In most countries of the modern world the character of life is established by men's decisions. Thinking women have come to believe that a major reason for the social, economic, and political muddle in the world is precisely men's one-sided assumption of decision-making and responsibility. It is becoming clear that complementary decision-making that makes real use of the differences in temperament and talent of the two sexes is absolutely necessary.
It is generally accepted that males of most species tend to be more aggressive than females. Most women and men agree that men tend to fantasize more than women. The combination of the two, aggressiveness and fantasy, may be useful for developing ambitious plans and elaborating abstract systems and structures. But ambitious plans and abstract systems and structures are ineffectual without the counterbalance of a sensitive perception of what is really happening in the real world and a sustained interest in getting a real job done.
When they are solely responsible for making policy and decisions, men tend to overemphasize the aggressive and fantastic components of possible solutions to a problem. It seems clear, however, that if women take on their proper responsibility as half of the human race, and contribute their organic awareness of what has to be done, all kinds of human needs will be met with less waste of energy. The male aggressiveness that has been overdeveloped for lack of feedback will be better proportioned to real-world requirements. The perceptions of women will be fully utilized, along with such male biological aggressiveness as must remain, to create a fine balance between the two complementary sides of the human temperament With a righting of that balance, the probability of a saner, more wholesome society for both men and women is enormous, irrespective of the particular structures of the society.
This essay is an attempt to explore working relationships between men and women, the complementary distribution of working talent between the two sexes, and their possible relationships to biological differences. Its intention, finally, is to suggest fruitful ways of working together.
This is a time of transition in the working relationships between women and men, characterized by certain themes. One of them is women's poor image of themselves. Believing themselves to be lesser, smaller, more passive, weaker, more trivial, incapable of coping with men and other women as equals, incapable of taking hold of a big job, they behave as if they are this way and then get confirmation from others of their own beliefs.
Another theme is men's belief that women cannot really do big jobs, that women are not creative, and that women in offices, government, and industry should hold the jobs closest to housekeeping and a wife's duties. That is, that women should take care of the routine activities, the maintenance chores, the lubricating trivia while men do the big thinking and contact work. Men feel that in helping a man »do his thing«, most women derive their satisfactions and feeling of being needed. And finally, they feel that any woman who does big jobs, is creative, and is successful must be a hard, nasty bitch, or sleeping with a guy who put her where she is.
These are myths. But they have been the operating myths of the working world, and they help to explain why it is that women are offered and accept low pay; that capable, educated women accept dead-end office-wife types of jobs; that women who work full-time also do virtually all the housework and child care without complaint in a family where a husband is also present They also explain the »volunteer« syndrome in suburbs—the middle-class housewife who does not think she is worth much as a worker, but wants to work, and fritters her time away in volunteer chores where she feels »needed«, but not valued.
Statistics from the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor tell only part of the story. Incomes of women working full-time average about three-fifths of those of men working full-time; the gap has been widening rather than narrowing. Women clerical workers earn less than three-fifths of what men clerical workers earn; women sales workers earn about two-fifths of what men in similar positions earn; women managers, officials, and proprietors earn slightly more than half of what men in equivalent situations earn. The narrowest gap between the two is on the professional and technical level: women earn about two-thirds of what men earn. Some of the gap is attributable to the fact that women tend to drop out of work during the time that their children are young, so that their accumulated experience may be somewhat less. In addition, a higher proportion of black women than white ones are dependent on jobs; since black women's jobs tend to be low-paying and unskilled, their higher representation lowers the averages.
However, even among women and men of equal educational attainment, the median annual salary of women scientists in 1966 was about $3,000 a year lower than the median annual salary of all scientists of both sexes. Starting salaries offered for women whose qualifications were equal to those of men were usually lower. (Engineering shows the smallest gap—a difference of only a few hundred dollars a year.) One-third of all working women were in seven occupations in the late 1960's. One-fourth of them were in four: they were secretaries, retail saleswomen, household workers, or teachers in elementary schools; the next three occupations were bookkeeper, waitress, and nurse.
Myths about the working possibilities of men and women have been the foundation on which these atrocious figures rest. It would be easy to say that prejudice against women by men is the primary cause. It would be easy, but it would be only half the story. The trouble with working women lies also in themselves, in their definition of themselves and of each other.
Experiments reported in TransAction magazine several years ago showed that when an identical lecture was delivered by a female instructor and by a male instructor, women college students rated the male »better«.
Most working girls and women, even young ones, have permitted their roles to be defined by others, even in contradiction of their own perceptions. Most working women perceive very clearly that their (male) bosses are not particularly bright. Over a period of time, they also become aware that they are themselves as capable as men, and in some areas—for example, responsiveness to situations, insights, and ability to carry a job through to completion—particularly good. They simply do not reach for the rewards of their capacity or even for ordinary equality. If they expected equitable evaluation on their merits and behaved as if they expected it, they would get it more often.
