That women are more about people and men more about things is one of the most durable sex differences. Oh sure, there are outliers. It is just exceptions do not disprove a general rule.
One of my gal friends sent me video just last week of a baboon troupe exposed to kid’s toys, trucks, or dolls. Sure enough, the male baboons were interested in the trucks while the female baboons picked up the dolls and dragged them around like babies.
My friend said she ignored the dolls as a child and preferred trucks. She is truly one of a kind and does not fit typical predilections. She grows an extraordinary garden engineered for production & efficiency out of four-gallon pots lined up and down her driveway that has my envy.
The same way we find men who can do things we normally associate with women. Cooking is an area some men have a real knack for. My old friend Loris was the second oldest of four sons born to Italian immigrants. I met him when I was about twenty and spoke at his funeral a few years ago.
The first time I went to his house at lunch time he made me breaded zucchini like I have never had again. He prepared most family meals, and his three sons can all cook. One is a chef by profession.
Running sales teams in various cities across Canada for many years, I taught managers of all genders how to read maps. Men picked it up quickly, women, not so much. Among my collection of books is Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps, by Barbara and Allan Pease.
Yet my sister-in-law Michelle has the best sense of direction of anyone I have ever known. At times I suspected she has particles in her brain that coordinate with earth’s magnetic field like birds because if I made one wrong turn, she would know immediately… and point it out.
As we confront our challenges, many are surprised to learn that we carry so much shame from our early years. Men are superb suppressors of emotion, an adaptation which allows cool under fire in emergencies. It can turn to repression where we do not have a clue how we feel.
Yet, it is in the work done to uncover, expose and rectify shame that we find significant growth. To that end, as I got to know shame better, both in myself and the men I have the privilege of working with, I developed an understandable shame awareness.
It is not quite like buying a red truck and suddenly noticing every red truck in town, but there is no doubt heightened sensibility comes along with the work. An example is rejecting both compliments and criticism from the people around you. When I see that in others, I suspect shame.
To that end, despite seeing mostly men in my daily existence, online or in person, I conclude that women carry even more shame than men. I see it in their defensiveness and hypervigilance, and the oft-irrationality of their personal suffering.
For example, social scientist Roy Baumeister points out most women tend to keep one or two, usually no more than five, best pals whom they guard jealously from each other and use for emotional regulation.
I grew up with four sisters and have found women suffer without trusted friends nearby.
Susan Pinker, writing in The Sexual Paradox, says the feminine competes by maneuvering covertly using mean remarks, social exclusion and by winning over each other’s friends and allies.
Some men do this too. 007 we imagine does it professionally. Machiavellianism could be said to be feminine energy I say.
In one Israeli study Pinker cites, girls ran against boys in track and scored best times. Boys ran against boys and scored their best times. But when the girls ran against girls their times dropped. No one wanted to be the first across the finish line and risk alienation say the study authors.
The sisterhood bands together for emotional regulation as a survival strategy. Without it, she is emotionally cast adrift from the group, her belonging uncertain, out on a limb from which she may not retreat should her male supports let her down.
That is no small thing. It would be like a child being left at the edge of the village alone, exposed to the elements and the animals. She loses her safety and succorance, her belonging.
Women are about people generally and they use their empathy to grow those around them. This is a wonderful gift. I often tell men that women do not get male weakness, it seems they do not have the bandwidth to understand how this can happen.
That she will grow up one day and be a creator of life is understood early. Her corresponding view of the males around her is that they will grow up and be powerful defenders of life.
She believes everyone and his dog knows this, that it is that self-evident. When she encounters weakness in an adult male, she can be intolerant. She has tolerance for babies and children, the sick, the infirm, the old and the frail, not so much for grown men. Women need powerful men.
When she is criticized, her shame rises as if her very existence is questioned. Her hypervigilance and defensiveness soon kick in to protect her soul. The spirit speaks for the soul, so her responses in the face of an attack on her being are… ‘spirited’ to say the least.
One of the things I suggested to my son as he made his way through life was to find himself a gal with a university education. She is still a woman, but that kind of gal will have been exposed to logic, discourse, and communication enough to at least give you a shot at reasonable argument.
It is no guarantee, but I took this gambit on his behalf. He told me later my advice counted.
The fairer sex carries more negative emotion. Men are neurotic too but women in general hit this one out of the park. It is an adaptation which allows her to spot danger and sickness in the people around her, especially children. “Ont as tous les défauts de nos qualités” say the French.
Women in general think more with both hemispheres than men and run information through the limbic (emotion) system of the brain. The corpus callosum connecting both sides of the brain is thicker in women.
If I go somewhere socially, she picks up all the undercurrents happening between people far better than I do. She remembers birthdays and such. Me, not so much.
She will tend to overthink, something a man can stand in and help her with on occasion. She also has better verbal ability earlier on. But you put a man and a woman in a room and let them argue, she is usually talking circles around him. One of the reasons for this is what I call abuse of empathy.
Men have rules of the game in an argument, probably so they don’t kill each other. The ad hominem attack is understood to be weak. It might surprise you that no one seems to have let women know about this little caveat.
Get into an argument with a woman, and with her hackles raised, nothing seems out of bounds. Your looks, your weight, your dress, your personality, and any number of personal things that have nothing to do with the subject at hand might be used against you as she defends herself.
And the degree to which she is defending herself is usually a construct of her own mind and history and bears little connection to the situation at hand.
If you feel something today, you have felt it before. You are not dealing with her in the present moment, but a history of feeling slighted.
In Warriors and Worriers, Joyce Benenson compares little girls and boys playing in the school yard sandbox. If two little boys are playing and a third one arrives, he is usually welcomed regardless of if they have played together before.
If two little girls are playing in the sandbox and a little girl arrives to join in who is not an approved “friend,” chances are the two will move off elsewhere.
Women have contended with rejection from very early in age and are wired to be egalitarian.
It is our hunter-gatherer brain. If you and I hunt and you kill a deer, we share the meat. You might keep the heart and liver and the very best cuts. But once we arrive at our respective caves, the women make sure everyone eats.
When I talk of abuse of empathy is a woman’s birth right, I am referring to her innate abilities being turned against you.
Just as a man’s strengths can be used for violence or for defense, so can her assets of verbal ability, negativity bias, egalitarianism, and wider scope be used to abuse.
Her strength in that moment becomes saboteur.
Either way it is still his birthright.
Either way, it is still her birthright.
Both male aggression and female empathy are sex difference birthrights.
By understanding this about women, you can appreciate her gifts and protect yourself accordingly.
It’s why I wrote The House Rules, so that you and she could negotiate fairness in advance of your discussions.
A good trick is to agree on a code word or phrase either can use to take a break. Missus and I use, “Let me get back to you about this.”
This enables you to create rules of engagement when things are going well, so that when things get heated, you are prepared.
And without turning to the “you are essentially fucked up and broken like all women” line of shaming talk and thinking espoused by certain online cowards.
Abuse of empathy, it’s a wonder of nature.
Be aware and beware, but be men.
Powerful, true and free…