There are some differences between men and women, and that's OK
No, culture does NOT matter at least as much as biology. I can state this after having travelled to 100 countries on 6 continents. I see the SAME biological traits in ALL cultures and countries. It is just nonsense and blindness to ignore the fundamental differences between the two sexes. Time to get rid of the idealogical narrative which has infected our western societies. In fact, in countries with the most progressive feminist agendas like Sweden, the differences between men and women actually have INCREASED as a result! Wake up people, don't be woke, be factual.
"Culture matters at least as much. Sex differences can be magnified or muted by culture."
It seems to me that culture has a tremendous impact on the magnitude of expression, but *not* on the distribution of the underlying trait or behavior.
Imagine a Western society that has thoroughly pacified sexual competition and violence among men through both the state's monopoly on violence and the Western marriage and family program (paging Joseph Henrich). Even if homicide rates plunged from the hunter-gatherer norm of ~200 per 100,000 down to ~2 per 100,000 as in France... won't men still be overwhelmingly responsible?
This has always suggested to me that reforms aiming at changed behavior (e.g., reducing homicides) have a chance at success, while those aimed at eliminating disparities between groups (e.g., 50% of mechanical engineers should be women) are doomed to failure.
In my book, any reasonable person should accept that we're all individuals with a unique combination of masculine and feminine traits. Clearly western societies have accepted this; this post has therefore become an open door argument. However, nature/nurture is treated in this post as if we've to walk on eggs to prevent the 'evil' people from abusing the science to oppress the girls. Which is very much a straw man argument. I think nature/nurture is not opposed because there is a legitimate fear it will send women into chains. The reason is more nefarious.
Many policies over the past 5 decades that I lived through have were justified by _group_ differences among the sexes (and races) because the cause of the group differences was deemed exclusively sexism. Accepting biological differences would fatally weaken this argument since it is so often used because there is no smoking gun.
Although this author can be lauded for even discussing nature/nurture here and in his book, the story lacks some very crucial information how averages and distributions work.
First, the article is right that most trait differences are small and there is a large overlap between the sexes. However, this is actually very misleading since traits tend to be grouped. For example, a more anxious person that also scores high in agreeableness increases the chance significantly that this person is female, add a more than average in score in neuroticism and you can almost be sure. Only looking at the distribution of separate traits ignores the actual magnitude of the differences.
Second, tiny average differences in traits become very large at the tails of the distribution. For example, men tend to be more competitive and find status more important. When we look at the hyper competitive end of the wealth distribution we find self made man like Bezos, Musk, Gates but none of the top 10 richest women made their own fortune: family of Sam Walton, the ex of Bezos, the widow of Jobs. Adult men tend to be slightly more intelligent than women on average, something that is really hard to believe when you see how stupid many men can be. However, the female record holder in Jeopardy is a trans-woman and the top in chess is completely dominated by males.
I am sure many readers will still assume that the lack of a woman with the stature of a Jobs or Bezos is caused by sexism in the industry and the lack of top female chess players is because males don't welcome female players. However, we tend to accept these differences unthinkingly in other realms. If you pick a random woman and a random men from a large group there is a 40% chance the woman is more aggressive than the man. However, if we pick the 100 most aggressive men in that same group we'll find that it will likely be all male and not a 40/60 split. This is a widely accepted explanation why 95% of the prison population is male; claiming sexism would be silly. Sadly, applying the same logic to explain the large number of male CEO's tend to hit a brick wall with many.
Therefore, discussing the sexual differences is not opposed by the academia because it will immediately send women back to the kitchen, that is just catastrophic thinking if not a straw man. The argument is opposed so vehemently because it pulls the rug away under the argument of systemic sexism that underlies so many policies today.
Therefore, treat anybody as a unique individual but also do accept that group differences can be caused by small trait differences.
