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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Braiiiiiins....


Thanks to recent linkage from When Fangirls Attack!, I've picked up a few new comments from a new reader, shilohmm, one of which is in the thread over at Chick Fight!. I responded to her comments at my usual tiresome length in that thread, but still, I find I want to respond further where more people may have a chance to take part in the debate, if they want to:

shilohmm sez:

OTOH, under certain conditions ("the mama bear response" is not the technical term but gives you the general idea), women on average are more aggressive than men. Women can be much more aggressive than men when protecting someone they value. The idea that men are inherantly violent and women aren't is cultural, not one based in reality. Other cultures have characterized women as the violent and out-of-control gender.

I believe men in this culture think women are not as aggressive as men are for two reasons - first, because women don't defend "territory" the way a man would, and so may not respond aggressively to stimulus that would set most men off; and second, because women are not stupid, and obvious aggression is rarely the best response when dealing with a guy who outweighs you by fifty pounds or more. This says nothing about what women would like to do, and nothing about what women would do if they were suddenly more powerful than the average male, which is why the "aggressive powerful superheroines are chicks-with-dicks" argument irritates me.

Women are less likely to show their aggression, because being obviously aggressive when you can't physically defend yourself is dangerous. When you're 5'3" in a world where male height averages 5'9", physical force isn't usually a valid option. OTOH, if you're suddenly given superpowers the average male doesn't have access to, physical force would be mighty tempting.

I used to deliberately take on bullies in grade school and on into junior high (even though by junior high I was smaller than those I challenged). Obviously superheroines resonated with me. While I collected and enjoyed Lois Lane: Superman's Girlfriend and stories of Linda Danvers/Supergirl at the orphanage (I started reading comics in the 1960's), I also loved She Hulk and Ms. Marvel once they came along - although I do admit that early on there was tiresome "men are weak" stuff sometimes. Still, I loved them because they enjoyed the power to act the way I would - they gleefully thunked the bad guys. ;)


I don't know what to say about this.

Is it true? Do women only use reason because, as a general rule, they've found violence isn't an effective problem solving tool for them? If women were able to 'thunk the bad guys', would they? Would they immediately jettison all non-violent, non confrontational problem solving techniques, the minute they become capable of picking up a Buick station wagon and hitting someone they don't like in the teeth with it?

If so, this fills me with despair for the human race, as the implication seems to be, our default setting is violence. Or, at least, unreasoning physicality. If shilohmm's assertions here are accurate, then we are a race to which cognition does not come naturally, a race whose instincts and nature run towards a brute force solution to any problem we may encounter.

I hope this isn't true. I hope that humans, regardless of gender or race or age or other subdivision, have a capacity to think about things, not only after we've tried hitting them with a rock and that hasn't worked, but even before we reach for the rock.

I hope this especially, because in our here and now, our 'rocks' include poison gas, tailored bacterium, and nuclear weapons.

And, yeah, I have to admit, the people within arms reach of the GO buttons on all that shit do certainly seem to bear out the assertion "hit first, think afterwards".

I hope we're better than that, I really do. And to bring it back around to the much more narrow subject the article and comment thread was originally discussing -- I would hope that superpowered women, in general, would still be more likely than superpowered men to apply their powers with intelligence, after reasoned, lucid analysis of whatevere problem it is they are trying to resolve. (I'd like to see more superpowered men apply their powers with intelligence, too, but there's certainly little hope of this in contemporary superhero comics, where even the Sorcerer Supreme has recently been reimagined as a martial arts asskicker who essentially fires energy blasts out of his hands at every opponent until the opponent is charred into submission.)

Are we just brutes? Is that what superhero comics ultimately reflects? Male or female, are all humans...or fictional artifacts representing humans... simply thugs? Worse, is that what we WANT to be?

In a culture that lionizes Forrest Gump (to a point where we've even elected him to be our President) while quaking in terror before Hannibal Lecter, what other conclusion is there? We, apparently, WANT to be morons. We find it comforting, and admirable, just as we find intelligence to be threatening, and frightening, and loathsome.

Ah, maybe it's just me. I'm sure if I were to take up drinking, or going to church on Sunday, I'd find this all much less worrisome.

11 Comments:

At 12:58 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

I suspect that it's the truth, though, that we respond and adapt mostly as our physical nature allows. There will always be exceptions, but as a general rule it makes sense as the root of various stereotypes such as "big and stupid", "small and wily", and "dumb blonde" (the attractive being built into the last of the three.)

