July 13, 2006

Inequality: Men and Women

Why are there two sexes?
Imagine a population of hermaphrodites. Some will be genetically biased towards putting more time and effort into mating, their genes will thrive as they inseminate many others. Others will be biased towards expending energy by producing eggs and bearing babies, they will also be genetically successful as can do their best to ensure their children survive. Those individuals who lie in the middle, and specialise in neither activity, will die out. The first type leads to a small active gamete, the second a larger, static gamete. The union of two unequal gametes in reproduction is known as anisogamy. Inter-sex competition ensures that this dichotomy persists. Thus was born man and woman.

Why are we (especially men) overconfident?
Due to conflicts between predator and prey, group living and the competition for reproduction, deception has evolved under natural selection, and as a consequence, so has the capacity to detect deceit. The easiest way of avoiding detection is to effectively lie to ourselves. This is known as self-deception. So, not only do we wish to appear (genetically) fitter than others (this has obvious advantages when it comes to sexual selection), but we actually believe that we are. Self-deception leads to overconfidence.

Ladies First
The fundamental difference between the sexes is that the female will always be the limiting sex in reproduction. This places women in a privileged position. Women wish to attract high status men (plus reliability for long-term partners) and to achieve this they simply need to appear youthful, look attractive and behave selfishly. Women are more than twice as likely as men to initiate domestic violence and more than twice as likely to use weapons in domestic violence.

Disadvantaged Men
Men are forever motivated to compete with other men in order to attain mate value. They will seek to improve their apparent status and are best equipped to do this via self-deception and subsequent overconfidence. Men expose themselves to all types of risks in competition with other men and are far more likely than women to die prematurely. They also have to incur the costs of providing resources. Women and high status men ensure that all societies are set up with a primary goal of preventing the majority of males from expressing their sexuality in anything but a minimal way. The upshot of this is that the most disadvantaged in society are low status men (and even high-status men are forced to compete and take risks to attain that status). They are granted no privileges, are invisible to the rest of society, take demeaning jobs, go to war, etc. Is it any wonder that men are sixteen times more likely than women to go to prison? To make matters worse, the current political climate heaps more privilege upon the already privileged.

Why There are More Men in Higher Office and/or Science
  • Motivation. Men have to compete with other men for status and this translates directly into men contesting each other for positions within organisations. There is no parallel for women.
  • Brains. There are large sex differences in IQ-related grey/white matter which produces radically different cognitive styles which result in men being better equipped to tackle science.
  • Distribution. When various traits (including IQ) are measured, men tend to have a larger variance than women. This translates into a larger percentage of men to be expected in both tails, so we would expect more men present at the highest levels.
Posted by Martin Sewell at July 13, 2006 12:51 PM