I agree that the distribution of traits differs between men and women, that this is in part due to biology, and that this difference in distributions is important to society. But distributions say very little about individuals, and it is important to keep that in mind. I think you undercut yourself when you proceed to use language like "The rather boring truth is that masculine traits are more useful in some contexts and feminine ones in others...." Phrases like "masculine traits" or "feminine traits" sound too much like you are reverting to a binary, non-dimorphic perspective, very soon after explaining the shortcomings of that perspective. I admit it is not easy to find short, simple phrases to replace "masculine traits" and "feminine traits," and I don't like awkward language. That is, I want to be reasonable about this. But we should work on it, so that language that suggests incorrect binary separations can be gracefully avoided. At a minimum, you might consider "stereotypically masculine traits," or something like that, to remind yourself and your readers that it is nonetheless true that some men will show these traits (whatever they are) to a nonstereotypically low degree and some women will show them to a nonstereotypically high degree. Sometimes quibbling about words is petty, and I try to avoid those arguments. I think this is not one of those cases. Here, I think, it is important to find words and phrases that do not undercut the distinction between distributions and individuals. Hope you can.
Thank you for having the courage to write about this subject! It's sorely needed. The article is also well written and balanced. I hope we can get back to this thoughtful and evidenced based thinking in my lifetime.
The word androgyny seems to scare some people, possibly because it suggests we want to sissify men and boys and because it harkens to the idea that acting more like women is what men need to escape their supposed masculine toxicity. But a healthy person is able to appreciate both typically male and typically female styles of thinking, feeling and acting. Having the capacity and comfort for androgyny is like having access to two computer operating systems. One is built in and the other is an emulator but flexible, adaptable people can call up the one that works best in any particular situation. Certainly in HEAL environments men need to be able to code-switch their default programming for aggression, risk, sex. No shame in that. In fact, it will be a shame if we don't encourage men and boys to learn that essential life hack.
A highly affluent, resource rich society and global economy allows some countries to mute aggressive masculinity...but this is temporary, not permanent...and certain social classes can also easily mute violent aggression...because they don’t need it...yet...
The was excellent. Concise and informative. Have you read The Genetic Lottery? Still on my list…
Can you check the bold type statement that begins your #4? It seems a bit off. Maybe I am misunderstanding.
I think you're missing the issues of trauma and emotional inavailability, both problems that arise from distortions in child development, and which can have a gendered component. ("Gendered" means that traits are attributed to biological sex that are not innate but produced by (mis)behavior of parents and others). Adults today, including parents, who suffered these things as children need to look at them to function as parents. It's not fair that a person suffered this, but it does become the responsibility even of the victim of it to get help redressing the problem and to aim the blame for it correctly in order to function as a capable parent and not repeat the cycle.
Aggression and risk-taking can be behaviors born of trauma in childhood, both from active abuse of a child and from chronic neglect. This includes emotional abuse and emotional exploitation and emotional neglect (not attuning to the child's emotions to he learns to recognize them).
This is why I suggested your advocacy of "red shirting" boys was missing that what they (and girls) really need is their fathers to take a "red shirt". (Meaning that they need their fathers (a) to take one year per child as primarily responsible parent and (b) to work on their emotional availability). If you really need to think in biological terms, then consider the work of evolutionary biologists who find that humans could not have evolved from other primates without men doing child care, including carrying infants around with their greater upper body strength. Much of our brain development occurs outside the womb, and we crawl/walk later, we lose our grasping reflex, and we lactate shorter than other primates. (Evolutionary psychology (which is Melvin Konner's agenda) is very different from evolutionary biology (which is a much more rigorous scientific field).
The "red shirt the boys" agenda reads like an attempt to make boys (and girls) pay to indulge emotional immaturity and irresponsibility in fathers.
Nurturing can sometimes be a behavior that is not in a child's interest as well, when its really about the mother needing to feel important or needed and when she lacks emotional range herself and projects on the child.
Many of the feminists who were trained as Freudians but then deconstructed Freud's fallacies illustrated these issues quite well. Alice Miller, Dorothy Dinnerstein, etc.
The Abrahamic religious laws/legal fictions (which were the context in which Freud and Konner wrote) effectively compel abuse and neglect of children by parents. (a) Abraham torturing his child Issac and the mother Sarah enabling this, (b) imposing a Solomonically unwise legal fiction of "virgin birth" on an infant, and (c) imposing the Fourth/Fifth Commandment on the child when s/he objects to (a) and (b).
Nowadays, paternity of an infant is as readily determined as maternity. From now on, every child will know with 100% certainty who his/her father is. Children (including adult children) will be much less likely now to displace their anger from abusive and neglectful fathers (i.e. "bad dads") onto other people and will instead aim it correctly.
I urge you to read Sociologist Raewyn Connell's work on the interaction between biology and societal influences. She's written a short, easily accessible book Gender in World Perspective which is in its 4th edition