The capacity to be more is almost always there, but like learning to write with one's other hand most will go with what works. People tend to go with their strengths, and if their strengths are sufficiently, well, strong and effective, there's little need to develop other skills and attributes.

Moreover, in the case of women, there are multiple social reinforcements to steer them away from the path of violence first.

So, until such time as a person develops a keen sense of empathy I would say that, like all things in nature, people tend to take the fastest, easiest route to dealing with conflicts. If they're built for physical aggression they'll likely go that route. The big trick to having it work as a lifestyle, it seems to me, is in conveying the threat without having to take action. Someone who goes around pummeling people to get what he wants will end up dead or in jail, but someone who goes around looking as if he might pummel someone and be very good at it, that guy might get what he wants without actually raising a hand in anger.

We've all known women and men who get through their lives quite well on their looks, maybe assisted with some personality. This isn't all that much different.

So, yeah, I would judge that on average the human animal often only peaceful out of necessity, because he lacks the force of arms to simply take what he wants when he wants it -- and that that would apply as much to women as men.

 
At 3:43 PM , Blogger SuperFiancee said...

Blogger totally ate my first attempt and it was mildly coherent and everything! This one is likely to be considerably less so.

Not being a fangirl, I'm not sure how much I can add to the discussion, but wanted to note a couple items that are "real world" factors and, well, if the issue is females in comics being more realistically portrayed, there may be some information crossover. Or not. Who'm I to say?

First, I'll note the obvious. Testosterone, which is found in significantly higher levels in men...overall...than in women, tends to be a driving element in natural aggression. Estrogen, which is found in significantly higher levels in women...overall...than in men, tends to foster nurturing.

This alone makes me feel that your comment that generally men are given to violent confrontations more than women is entirely valid.

Add to that the fact that we, as a species, are constantly evolving to meet the challenges of our environment. It’s something we have no control over.

As intelligent, capable, strong beings (and I happen to think women excel OVER men in all three categories and am raising my three daughters to believe this as well), we have learned to use tools, we have learned to communicate, we have learned to cooperate. All of these things have given us far more options in conflict resolution, and have allowed us to learn better, easier ways to successfully achieve our goals.

In addition, while women tend to handle pain better, women have a lower threshold for pain than men do. So, with a lower natural tolerance, a reduced hormonal penchant for natural aggression and the intellect and skills to avoid physical confrontation, I'm thinking it would be FAR more apt for women to avoid putting themselves in a position to get hurt, if there were other options available, and that women are smart enough to figure out those options.

Now, that doesn't take into consideration the socialization factors that Mike Norton touched briefly (for Mike Norton) on, and those are valid as well. Certainly, women raised in our culture will have certain sociological factors that will play into this as well. I can’t think of a single (healthy) one that would result in aggression being a “normal” initial response.

The "What I Don't Know At All" part is how this applies to superheroines. I would imagine that it would depend on the type and derivation of any super powers (as well as non-human factors, where applicable). And any (or all) of that could obsure (or invalidate) the previous.

I believe that women most assuredly have the capacity for physical aggression/violence. But, I also believe that "in the real world", based on all of the above, while the capacity may, indeed, be present, it is far more likely that violence would be a LAST option and not a first.

Hey, I'm not saying I haven't had the occasional feeling that I wanted to throttle someone. I'm just saying that it's not first up on my dance card. Not even close. And I don't think I'm unusual in that regard.

Throw in "How Does This Apply To Fiction" and you get a whole other discussion. Factor in some ideals like Truth, Justice and the American Way and who knows. But if the argument is that women need to be portrayed more realistically in comics, then I think you are correct in pointing out that they’d be more apt to use their wits, even those with very physical powers.

 
At 4:34 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

Mike,

Well, yeah, but you're still just like you were in that LIFE commercial... you hate everything. Including humanity. It's not that I disagree with most of what you say, I just feel like I want to have more hope that we're capable of finding other ways to solve problems besides brute force. And that once we learn to, we won't automatically go back to brute force just because someone gives us a damn big stick to whack things with.

Tams,

Thanks for the support. Wait. So women are MORE strong, intelligent, and capable than men? Well, that's just... I don't... you can't... I mean...

C'mon! Yeah, Dubya really brings the male curve down, but still, guys can be cool, too...

Okay, yeah, you're right.

