“A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”
Women need men like men need women, as Roy F. Baumeister explains by way of answering the modern question, “Is There Anything Good About Men?”
When you think about it, the idea that one gender is all-around better than the other is not very plausible. Why would nature make one gender better than the other?
[There are] three main theories we’ve had about gender: Men are better, no difference, and women are better. What’s missing from that list? Different but equal.
Natural selection will preserve innate differences between men and women as long as the different traits are beneficial in different circumstances or for different tasks.
The tradeoff approach yields a radical theory of gender equality. Men and women may be different, but each advantage may be linked to a disadvantage.
Today’s human population is descended from twice as many women as men.
Most men who ever lived did not have descendants who are alive today.
We’re descended from men who took chances (and were lucky).
…[Men] outnumbered women both among the losers and among the biggest winners.
Here’s his conclusion:
To summarize my main points: A few lucky men are at the top of society and enjoy the culture’s best rewards. Others, less fortunate, have their lives chewed up by it. Culture uses both men and women, but most cultures use them in somewhat different ways. Most cultures see individual men as more expendable than individual women, and this difference is probably based on nature, in whose reproductive competition some men are the big losers and other men are the biggest winners. Hence it uses men for the many risky jobs it has.
Men go to extremes more than women, and this fits in well with culture using them to try out lots of different things, rewarding the winners and crushing the losers.
Culture is not about men against women. By and large, cultural progress emerged from groups of men working with and against other men. While women concentrated on the close relationships that enabled the species to survive, men created the bigger networks of shallow relationships, less necessary for survival but eventually enabling culture to flourish. The gradual creation of wealth, knowledge, and power in the men’s sphere was the source of gender inequality. Men created the big social structures that comprise society, and men still are mainly responsible for this, even though we now see that women can perform perfectly well in these large systems.
What seems to have worked best for cultures is to play off the men against each other, competing for respect and other rewards that end up distributed very unequally. Men have to prove themselves by producing things the society values. They have to prevail over rivals and enemies in cultural competitions, which is probably why they aren’t as lovable as women.
The essence of how culture uses men depends on a basic social insecurity. This insecurity is in fact social, existential, and biological. Built into the male role is the danger of not being good enough to be accepted and respected and even the danger of not being able to do well enough to create offspring.
The basic social insecurity of manhood is stressful for the men, and it is hardly surprising that so many men crack up or do evil or heroic things or die younger than women. But that insecurity is useful and productive for the culture, the system.
Again, I’m not saying it’s right, or fair, or proper. But it has worked. The cultures that have succeeded have used this formula, and that is one reason that they have succeeded instead of their rivals.
The Whole Thing is not very tightly organized, I’m afraid. It’s a talk, not a paper, and it lacks references.
But read the Whole Think anyway. These are ideas that are almost completely ignored by the loudest voices in our culture. Those voices are not trying to improve the role of women; they’re trying to tear down the culture.
As it turns out, men and women both serve important roles, but in differing spheres of influence. Men serve the group, women the family.
It is insanely self-destructive for a culture to devalue either sphere.