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Men, Women, and the Rules of Competition, 1/31
Heather Heying and Mary Harrington offer thoughts
If—as I argue below—male dominance hierarchies have historically been maintained through overt means, and female dominance hierarchies have historically been maintained through covert means, then dropping us into a social stew together, in which males and females are explicitly pitted against each other in a quest for a single currency, to work together while pretending that we all understand and play by the same rules, is to invite discord at best, disaster at worst.
One of her ideas is that men have a social strategy that works well in war: organize unrelated males, fight other groups overtly according to rules, then reconcile after battle. Women have a social strategy that works well for protecting their individual health and the health of their children: emphasize safety, covertly undermine the status of unrelated females, and exclude rivals rather than reconcile with them.
if female typical social patterns of the kind described by Benenson were indeed exerting a growing influence on public life, then along with a drift away from overt hierarchy we’d expect office politics to take subtler forms: for example — as Benenson suggests — by enforcing equality and weaponising social ostracism.
Later in that essay, Harrington writes,
A list of “2019’s Most Influential Diversity Professionals” published by Hive Learning, offers us 13 men and 63 women. And a principal task of diversity professionals is increasing the job opportunities available for women, and especially of women engaged in diversity work.
In her interview with Lyons, Harrington says,
much of what looks like ideological conflict within institutions can plausibly be read as a conflict for increasingly scarce resources conducted in the female key. Whereas men tend to be more direct in their aggression, women typically compete indirectly via tactics such as hidden hierarchies, mob hostility, or conflict disguised as moral condemnation or concern for the group.
As I read Heying, it occurred to me that men would be accustomed to competing in situations with formal rules, clearly spelled out, while women are accustomed to more covert forms of competition. That would seem to me to make men better suited to building large-scale institutions, with more than the Dunbar Number of participants, because I think of those institutions as requiring formal rules—or is that my masculine preference for overt competition showing?.
Heying is optimistic that men and women can learn to work effectively together in team situations. She uses as an example co-ed teams playing Ultimate Frisbee.
I would counter that this example is one in which everyone agrees to play by formal rules. My guess is that while women may play in a different style, they do not try to subvert the rules of the game.
But in other institutions, including academia, women are contributing to the subversion of the old rules. It used to be that requirements for climbing the status hierarchy were merit-based and constant. Now the game has deteriorated. The rules for what constitute acceptable behavior change at a dizzying pace (just ask an older feminist or gay rights activist about the trans rights movement), and merit has been superseded by social justice.
I think that the change is happening particularly rapidly in the field of economics. It was once a field known for the influence of its politically conservative minority. Now it is on what I call the Road to Sociology, with its agenda set by its extreme progressive minority. As you know, I have been able to document this trend.
I wish that academia, politics, business, and journalism were like my picture of Ultimate Frisbee. Women could play, and many could play quite well (relatively better than they can at games requiring the use of physical force). But they would have to play within traditional rules instead of covertly changing the rules.