Rashen frashen fricken fracken competent smart women... why can't I like dumb blondes like all the OTHER guys I know?

 
At 5:29 PM , Anonymous shilohmm said...

I should have made it much clearer that I was referring primarily to the subset "Those who use violence as children" in arguing that girls who're violent give it up because they end up smaller. Sorry about that.

Not all kids, male or female, use violence as a primary response - some kids are natural negotiators from birth; others show great skill in other methods of using power at a surprisingly early age. When my middle daughter was the smallest kid in the nursery room, and smallest by a considerable margin, she ruled the roost without ever hitting anybody or compromising her goals for years.

Unless, that is, one of the pastor's daughters was there - she was smaller than my daughter but generally managed to take over without violence anyhow. Much to my daughter's bewilderment, too - this kid weilded personal power in a way that was very hard to fight practically before she could talk. They are both skillful people managers to this day, but while they've learned to negotiate somewhat they still mostly rely on the the charm and determination they used as toddlers.

In cultures where violence amd losing your cool is considered feminine and a sign of personal weakness, guys who are violent as kids often learn other strategies as they grow up just as the girls do. OTOH, cultures that code physical force as masculine can afford to let girls be tomboys as kids, because physical pressure will turn most women away from violence even if there's no social pressure. Social pressure only kicks in full force if she's approaching adulthood and not settling down.

But little boys who're gentle in a culture that identifies violence as masculine get a ton of pressure to change practically from birth, and there's no "tomboy" equivalent for boys because, even if gentle boys grow up to be very physically powerful, they aren't likely to be physically aggressive as adults unless conditioned to do so.

My belief is that when a society's sex roles don't fit with nature, then social pressure steps in because physical pressure won't do the job of forcing the person into conformity. Since there is so much cultural pressure on gentle guys to at least act rough and tough (or at least there was when I was a kid - I homeschool, so I've removed my boys somewhat from that sort of thing), I assume that violence is not the "natural, automatic" response for either sex. It's just a method that appeals to some personalities.

I thought this obvious enough that it didn't need to be explicitly stated. I tend to forget how peculiar my world view is.

I also don't think that being willing to resort to violence means you will or have to resort to violence. In my experience, just the fact that you're willing to fight, even if it means you'll get hurt, often means things won't get physical. IMHO bullies are cowards, and will often back down before things come to blows if you stand up to them.

Although I suspect my success was less the fact that I was a good fighter and more the fact that I could frame the conflict in a way that made them lose power if they took me on. If a gang of guys is hassling you, you can usually shame the leader with his own cowardice - "I see, you talk big while surrounded by your friends" - and thus you can reduce the situation from getting clobbered by the gang to a one-on-one situation. Then if you freely admit, "I can't beat you, but you'll come out of this hurting", you've changed the dynamic from "male defending his ego by refusing to be challenged" to "bully who takes on weakling." :p

Bullies don't like to be seen as bullies - they like to be seen as powerful, and cowards aren't considered truly powerful in this culture no matter how strong they may be. I think bullies tend to value violence for its own sake, because it makes them feel powerful, but in reality, people who mostly rely on violence to collect power rarely end up in charge.

I consider violence a valid tool, but violence is only useful when it increases a person's power. I don't value violence in and of itself and didn't mean to imply that.

While my phrase "thunking the bad guy" was meant to carry an element of "releasing tension through physical action," on par with punching out a wall or running a few miles, I wasn't really thinking of beating anyone to a pulp or anything. A thunk to me is a good whack or two, more on par with the posturing between two mid-range dogs in the same pack to determine relative status than on one dog trying to annhiliate another.

Aside from the tension release, thunking a bad guy can be a way of getting him to listen. Violence and discussion do not have to be mutually exclusive. Some people simply won't listen to someone they consider of lower status; in this culture, violence and power confer status, so under the right conditions a bit of violence can actually "open people's ears."

Since guys who over-value physical strength often consider women low status, I suspect a lot of women have fantasies of being able to bash someone because then that pea brain would be unable to dismiss their opinion just because they're physically weak. I'm not talking when a guy refuses to listen in casual conversation, but when it comes to stuff that matters, that's harmful - attitudes that excuse abuse are what gets me, personally, although I know women in authority sometimes run across a subordinate who won't respect them because they're not obvious power users.

