Monday, June 30, 2008

Grain of salt

Megan McArdle:
[T]here is a competitive male dynamic to groups that is completely different from the way female groups act. They don't know, of course, because unless the group is overwhelmingly female, the dynamic of any mixed group always defaults to male, with women fading back into supporting conversational roles. . . .
Men gain status by standing out from the group; women gain status by submerging themselves into it -- by strengthening the group, often at the expense of themselves.
A. "Iron my shirt."
B. That was a joke.
C. I didn't say it was a funny joke.
D. What Megan seems to miss is that the men are competing against each other, not against the women. The men who are "winning" these cocktail parties are engaged in displays of dominance, establishing their place within the hierarchy. Why? Because there is a word for the submissive male: loser.
E. Why is it important for guys not to be losers? Because chicks don't dig losers. I've been at a few cocktail parties where Megan was in attendance, and I don't recall seeing her hanging out with the awkward stuttering nebbishes, the nervous sweaty guys with thick glasses. (I don't blame her for avoiding those losers, just pointing out that her enlightened gender awareness hasn't changed her stereotypically female disdain for losers.)
F. Ergo, if guys seem extraordinarily keen on outdoing one another, it's a natural thing. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.
G. This is not intended as a putdown of Megan, who's a wonderful person, nor is it a putdown of women in general. I love women, which is why I married one.
H. This is intended as a defense of men, taking Megan's commentary as an implied slur against men as clueless simpletons who lack self-awareness. Some guys are like that, sure. But, really, what's the point in guys sitting around deconstructing the whole hierarchical competitive thing? Competition among men is natural, permanently etched in our DNA, and deconstructing it won't make it go away. The only reason for a guy to analyze it is to learn how to win it. Otherwise, analysis is for losers.
I. Female group behavior is not quite the picnic in the park Megan portrays it to be, as I'm sure any woman who has ever worked in a majority-female workplace could testify. Women have a tendency to turn on other women with a cold and hideous cruelty.

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