Genders and dominance

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Posted by: stak
Tags: psychohistory
Posted on: 2017-03-05 11:07:28

My mind was blown by a pair of articles today: When Factory Jobs Vanish, Men Become Less Desirable Partners, and one from 2010, The End of Men. To me these articles present a view that I had been largely unaware of before, and explains a lot of things that I've been puzzling over.

The articles point out that women are increasingly dominating most professions. Being a software engineer, one of the few industries that is the exception to this trend, I hadn't really paid much attention to this. But the article goes further: it says that as a result of this shift, men are losing the dominant role in families, are often unable to get married, leading to many women becoming single mothers.

This produces what I think of as a situation not in equilibrium. We're in the middle of a societal shift from men being the dominant gender to women being the dominant gender, but we're only partway through. Women have already become dominant in a lot of industries and roles, which is fine. What hasn't caught up yet, though, is the societal perception of "who should wear the pants". I think a lot of men still feel that society expects them to be dominant - to be the breadwinner and the head of the nuclear family.

Much like a difference in electric potential between two points produces a current, this difference between what is and what is expected produces frustration and anger. If I imagine myself in the position of one of these men - having lost my job, unable to find a woman who wants to start a family with me, while still having the societal pressure to somehow take charge - I can easily picture myself feeling like a failure, and having a lot of anger. Across an entire population of men feeling this way, it's not surprising to see violent action to make a change.

The thing is, there's two ways to bring the system back into equilibrium. One is to go backwards - to reinstate jobs in industries where men can dominate, like manufacturing. This allows men to again live up to the societal expectations. This is what Trump has been promising, and it makes sense to me (finally!) what drove these men to vote for him. It also explains the rash of hate crimes against immigrants, the anti-globalism movement, and so on - these are all things that are perceived to have contributed to the loss in manufacturing jobs and therefore to men's loss of dominance. However, I don't think going backwards is really a viable path. The reason we entered this state of disequilibrium in the first place is because we were correcting a different disequilibrium, and going backwards will not really help. Those who fight to go backwards are guaranteed to lose, but the longer they fight, the more painful it will be for everybody.

The better way out is to keep going forward. We have to complete the transition by also changing the societal expectations of men's role in the world. Instead of continuing to implicitly or explicitly typecast them as the dominant gender, we must accept (and encourage) that they can take on roles that were previously stereotypically "female" roles, for example being a stay-at-home parent. This shift is well under way, but until we have a whole generation of men raised in a culture where that's the norm, it won't be complete.

The "End of Men" article linked above also mentions the rise of "herbivores" in Japan - men "who are rejecting the hard-drinking salaryman life of their fathers and are instead gardening, organizing dessert parties, acting cartoonishly feminine, and declining to have sex." As odd as this behaviour sounds to me, I feel now that this is actually the correct direction to be heading. I'm not saying all men should behave this way. What I'm saying is that men should feel accepted by society even if they do behave this way. There should be no perceived societal pressure to behave any differently. No judgements.

That being said, the article also says things like "clearly, some percentage of boys are just temperamentally unsuited to college" which I disagree with. The underlying premise here is that the genetic or biologic make-up of males is unsuited to higher education or adapting to these new circumstances, but I strongly believe this is more a result of societal expectations and cultural influence. In other countries with different cultures, where higher education is more valued, I think the results are very different.

In the end, I think the notion of gender itself will become obsolete, but until it does, we should be more explicit in our support of people of all genders to take on any useful role in society.

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