme animosity toward women, whom they believed *produced* these desires in them... likening women's allurement to "witchcraft." Men must therefore have absolute control and domination over women, in order to dominate their own bodies, in order to be "pure" ... in order to be acceptable to God.

Even today, in the most-arid regions of the world, women are forced to cover their bodies and faces (and some, their eyes!), and to live as virtual slaves, so that they cannot arouse the powerful and uncontrollable sexual impulses that these men fear make them impure.

The past 6,000 years of man's inhumanity against women is at least in part, man's revenge on women, for this.

And so ... God's gift of sexual desire and expression has been despised by man, and has been used as a weapon against women.

May we awaken from this nightmare...!

Shalom, Dena

(& may I make this CLEAR ... I adore my husband, my men-children, and my men-friends! I do not put men down ... I desire that we all, men and women alike, be free from the ego-explosion, including the destruction of patriarchy -- which hurts men and women alike! Later, we will look at how many men are awakening, even transcending their egos ... integrating the best of the unfallen and fallen psyches, evolving into our next stage of development -- I must commend the transcendent men in my life ... many of whom are reading this blog! And you know who you are!)

Next: Inequality and Child-Oppression

1 comment:

MysticBrit said...

I like evolving and transcending. It's such great fun!:D
I can put up with a bit of adoration too, if I force meself.