Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Culture as "Biological Strategy"

Dr. Roy F. Baumeister, Eppes Eminent Professor of Psychology & Head of Social Psychology Area at Florida State University, delivered an interesting address before this year's session of the American Psychological Association that discussed various ways that human cultures exploit men. The suggestion that human cultures, which are usually thought of as primarily patriarchal, exploit males is provocative, but Dr. Baumeister points out that both men and women have both been exploited in ways consistent with the needs for the propagation of the human race. Regarding the exploitation of men, he argues thusly:

When I say I am researching how culture exploits men, the first reaction is usually “How can you say culture exploits men, when men are in charge of everything?” This is a fair objection and needs to be taken seriously. It invokes the feminist critique of society. This critique started when some women systematically looked up at the top of society and saw men everywhere: most world rulers, presidents, prime ministers, most members of Congress and parliaments, most CEOs of major corporations, and so forth — these are mostly men.

Seeing all this, the feminists thought, wow, men dominate everything, so society is set up to favor men. It must be great to be a man.

The mistake in that way of thinking is to look only at the top. If one were to look downward to the bottom of society instead, one finds mostly men there too. Who’s in prison, all over the world, as criminals or political prisoners? The population on Death Row has never approached 51% female. Who’s homeless? Again, mostly men. Whom does society use for bad or dangerous jobs? US Department of Labor statistics report that 93% of the people killed on the job are men. Likewise, who gets killed in battle? Even in today’s American army, which has made much of integrating the sexes and putting women into combat, the risks aren’t equal. This year we passed the milestone of 3,000 deaths in Iraq, and of those, 2,938 were men, 62 were women.

The entire address is as provocative and intriguing as the above excerpt. Among other things, Dr. Baumeister informs us that while one parent of each sex is required for each birth, that looking at the entirety of the living human race, that approximately twice as many different females than males are responsible for the current population.

For a review of the address, see here.


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