When you're dealing with someone who only listens to the powerful, and who codes you as weak because of your sex, gaving him a good whack is a serious temptation... I admit that completely decimating him on a more intellectual field of battle he's labeled masculine is more satisfying, and that women who aspire to positions of authority have to learn multiple ways to take power anyhow, but those more reasonable options usually take longer, and while you're working on them there's a certain satisfaction to watching She Hulk knock some moron around. ;)

 
At 6:38 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

Wow! This has turned into a hideous propaganda session. I'm wondering if I'm supposed to be moved to start resurrecting Aryan superiority propaganda to feed to my blond-haired, blue-eyed sons.

T: The effects of hormones on behavior is a mixed bag, and I don't believe it's as "obvious" - especially the estrogen fostering nurturing behavior - as you're painting it.

To be fair, you did keep it general influence and not cite these as overwhelming determinants. There are at least three separate hormones bulked under the term estrogen, so the picture gets murkier.

It's also important to remember that we really are a mixed bunch. If we were talking about the extremes -- a practically testosterone-free girly girl and a nearly estrogen free alpha male -- I'd agree with the men are more naturally aggressive, but we're not.

The "As intelligent, capable, strong beings (and I happen to think women excel OVER men in all three categories and am raising my three daughters to believe this as well),.." section, well... maybe I shouldn't touch that beyond referring to my comments about aryan supermen above. Anyone on either side of the gender aisle espousing some sweeping superiority is practically drawing a line in the sand and trying to pick a fight with the (roughly) other half of humankind. We don't need a Fuhrina any more than we need another Fuhrer.

Really, though, this whole discussion's gone down the wrong path.

What we're really discussing here is a psychological matter involving the introduction of power and ability. The effect of a path of action being made available to women. Shilohmm's comments are what took H down this path, and if we're to believe S these are coming from a woman; I have no problem believing that.

Her supposition is that if women were suddenly granted the physical density (a redundancy there, but I was trying to avoid leaving cheap shot opportunities) and strength of an athletic man that many of them would be inclined to make use of it aggresively in some situations. It's not necessary to take this to the level of talking about super powers. What S is saying is that if more women had the physical ability to smash a fist into a jaw and drop someone who had done or was in the process of doing something wrong, more women would do so. In the end they'd be bound (as most of us men are) by thoughts of consequences, but the impulse would still be there.

S's perspective is that women don't do these things in large part because they're not an option -- and I would add because it's frowned on strongly by our society for women to try. On the other hand, a guy of small stature is very often driven by society to become more aggressive as a means of making up for his, er... shortcomings. The alternative is to try to find some other areas in which to excel -- which is also part of where societally-directed behavior for women comes into the picture. Even if a guy manages to find a niche -- become the "brain" or the "funny guy", there's still going to be some level of resentment in situations where physical strength and presence are called for, and he's going to feel (and likely be made to feel) inadequate because he had to stand by "like a woman" or take abuse by "being someone's bitch."

It's all through our language and culture, and certainly not just our western one.

It's important to remember during all of this that the average man -- the vast majority of us, in fact -- doesn't haul off and try to assault someone except under the most extreme circumstances.

H: Keep the hope. I'm not saying that everyone will turn into bullies if they are given the ability to do so. I believe you were taking S's point too far, making it both too sweeping and too lasting.

Part of S's point (and mine) is that that men or women, on some level we're all dirty, vicious animals. It doesn't mean we can't and don't rise above it, but to think that all women are kindly, peaceful and nurturing all the time purely by nature is terrible propaganda and C-level fantasy. Her point was that women often find another way in the way that, well, people are driven to find other tools if a direct, physical option... isn't an option.

But, geeeeez. The "Okay, yeah. You're right"? Wow. I... wow.

I'm going to choose to read line above as an ending that was nothing more than a mix of levity and very specialized affection.

 
At 9:52 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

I want to clarify that my last comment was put up well before seeing that shilohmm had posted something. (Too many interruptions kept it sitting before I sent it up stream.) It's not that I'd change anything in what I said, but I don't want her to think my comments were in direct reaction to anything she's said in the comments.

