Our Problems are Rooted in Masculinity

November 21

A Capital Idea Part 42: Our Problems are Rooted in Masculinity

In 1992, when Bill Clinton was first elected, I wasn't thrilled with our dominant party choices for President, so I voted for a Democratic Congresswoman from Colorado that I liked named Patricia Schroder. I even got my mom to vote for her as well. Clinton, of course, wound up serving 8 years, with mixed results from my perspective, but the worst aspects of his policies continue to worsen and plague us now -- continuing the outsourcing of American jobs, continuing the corporatization of America, and more or less buying into American imperialism and militarism, although he did downsize the military in a time of relative peace and lack of occupation somewhat. I have to think that if a woman such as Pat Schroder had been our President -- a woman who represented feminine priorities and didn't feel obliged to act like a stereotypical man -- we would be much better off now.

I have long thought of femininity as superior to masculinity, and by extension, of females as the superior gender basically, although I am a male. Actually, I am okay with that, especially since from a psychological standpoint, despite being a heterosexual male who likes sports and who does not act like a "girly boy," I score pretty high on the femininity aspects of Sandra Bem's Androgyny Scale. Actually, I admit to having scored Feminine on the Androgyny Scale when I first went to college, which was embarassing in a way, but when I considered what that meant, not so much. Basically, that means I am a fine example of the modern male that feminists like to see -- sensitive to people's feelings, nurturant, emotionally in tune. (I guess that goes a long way in explaining why I became a Social Psychologist.) However, as is typical according to research on personality throughout the lifespan, I have become more androgynous psychologically over the years. I have developed my assertive, confident, proactive side, which are masculine characteristics, and it's a good thing that I have these traits as well.

Regardless of the merits of a masculine versus a feminine psychological approach to life, the world clearly operates under a system which is far too masculine as a whole. When alpha males and their masculine approach to life rule, as it does in most of the world, and feminine characteristics are effectively excluded from the economic and political systems by which societies are run, aggression, conflict, overcompetitiveness and huge economic disparities are created. Thus, I postulate in this post, that our economic and political institutions are in grave need of a huge dose of femininity. Despite seeing greater numbers of women in politics as well as female entrepreneurs, entertainers, and intellectuals, all of us -- male and female -- are still working within the confines of what is essentially a misogynist, masculine system. In fact, it seems to me that it is difficult for most female politicians and enterpreneurs to function without trying to act like men. Among prominant female individuals, only intellectuals such as professors seem relatively comfortable being their feminine selves, in my opinion. Female entertainers, for the most part, are compelled to be ultra-feminine sex symbols, on the other hand. (I think to myself at this point, perhaps this gives us insight regarding the reason that male celebrities can successfully become politicians, yet we never see female celebrities do the same.)

When considering this topic, I endeavored to check a list which ranks nations of the world in terms of femininity, as described by Industrial/Organizational Psychologist Geert Hofstede, thinking that it might give me some insight into the differences between feminine and masculine cultures, and hopefully, showed superior results for feminine cultures (http://www.clearlycultural.com/geert-hofstede-cultural-dimensions/mascul...) I have included a link to this list, but this issue is far too complex to be grasped by a simple ranking of nations by femininity. Actually, Hofstede postulated five different cultural dimensions. The other ones are Power Distance, Individualism, Uncertainty Avoidance, and Long-Term Orientation. Each nation has a different mix of these characteristics, much like a national personality, analogous to Costa and McRae's Five Factor Model of Personality. All of the data upon which these rankings are based are self-report, which means that they are subject to the personal response biases of the respondents and by extension, the culture. Also, being an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, Hofstede is interested primarily in consumer behavior, and thus may not define the dimensions the way that other people would. The rankings are further complicated by the fact that nations may evolve over the years culturally. Nonetheless, it is very evident from the list, that the more feminine nations grant women more equal status to that of men, have women who act like real women, in positions of power, have political systems largely based on democratic socialism, and are peaceful nations which never attack other nations. Furthermore, these are nations which seem to be doing rather well in enduring these difficult economic times worldwide and in maintaining a good standard of living for its citizens. According to studies done by IBM, the world's 12 most feminine cultures, in order from the most feminine to the 12th most feminine, are:

1. Sweden

2. Norway

3. Netherlands

4. Denmark

5. Costa Rica

6. Finland

7. Chile

8. Portugal

9 Thailand

10. Guatemala

11. Uruguay

12. South Korea

Cultural femininity as defined by Hofstede means a culture that includes that traits of modesty, caring and nurturance, while masculine cultures have traits which include assertiveness, materialism, self-centeredness, power, strength and individual achievments.

The world's most masculine nations include several which have been notable in the past century for starting major wars (Japan, Germany), have been known for imperialism (United Kingdom) or for having macho attitudes and high rates of violent crime (eg. Mexico). The United States is fairly high on Masculinity, but nowhere near the top, and of course is extremely high in military spending and international military involvement, plus suffers relatively high rates of violent crime. The world's 12 most masculine cultures, according to the IBM studies, are:

1. Japan

2. Hungary

3. Austria

4. Venezuela

5. Italy

6. Switzerland

7. Mexico

8. Ireland

9. Jamaica

10. China (although Taiwan ranks closer to the feminine than masculine end of the scale)

11. Germany

12. United Kingdom

The larger issue here, though, is that of worldwide dominance of masculine traits, and the suppression of feminine traits from being built into our institutions in ways which would make them more compassionate, caring and better able to take care of citizens, provide a good overall standard of living and prevent international conflict, war or military occupations. The reframing of our economic and political systems which I previously suggested in this series, in terms of morality (especially the "feminine," caring, emotion-based approach to morality), and in terms of an ecosystem (i.e., "mother earth") are both essentially feminine approaches, for example, which would result in feminizing our world's culture in a good, necessary, and long overdue way. It's not just a matter of women learning to "play the game" that our system requires, so that they can enter into positions of power. What we really need is to feminize the system! Until then, the world's citizenry will continue to suffer the same sort of conflicts and inequities as it has in the past. The world is becoming not quite as masculinity oriented as it has been in the past, but the breakdown of the masculine hierarchy has been gradual, and limited. We cannot get to where we need to go, until we create a system which grants at least equal status to feminine concerns (from a psychological standpoint of nurturance, caring and emotion, for example) as our current system has always granted stereotypically masculine concerns.

Time To Expel Rep Steve King From the House?

Thom plus logo Congressman Steve King, in a new Internet meme, says that red state America has 8 trillion bullets and blue state America is still debating who can use which bathroom.