Most men are so involved with the accusations and with the anger itself, the harm it does, and the unfairness of it all, that we seem to miss a fundamental question. Just where does such a truckload of anger come from? Is it simply an unfortunate and unintended outcome of our modern culture? Are women treated worse than men? Or is it somehow programmed into human nature? I suggest that women are naturally more inclined to condemn their opposites, and perhaps more surprisingly, that men themselves are harsher toward men than toward women.
Men Are More Stressed in Arguments
Women, in contrast, are more comfortable in personal arguments and are more inclined to air their grievances. "I have become increasingly angry," comments Gloria Steinem, "as the alternative is depression." Anger for this feminist pioneer seems to be an emotional elixir, which most men find truly incomprehensible.
Sexual interest is higher in young males across all cultures, primitive or modern, and across the vast array of animal species as well. Those who invest less in each offspring, meaning males, stand to benefit genetically by multiple matings, while those who invest more in each offspring do well to go slowly, choose carefully, and gain the maximum benefit from each mating.
Insistence has been a viable tactic for women, to test the strength of a commitment, while a reluctance to offend has been a more viable tactic for men, who must rely on women to transport their genes into the next generation. Nature selects for women who are more comfortable in arguments and willing to insist, and for men who make allowances and try to avoid offending.
An illustration or two should suffice. A man and a woman are in a nightclub, and quarrel. If he throws an ounce of whiskey at her, it is clearly an assault, and an undercover policeman would arrest him on the spot and jail him. If she throws a splash of whiskey at him, it is merely a rebuff or perhaps an expression of exasperation. Who would want to jail her? Surely, anyone who did would not be welcome back at the nightclub. Men who understand women gain their admiration, and perhaps their sexual favors as well, whereas men who oppose and offend women are treated accordingly.
We are not chivalrous simply because men are physically stronger. A Justice survey asked men and women to judge the seriousness of various transgressions. If a man stabbing a woman to death with a knife is rated a 10, meaning truly heinous and indeed unforgivable, then a woman stabbing a man to death with a knife is rated only a 6, meaning surely serious but perhaps understandable under the circumstances. Why so?
Men have been expected to protect women, and the lowlife who knifes a woman is hardly a man at all. On the other hand, a woman who just whacked her mate is still very much a woman, and furthermore, she may be quite available, although a tad risky. A man who understands her situation gains her favor, and may join with her to sire rug-rats with similarly understanding attitudes.
Men who catch a few blows file police complaints only a tenth as often as do battered women, and so seldom come to our attention. Here again, our public conduct follows our genetic interests. What sort of fool would hand his wife over to the men in authority and probably lose her, just because she takes a swing or two? A woman, on the other hand, must count on a man for her safety, and she benefits from punishing the reckless egotist who goes too far over the line.
Chivalry is a social imperative, and Champ here acts to uphold an unspoken standard of justice. Like a real man, although a shave short in stature and light on brain power, he enforces one of our highest and noblest moral callings. He stands by fair maiden, and uses his power to punish the beastly bastard who has so callously offended her.
A chimp such as Champ who supports the damsel may gain opportunities to mate with her later, while one who refuses his support will also be remembered and treated accordingly. And so too among our own. Men who uphold women against offending men gain their respect, and perhaps their favors, while men who refuse women lose out. So nature programs men to support women in distress and to stand strongly against the dastardly scumbags who cross them.
Yet we have two competing standards here. Surely, we want what is best for the children. But chivalry is programmed strongly into the human animal, and we feel that it is highly moral to uphold women and to punish the men who wrong them. So the judge tends to side with the woman in her hour of greatest need. His inner Champ Chimpski charges in to support the fair damsel in distress and to punish the worthless lowlife who has wronged her.
We are now expected to compliment women on their multiple talents and many achievements, while it is considered sexist and terribly improper to notice limitations or moral failings. And it is now somewhat improper to honor men for any special strengths and virtues, as it can offend women, while it is conspicuously commonplace to condemn men for the many ways men mistreat women. So social propriety exaggerates some facets and conceals others, yielding a highly biased impression of men and women.
Innate leanings do not mean that something cannot be changed, only that passions run high and must be managed. Advocates for more equal treatment for men wrestle against a chivalrous moral imperative that most of the population hardly knows exists. We should wish them well.
Adapted from "You Still Don't Understand" by drD and Nancy Ann Davis.