 
At 10:09 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

Mike,

As a general rule, and all my life, I've found women (in general) to be better people (in general) than men. There are always exceptions, but if I had to pick a gender to represent humanity in some alien court, I'd generally opt for women. That perhaps unreasonable bias has probably informed all my comments that have so annoyed shilohmm, as I believe it's better to think about problems, and try to solve them rationally, than it is to simply hurtle in and hammer them flat. And, apparently, that same feeling that women are, generally, a better behaving half of the race than we men, seems to have pissed you off, too. So I'm having a very typical day for me. I'm sorry you're offended, but ::shrug:: I calls 'em like I sees 'em.

shiloh,

I continue to disagree with virtually everything you've been saying, based only on my own personal observations of the interactions between the sexes. To my subjective perception, you do very much seem to speak utterly without qualification when you feel like it, lending your words the spurious tone of objective fact when they are, actually, just more subjective opinion, just like mine. You seem to have read a great deal on the subject, but that simply means you are, in the end, quoting other people's subjective opinions, that happen to agree with yours. You've made some good points, but apparently I've pissed you off (this is more to the latest comments in the Chick Fight! thread, which I'm not going to go looking for right now) and your response is just pissing me off, so what I'm going to do is say, yeah, you're right (over there) we have very different experiences, we are both obviously very unusual people, and I'm not gonna argue about this with you any more.

To both of you -- I don't think I'm making sweeping generalizations. The argument seems to me to be, if people can be violent, then they will be, first, last and always -- people only REFRAIN from violence because they believe it won't work out well for them. Perhaps that's what civilization is -- building a structure in which violence doesn't work as well as other problem resolution techniques. But I do believe that people can learn to rise above it, and I also believe that, at least in our culture (the only one I can speak of with any authority, or, at least, experience), the people who have learned that the best are, for whatever reason, generally female.

Women aren't saints, by any means, and there are certainly violent women, just as there are non violent men (this last I know very well; I'm one of them). When I generalize, well, I am aware I am speaking in generalities. Nonetheless, nothing anyone has said here has really convinced me that any of my generalizations (based on my own observations, funnelled through my own reasoning capacities, which aren't Spocklike or anything, but which have generally served me well) are incorrect or invalid.

And while I wouldn't presume to speak for my beloved, I will say for myself I appreciate hearing her always intelligent viewpoints dismissed with a word like 'propaganda' just as much as I like seeing my public admission of a previous mistake referred to by a phrase like 'bowing long and low'.

 
At 12:42 AM , Anonymous shilohmm said...

we have very different experiences, we are both obviously very unusual people, and I'm not gonna argue about this with you any more.

That's fair. I'm not going to demand the last word in your own blog. ;)

Good luck to you, should I not post again (I tend more toward lurking).

 
At 9:05 AM , Blogger SuperFiancee said...

Mikey -

Just want to note that I wasn't offended by your comments, and I offer the following clarifications:

I'm wondering if I'm supposed to be moved to start resurrecting Aryan superiority propaganda to feed to my blond-haired, blue-eyed sons.

I certainly try to empower my girls. Whether you believe it or not, it's still a very different world out there for the sexes. And while I do temper my teachings with a great deal of compassion and appreciation for all peoples regardless of race, creed, religion, sex, etc. (something the Third Reich skipped right over, btw), I want, very much, for them to feel good about being women. I happen to think it's not only a good thing, but an important one. For the record, when I do say it to them, it's always a little tongue-in-cheek, and I don't think that fact is lost on them. It is much more about wanting them not to buy into the philosophy, as has been the standard pretty much since the dawn of time, that women are inferior copies of men. I was, in no way, intending to “draw a line in the sand” or “pick a fight with half of humankind”, and certainly not with you. And I’m sorry it came across that way.

With regard to hormonal influences, what I meant to imply was "obvious" was that, GENERALLY speaking, the male of the species has higher levels of testosterone, while the females have higher levels of estrogen (and, yes, as a woman in her mid-forties, I'm very aware that estrogen is a catch all for three different hormones which all encompass a variety of attributes...nurturing certainly amongst them). I certainly recognize that there are a GREAT MANY exceptions to that rule, but the fact remains that "a normal blood level of testosterone is between 900 and 1,100 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl) in men and 15 to 100 ng/dl in women".

Now, I didn't mean to imply that the singular function of testosterone was aggression, as it also affects libido, muscle mass, and (in women, anyway) bone density. But that, as you indicated, it’s merely one factor (at whatever level) in males having a greater tendency towards violence. This is not my campaign of testosterone "bad", estrogen "good". In our society (and I realize that for the purposes of comics, not all the players are from, or in, our society), more women than men are the victims of violent crime, more men than women are the perpetrators of violent crime. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a number Lizzie Bordens’ out there, anymore that it means that there aren’t men getting beat on. I’m speaking strictly in averages. It also should not be inferred that testosterone is the sole factor behind these facts, either.

