30 August 2007

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Men as seen by women, and vice versa

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing "men as seen by women, and vice versa."

This is a very common topic which we have discussed in many guises and
context. Which partly explains why my essay is rather short. But I hope
that this has not prevented me from writing a few things worth reading.

See you Sunday,

Take care,


**********HOLIDAY FLATS**********
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[the essay could do with a second check!]
Men as seen by women, and vice versa

For practical purposes and matters of logistics, I will focus my
discussion on the vice versa part of the topic. Furthermore, this topic
has appeared in many discussions under various guises and contexts.

For better or for worse, any discussion on this topic must surely start
with the genetic and evolutionary beginnings. And although we do not
have to go into great details it is worth reminding ourselves that
nature has found it fit to divide the reproductive process into two
distinct systems. Some species of creatures do not need this (for
example, amoeba) but not so in our case. We must not confuse nature's
blueprint and our ability today to tinker with this system. This is very
analogous to customised cars; they might look different and perform
differently from the average family car, but once you scratch the
surface (metaphorically of course) we find the same structural basics.

Hence, there is an intrinsic difference, which may be interpreted as a
deterministic difference, between the biological function of the female
and the male. To an untrained philosophical mind we might interpret this
in terms of value judgements. That is judgements that might be based on
our present day moral standards or expected utilitarian function. But of
course nature does not work this way; there are no value judgements in
nature. In nature things just happen, whether we like it or not or
whether we approve of it or not. Never mind that speaking of "nature" or
"nature does not ..." might lead us to think that there is some sort of
being or creature, called nature, with the ability to decide these things.

It is of course this lack of understanding and lack of philosophical
sophistication that some people, most of which males, try to exploit
this difference in the two sexes. Hence, because the woman has to
physically bare the next generation, by necessity it limits her scope
and freedom of movement. But this restriction is interpreted as a
weakness, which, of course, is not the case. For example, if we take
into account the pain involved in childbirth we could not but conclude
that it takes a lot of personal and biological strength to manage and
cope with this pain. It is also true that today medical science has come
up with some solutions to suppress and manage this pain. Nevertheless,
it does not lessen the fact that childbirth pain is a natural process
which requires exceptional strength and something not experienced by males.

We might even go further and suggest that the historical and, in some
places, the current belief that the woman is the property of the male is
the result of this immobilisation of the female during the child bearing
process. But of course the word husband does have a meaning which
originates in the Old Norse concepts of "master of the house" + "a man
who has land and stock." (thefreedictionary.com: husband). in a way the
male is in a better position to have and maintain a house, he is not
immobilised, and most important the male would have a genetic interest
in making sure that the female brings to full gestation a pregnancy and
even beyond that. of course, as I have already said, in our way of
interpreting the world around us, words like 'master,' 'has' and 'stock'
are fully laden with moral connotations, but nature is immune to this
moral way of seeing things. If we owe something, especially such a high
investment ticket item like a house, we would be rather sensitive to its
ownership. It is in our "interest" to protect whatever we have (it is
cost efficient by not having to get again) and it is practical to make
this an instinct (it does not require a lot of time). We mustn't forget
that our state of being today is the equivalent of a highly customised
car that can travel to the moon. During the time when Norse men were
taking Anglo-Saxon women as wives (and much before that) life was
simpler and certainly more basic; as simple and as basic as a run about
that just about takes you the supermarket.

I would argue that if today there are people who still think that women
are objects of possession and ownership this reflects a serious lack of
philosophical sophistication, at the very least. Of course, I am not
suggesting that we ought to be a walking Spinoza or Hume, but I am
suggesting that this lack of philosophical awareness is not something
that should be let to go by unnoticed.

But we still have an intellectual obligation to try and understand this
idea that a woman is a man's possession. As philosophers we have the
luxury of considering and interpreting certain factors which clinical
psychologists, sociologists and law enforcement agents do not have. In
the primordial game of reproduction it is not enough that we get to
mate, but also to make sure that we have a better chance of mating
compared to others. Thus, I would argue, preventing others from mating
is equally beneficial to us as much getting the opportunity to mate.
This idea is not the same as: if we cannot mate then we do our best to
prevent others from mating (the dog-in-a-manger syndrome; if such a
thing exists). But rather, if we are mating and you are not then
genetically speaking we are better off.

And what better way is there to prevent others from mating than to
restrict access to the female population. Thus, the concept of
"ownership" makes genetic sense in the same way that having ownership of
our eyes makes genetic and biological sense. Thus, it is not a
dog-in-a-manger situation but rather a musical-chairs genetic game. If
this is not the case, why would we make such a fuss about adultery?

Today, I would argue, reproduction has become another biological
function which has seriously to compete with other functions; for
example, good health, personal development, quality of life and so on. I
would even go so far as to say that today we even subcontract the
reproduction process from beginning to end: test tube conception, womb
renting, gynaecological care, medical assisted childbirth and later on,
the hiring of nannies and the establishment of kindergarten and schools
in general. Today, we do not even need a boot in our customised car,
since the supermarket makes home deliveries now.

