Wednesday, March 20, 2019

What Are Women Better At?

The idea remains that variability in women implies, or even demands mutability and full replaceability.  That is, because some women are good at math, that lots more women could be good at math - exactly the same percentage as men - if we just removed the barriers and encouraged them more.  It is an article of faith that if women don't score as well at highest levels, it must be because something is wrong with our culture. Even the strategy of teaching math in a school system that favors females in every subject does not make the bad numbers go away.  So there must be something wrong. That there are women who are better than 99% of men at math (or tennis, or building things) and men who are worse than 99% of women at some things is not enough.  The percentages must hold at all levels in all fields, especially at the very highest.

It's easy to see why the view is held.  There have been many things over the centuries that supposedly only men could even do, let alone excel at, that women have turned out to be competent at, and even excel themselves.  One by one the male exclusives have fallen, and the thought is that whatever remaining male-female differences remain will eventually fall, too, we just have to figure out how.  Well, perhaps. It's no longer looking so obvious, however.

There is a related idea that runs parallel to it.  I don't know which one is smuggling the other in, but this changes our view of history.  If we accept the idea that cultural changes will eventually make the sexes entirely equal in all abilities, we are driven to the conclusion that women could have been doing these things all along, but were held back by men. All inequalities in the past must be attributable to culture. And this is precisely what many people do think. This idea is dominant in most academic fields. It can be dangerous to even suggest otherwise. That belief in turn generates a deeper cultural idea, that things could have gone otherwise and still brought us to the world we have now, or even better. There is no need, therefore, to have any gratitude to those who came before.

I have a different picture.  Some advantages that men bring to the table are size and strength, especially upper-body strength, that they like machines, tools, and building things, and that they don't get pregnant. Pregnancy, I am told, creates physical limitations.  Looking on, this seems to be so.  Women were multiply vulnerable outside of group protection. For vulnerability within the tribe there is a fair complaint that this should not be so, and it is an oppressive male culture that makes it so.  There are twists and turns that actually make this not so simple in terms of evolutionary biology, but let's stay with the simple case here. However, they would still be vulnerable to violence of other tribes, including the women - there is no sororal unity recorded among the world's cultures - and it does seem a bit stiff to blame the men of your tribe for the culture of the tribe next door.

And tribes next door was the reality.  For everyone.  If your group forgets that you die soon.

There is also the matter of food.  There are tribes where the women produce most of the food, in agricultural setups, especially gathering.  Even then, however, the protein from hunting or fishing is critical, and there is still the matter of the guys across the river with spears who want to take your food. If the tribe is pastoralist, it needs men, if it is agriculturalist on a larger scale, animals start to be important and that upper-body strength and ability to move outside a small radius is necessary as well. Pounding things as a smith, herding animals on a horse, getting a cart out of the mud, getting in a boat and traveling far.

Very recently, those advantages of men have become less important.  We can use clever machines to supplement strength; with greater abundance we can divide labor so that people with less upper-body strength can do other, specialised and often quite useful things. Division of labor leads to more division of labor, and those vulnerable people, if they have figured out clever things about markets and negotiation, can hire some less-vulnerable people who are less likely to be assaulted to put the ale on a cart and transport it ten miles away, stay overnight, and bring back the old barrels.

Very recently, many (though not all) of our weapons of war can be used by women as well as men. The invention of firearms went a long way to equalising, and that was just the beginning.  Physical strength is no longer universally necessary in war, and will probably become less and less important because of technical advantages going forward. Women don't have to get pregnant anymore, and while this does not protect them from assault, it does keep their risk from compounding. Enslaving women is still a problem in many places of the world and I don't see it going away soon, but it has gone away in the west anyway, and a few other places as well.

We have moved away from a world where the advantages men bring were life-or-death issues.  However, I don't think we can now do without them just because we have equalised many things. And I am frankly quite tired of modern societies being blamed because previous societies did not overcome differences in biology enough to suit modern tastes. If they had they would have died out. All this adaptation is new, and frankly quite risky.  We just happen to live in one of those few cultures that values fairness, so we're trying it. Men didn't design women's biology and it's just silly to get even close to the idea of blaming them.  Take it up with the principle of sexual dimorphism in ancestral species.  Or with God.

I have framed this rather defensively, likely unnecessarily to a crew who regards this argument as fairly unremarkable, even obvious. I have focused on some of the great things men have done to keep us all alive and build our cell-phones and cruise ships, which focus may be becoming tiresome even to the female readers who largely agree with me. Fair enough.  Yet I have set this up to make a nearly opposite point. However much oppression we might find in the record, and 21st C resentment that girls were not allowed to ride horses over the far hills like they do in the books and movies, they still made up half of every tribe.  If we are talking life-and-death vis a vis the other tribes inb the area, and being able to outcompete them, the tribe that used female advantages would have a leg up.  It's the same argument, really.  Those with advantages survived, and became Wonderful Us. If we are looking back with gratitude, the women must be part of that from earliest times, even if we can't always discern exactly what it is from the material remains. 