As with mammals (since you brought animals into the discussion), the males are the predominant hunters (with some very notable exceptions, of course), but that does not mean that the females are incapable of a kill. And while violence and aggression are fairly rife in the animal kingdom, there are boundaries even there…including across gender lines. Of course, as socialized, evolved human beings, we are no longer slaves to our animal impulses. Yes, there are urges along those lines, but most of us have developed alternate responses to those animal urges. So much so, that many times they don’t even register.

We have done so because we have learned that there are better ways…less dangerous to ourselves…more acceptable in our society. This is as much in response to our physical needs and abilities, as to our ability to learn and grow from our environment and circumstances.

The notion that women, given super powers would then become overwhelmed with new urges that they’d never had before…especially to the level that those new urges would overshadow their previous instincts, doesn’t strike me as valid. In fact, it seems a little demeaning to me. Just as it would if an intelligent, capable man abandoned that very real part of himself in the same circumstances. (Okay, maybe just a little less in the case of a man, because I am, after all, a woman and, therefore, naturally tend to identify with that group ever so slightly more.)

And maybe that’s on me. I certainly don’t speak for women everywhere any more than I speak for any other group.

Using Highlander’s example of an intelligent, capable woman suddenly being imbued with superhuman strength, the implication is that she would simply dismiss her previous persona completely in pursuit of the advantages of physical strength. I don’t believe so. I simply have to believe that an intelligent, capable woman would see physical strength as a plus, but as simply another weapon in her arsenal…not necessarily the easiest or quickest one to draw upon. I don’t think that using your brain instead of your brawn makes a woman (or a man, for that matter) weaker or in some way less effectual. Quite the contrary, actually.

Highlander’s supposition that women, even muscle-bound examples, would be more apt to (had they the capacity originally) draw on creative and logical alternatives to physical violence, as a primary response, doesn’t seem off the mark to me. It seems very realistic, and I thought that was what we were talking about. Unless, of course, the point I’m missing is that gaining physical mass in some way diminishes mental capacity. And, frankly, if that’s the point, I should probably shut up about this stuff right now…

 
At 4:12 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

It seems that some points have been contorted in some of the responses. Items are pulled out of context and turned around to create straw man arguments that the original commenters never made.

As a for instance, I don't believe that shilohmm stated that smashing a source of a problem flat was superior to using intelligence, but that appears to be the way it was reconfigured in your second response -- within the comment to me.

This happens often everywhere and is likely why I don't tend to get involved with messageboards and comment threads for very long at a stretch. Being perceived as scoring points becomes more important than gaining new perspectives or searching for the truth. Then again, maybe not much truth has ever come out of a publicly recorded committee. The likely problem, as ever, is that even in an Internet backwater it's too public a forum and it's almost impossible to forget that one's essentially on stage. I fault myself for that at least as much as anyone else.

However:

From your response to S:

To both of you -- I don't think I'm making sweeping generalizations. The argument seems to me to be, if people can be violent, then they will be, first, last and always -- people only REFRAIN from violence because they believe it won't work out well for them. Perhaps that's what civilization is -- building a structure in which violence doesn't work as well as other problem resolution techniques. But I do believe that people can learn to rise above it, and I also believe that, at least in our culture (the only one I can speak of with any authority, or, at least, experience), the people who have learned that the best are, for whatever reason, generally female.

Which is something I don't believe I said - the first part about violence being what people will rush to whenever possible. Nor did I claim that people couldn't rise above the impulse to violence nor say that women, in everyday life, weren't markedly less prone to physical violence.

The point we're digging at on that last point, instead, is WHY women are less prone to physical violence? Are women on the average more inclined to find a peaceful (or at least nonviolent) solution because of a superior intellect or some other wonderful quality inherent in them? Is it more a combination of what most societies expect of them and millennia of random genetic experiments (using the word loosely, as I'm not implying they were willfully set up) in which when members of a physically smaller, weaker group attempted to attack a conflict or problem in a direct, physical way, some of them didn't survive the process?

Now, did this last element make them better, or just chemically and neurologically predispose them towards alternate means of conflict resolution? That seems to be the question this discussion's gotten directed to, and I don't believe I'm qualified to answer it.