There is, of course, one minor problem in all this: we have forgotten to
tell the genes about the new state of affairs. Thus when a man sees a
woman the genes might be saying reproduce, but all the guy wants is to
have a good time. this is like our little run about thinking that every
time it leave the garage it thins it is going to the supermarket, but in
fact we are going for good time along the coast stopping when we want to
enjoy the view and breath the fresh air. This can lead to some serious

On her blog Andrea Learned (1) quotes from a story in the LA Times (1),
the following: "In 70% of my sales, if the woman likes the home, the man
goes along with it," said Paul Britton, a Prudential California Realty
agent in Bellflower. "Her approval is key to the purchase." For our
purpose it is not relevant what happens in the other 30% of the cases.
What is important about this is that here we have empirical evidence
that contributes to the hypothesis that, "Women see a home; Men see a
house" (which is also Learned's title for her blog entry).
Thefreedictionary entry also says that Old English had a word to
describe the Old Norse concept of "mistress of the house." And although
the words have not survived this idea of "mistress of the house" still
survives not only in our language, but also in many cultures. Doesn't
this suggest to you that the male-female blueprint relationship was
meant to be something like an admiral-captain relationship, rather than
master-slave relations? Except that someone forgot that the captain was
recently (shall we say the 1960's) was promoted to admiral as well.

This might explain why men have some problems adjusting to the idea that
now they have to do some of the housework and chores in the house. In
the past it was enough just to own the house, but not anymore. But, as I
said before, someone has forgotten to tell the genes. Which might also
go a long way to explain and justify the advice given by the British
comedienne, Jo Brand, and quoted in The Independent (2): "How do you
know if it's time to wash the dishes and clean your house? Look inside
your pants. If you find a penis in there, it's not time."

In the world of work and employment it is very commonly believed that
women are prevented by men from advancing their career or discriminated
against. it goes without saying that it is reasonable to supposes that
some people in position of authority or power do thwart the career of
others including would be women high fliers. This has to be balanced
against a background where there are also many women in business who are
in position of authority not to mention owners of their business. What
is often overlooked is that when people compete against each other,
discrimination is a very effective technique to use against one's
opponents. Moreover, maybe it is easier to discriminate against women
than it is to discriminate against men.

Unfortunately, some think that the way to redress this inequitable
situation is either through positive discrimination or maybe excessive
punitive legislation. Of course, an illegal or criminal act should
always be redressed. But for me it is the system that needs fixing. It
is not that women have to be treated fairly in the present system, but
that we have to succeed in a fair system.

One area where the system needs fixing is the way the education system
is financed. The present trend in education, especially universities, is
to move towards self financing of education either directly, by having
to pay fees, or indirectly by having to pay market prices for
accommodation. Thus, for those who do not have independent means of
support are put at a disadvantage against those who do. Some of these
people, without independent means of financing, would include women. And
in the medium term some women would be in another disadvantaged
situation when they come to have a family. In the short term consider
how some women students have to deal with the present fees situation (in
the UK). This story appeared in the Times OnLine (3) in October, 2006:
Female students turn to prostitution to pay fees. Jonathan Milne. "MORE
and more students are resorting to prostitution or other jobs in the sex
industry to pay rising university tuition fees, a study has found."

Another aspect that affects how men see women is when women try to act
or behave like men or worse. Consider what Esther Rantzen, a famous TV
personality in the UK, has to say: "....You might think that with these
shining examples (male bosses) among my influences, when my turn came I,
too, would become an exemplary boss. Alas, you would be wrong. Looking
back, though, I was not only tough, but rough, and that wasn't
necessary." Of course, nobody likes this kind of behaviour especially
from a boss. The fact that Rantzen also had to cope with a young family
at the same time is of no consequence when we evaluate a boss. Hence,
the common feeling that women bosses can be as bad if not worse than man
exists in fact. Of course, speaking from my personal experience, I
cannot say that my women bosses were/are worse or better than my male
bosses. What I can say, however, is that bosses tend to reflect both the
company culture and the limits of their competence.

Maybe there is a natural prejudice against women bosses, not because
they are women, but more because they are bosses. But consider what Dr
Martin said in an article in The Independent (2): "Men see being funny
as a male thing," and then..." More than half the men who took part in
the survey revealed that a witty woman was not what they (men) were
looking for in a partner." The report suggests that this is because men
like to perform to an audience and prefer to be the centre of attention.
If we think that "a woman's place is in the kitchen" is a cliché, then
surely thinking that "women should not try to be funny" is something
very serious indeed.

We know, however, that women can be as funny as men, in the same way
that they can be a good in sports, music and businesses. Hence the
competence and efficiency is not better or worse than men. Any
differences that might exist when men and women see each other must be
based on some psychological or philosophical principle. But these
principles take into account our moral and functional perspectives. In
any event, it would also be difficult to see others in an objective and
unemotional way; we cannot be scientists all the time. Hence, women
might sometimes see men as uncaring, whereas men might see women as

Take care


(1) Women See A Home: Men See A House
Andrea Learned

The original LA Times article can be found at:
A woman sees the home in a house
August 12 2007
(requires free registration)

(2) Why men don't fancy funny women
The Independent

(3) Female students turn to prostitution to pay fees
Jonathan Milne
Times Online, October 8, 2006

(4) Why women bosses are bullies
By Guardian Unlimited, Esther Rantzen

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Men as seen by
women, and vice versa

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