What were the advantages in primitive times that women brought to their tribes?  Pottery looks like a definite.  Child-rearing and nursing are now considered unglamorous, but they do have to be done, and delivering sheep ain't all that glamorous neither. We can measure in modern times that women have higher conscientiousness and better fine-motor coordination. Those must have been consistently useful to be still hard-wired into females more than males today.  How did that play out in hunter-gatherer, in pastoralist, in agricultural societies?  I leave off technological societies because there hasn't been much change in hard wiring since those came on the scene, just exploiting the various male and female skills in new ways. The tribes that led to us must have had some advantage drawn strictly from the female side. Or some other tribe would have displaced them and led to people who aren't us.


james said...

I'm not persuaded that technology is going to change warfare as much as the military procurement folks think. The enemy gets a vote in the "kill people and break things" contest, and when some of our stuff gets broken, the fighters on the ground (and you always need those fighters on the ground to explain to the enemy that he lost) have to be able to improvise and haul.

I've wondered about the same point with a tighter focus: it doesn't make sense to expect women to compete with men in sports geared specifically to men's strengths--in what kinds of sports can women do as well? --Marksmanship-- / --Markspersonship-- / --Marksperoffspringship-- / Shooting comes to mind (Annie Oakley). What can women do better? Nothing non-subjective comes to my mind, but skating and ribbon dancing or whatever they call it are Olympic sports. For speed and number of spins the men win, but I don't know about precision. It wouldn't surprise me if women were better at precision.

FWIW, The Empire of the Summer Moon noticed that Comanche women rode almost as much as the men did. And their fertility was so low that the tribe had to raid for children as well as loot and horses. There's more than one way for a tribe to die out.

dmoelling said...

I think a good way to compare more ancient societies (as well as more recent) is to look at the role of Queens and Empresses. The Greeks, Jews, Phoenicians and Britons had famous and powerful Queens. Romans had influential women in the Republic and probably in the early Empire as well. Persians, Egyptians and most Asian societies don't seem to have prominent women in ancient times (I may be wrong). The women in these roles seem to be comfortable in tasks that traditionally were considered male such as directing negotiations or dispatching armies. So it may be that only a few women (using Margaret Thatcher as a model) were suited to the crown without immediately yielding control to a consort.

Sam L. said...

Vimmen Do NOTTTT all zink alike. Und tryink to make zem all do or like ze zame thinks ist ZEHR SCHTUPID! Und fooooooooolisch!

Christopher B said...

Per gestation period 9 women and 1 man can (theoretically) make 9 babies, 1 woman and 9 men can (at best) make 1. Anything else that a woman adds to the tribe is gravy and maybe not even gravy, the cherry on top of the sundae.

Dan Kurt said...

re: "Physical strength is no longer universally necessary in war," AVI

Never was Physical Strength paramount in war as it was and is in individual battles. War has depended on intelligent leadership, organization, camaraderie, courage under fire, and cooperation. Women make all of these impossible.

The recent firing of First Female USAF Demo Team Leader Zoe Kotnik has resulted in a thirst for the blood of the officer who relieved her:[]. Be sure to watch the video that allegedly demonstrates the unfitness of the officer who fired Kotnik as that video demonstrates the camaraderie that existed among the fighter pilots who made the film.

Also recall the recent collision of a Navy ship crewed with a number of women officers, females who were not talking to each other in fits of pique at the time of the collision. Listen to this week's traditionalRight's podcast []. Go to 56.40 and learn how females help with damage control.

Dan Kurt

Linda Fox said...

Years ago I was on a church group softball league. We were a slightly above average team, except for one year when we were unbeatable.

That year, a few of the guys identified a quick way to improve the team - train the girls on batting and fielding. We weren't as good as the guys (although were were a LOT better than the females on the other teams), but - because the rules said at least 4 girls in the lineup - the improvement of the females made quite a difference to our performance.

Perhaps the same was true of the early tribes. Teaching the women a little about defending themselves, and making weapons that they could handle, might make the difference between survival and destruction of the tribe. Some of the early warrior peoples had women helping out on the battlefield in non-combatant roles.

Modern men are more competent in the kitchen, and most handle childcare with proficiency. Perhaps this will also lead to societal advantages.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Your example is an excellent one.

It flies in the face of Ricardo's Law, but I think it's correct anyway.