All I was ultimately saying was that some people, male or female, if violence was on the table as an option, will go for it if they believe it is an option and it will work. The impulse to take a fist to a smirk on the face of someone who just did one wrong, I believe, knows no gender.

Similarly, the restraint, the impulse to not do something violent, is present in both men and women. Not everyone, of course, and to widely varying degrees from person to person. Most societies either encourage, condone or at least give a knowing wink to men giving into those impulses in more situations than they do women.

The source of that restraint, it seems to me, comes primarily from two sources: fear of punishment and an active capacity for empathy... and it's arguable that empathy could be little more than superstitious fear that something that is done to someone else might in turn be done to us. The source of all restraint could be seen as fear. I know that's something of a digression, but I wanted to make the side-point that avoiding violence isn't necessarily a sign of a superior being.

Maybe (to resurrect something from a discussion we had years ago) some of this is similar to the tale of the Gordian Knot, and depends upon whether or not one considers cutting the knot with a sword was a brilliant solution or a cheat. I suppose a great deal depends on whether or not one intends to reused the rope.

Is a screw (as a heavy duty fastening device) superior to a nail? Someone with a screwdriver is likely to view it that way, while someone with a hammer might not, and instead be irritated by all that time spent working the fastener into the wood when a good, honest, whack would do it. The one with the screwdriver's even more likely to be predisposed to thinking the screw's superior if s/he lacks the physical strength to effectively use the hammer because it's a 20 lb sledge.

In my experience it's more often a woman who gets and holds onto a grudge longer than a man, and some of the nastiest attacks I've seen have come from women, usually done in ways that we're societally programmed to consider devious, underhanded and cowardly were they done by men. I can't help but think that if those same people had a more direct way of striking back at someone they might take it. Maybe they still wouldn't, I don't know.

I have no illusion that women are inherently better (ie more peaceful and benevolent) human beings than men. We have to take each person on his or her own traits and merits.

I will say that I've bounced all this off Ari here, and she enthusiastically endorsed the view that women, in general, are far more vicious and vindictive than men. They're far more likely to brood longer and carry out plans for revenge. On the other hand, she doesn't believe that women would be as inclined to go the direct, physical confrontation route even if they had the strength of arms to do it.

Maybe the lesson here is that when it comes to women and superpowers we don't have to worry about She Hulk a fraction as much as we would a Jean Grey or the Scarlet Witch?

T: Where did the "Whether you believe it or not, it's still a very different world out there for the sexes" come from? There's no way I can conceive of to deliver that line where it doesn't comes across in the fashion of "What color is the sky on your world?" It's not even a case of losing a spoken nuance by rendering it in print. It's an out of left field/redefinition of the argument/put-down in the same spirit of trying to cast people who object to the war as having a lack of regard for the troops. I have no doubt that this is not what you intended to convey, but it's the only message I could take from it.

Of course I or almost anyone knows it's a different world out there for each sex.

In the end, it's too clear that having two of the people in a column like this living in the same house where they are talking about the issue and telling each other they're right in a circle leads not only to drastic oversimplifications of any opposing arguments but some unintended redefinition of what's being argued.

I've already gone past my two response rule in someone else's thread, so this marks the end of the thread for me. I suspect we've all said our piece, and I know that I have.

Saturday's disappearing on me!

 
At 6:00 AM , Blogger Highlander said...

Tossing around heavily loaded words like 'propaganda' (to the point where one even uses them twice) is something one should do very cautiously.

I try to choose my words very carefully. When I restate someone else's arguments, I am not doing it to make points, I am doing it for purposes of clearer communication... to illustrate what I believe the person is saying... that I understood it, and this is HOW I understood it.

It seems that if I continue to argue with you about something, I'm close minded and overly competitive. On the other hand, if I change a long held opinion in a way that you do not agree with, then I'm capitulating, or groveling, or currying favor, or prostrating myself before the altar of femininity, or some goddam thing.

And if I state something you flatly disagree with, even if it's simply a personal opinion like "I prefer women to men, in general, and in general, if I had to judge both genders, I would find women to be better people, usually, than men are"... well, then I get an appalled and astonished finger wagging from you, and firm, Truth From On High rejoinder about how everyone has to be judged as an individual. Which is true. And also entirely off the subject, when the subject is very specifically the different ways men and women respond to conflict.

You and Nate. Both of you are absolute avatars of conviction. I wish to God I was as certain of anything as both of you seem to be about everything.

 

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