Considerable thought about the difference between the women who have »made it« and those who have not makes it clear that the women who have behave as if they expected to be treated as equal. They know the myths about women, but they do not believe them. They rely on their own perceptions of reality and respond directly to that reality. It is no wonder that over a period of time, they act on those perceptions with increasing confidence and become notable in a world of myth makers for bluntness, directness, and effectiveness. These women have the fewest working »discrimination« stories to tell. They talk sense, and they are listened to. The problem for these women is that men who do not know them may not interview, hire, or promote them. They may not get as far, therefore, as men with similar capacities.
On the other hand, women who have been brainwashed early about the inferiority of women do not admit their own perceptions. The idea of equality has no meaning to them. For example, twenty-six years ago, a large company in midtown New York that was advanced enough to have hired an ordinary (not gorgeous) black woman as a receptionist, still required that women smoke cigarettes in the ladies' room, while men were permitted to smoke at their desks. My mere challenge to the personnel department sufficed to undo the ban on women's smoking. Why had the other women waited so long in such a ridiculous situation? It was obviously their feeling that despite the master's degrees in chemistry that a number of them had, they were only women.
Another example of women's bad self-image was in the questionnaire sent to successful women by two women authors of a book on careers for women. The questionnaire asked who had »helped« these women at a number of different stages. Would a man's career be defined by the »help« he had received along the way, making of him a passive recipient of favors? Should it not be as plain for women as for men that a career is not »helped"—that its advancement comes from others' recognizing capacity and making sensible economic use of it?
Demeaning images of women are even disseminated by educated women who are »experts.« During the 1950's, a woman Ph.D., working for the then-largest advertising agency in the country as a market researcher, made a career for herself by defining women for the benefit of male marketers as emotional, trivial, and distractable — a great soap opera audience. These qualities could more readily be attributed to temporary isolation from meaning and responsibility than to feminine nature. But there was no differentiation in this analysis. Furthermore, it was extremely satisfying to her male audience, who developed marketing plans and advertising based on it. And handsome, young, married, gray-flannel-suit account men confessed with pleasure they could not »understand« women.
Home economists are among the few professional women employed in considerable numbers in industry. They have been charged by manufacturing and communications firms with interpreting women to their male bosses. Unfortunately, these women's training is more in specific technical areas—food, clothing, household maintenance—than in the liberal arts, psychology, or communication. In addition, home economics as a field of study has not attracted many high-powered women. The result, again, has until recently been a concentration on technical detail and further dissemination of cliches and conventional wisdom about women and their interests. Fortunately, these women have begun to see themselves differently, and a mutter of discontent may be heard at their professional meetings with male speakers whose lack of respect for these women's professional and business attainments expresses itself in silly sexual flattery.
Plainly women can and are beginning to think bigger about themselves and the work they can and should be doing. But, as I indicated at the beginning of this section, the trouble is more with men. Not all of them. Only enough to create difficulty. It is a matter of fact that in the scientific and engineering fields, into which few women have ventured, there is less discrimination than in fields that deal more with symbols. It may be that the habit of dealing with things realistically—a simple requirement for successful engineering—permits engineers to evaluate women's talents realistically, and let them work accordingly.
In areas where symbols and fantasy dominate work, women are more troubled by male misunderstanding and more subject to unexamined male prejudice, even if they hold good jobs. This is particularly true where what is being »sold« is image more than product, as it is in magazine publishing, advertising, and public relations. In 1950 when I was one of 140 applicants for a job as editor of a trade magazine and the only female applicant, I was hired because I had taken the trouble to look at the magazine before the interview and outline plans for changing it. The publisher disliked having a woman editor and was nervous about reader acceptance. I was introduced to the readership as »R. L. Willett, our new editor, who takes a tough shirtsleeves approach...«.
One woman who is now president of her own manufacturing company tells a story of the difference between realism and fantasy in another area. In 1960 she had left a company where she had been in charge of systems design and development on a new computer for the American Stock Exchange. She was one of the few people in the country who had designed and built real-time systems and had the only experience in the country with the requirements of a stock exchange. She was interviewed by an official of the New York Stock Exchange for the job of administrator of their data-processing study group, and after extensive checking of her experience, hired. She accepted very happily; as she puts it, »enchanted with the prospect of another big system.« However, because the job was a management job at a very high level, she had to be approved by the Executive Board of the New York Stock Exchange. This was generally a formality. In this case, it was not. The men on the board said no, to the considerable embarrassment of the man who had been delegated to find the best-qualified person in the country. His mortified explanation of their rejection was, »They said you might hear dirty words on the Exchange floor.« As she tells it, they hired one man after another—including one who had been her junior in a previous work situation. None of them did the job adequately, and the New York Stock Exchange muddle continued for years.
Inability to believe that women are worth considering outside women's traditional jobs formerly characterized many employment agencies. In the mid-1950's, when I was running the major industrial accounts at a public relations agency, I registered with an employment agency that specialized in public relations executives. I put down my then salary, about $10,000, and the accounts I was working on (mostly in the institutional and packaging fields). The agency principal interviewed me briefly, deciding a priori that I was what was known in the trade as a »recipe peddler.« (A woman who devises new consumer recipes for use with clients' food products and places them in newspaper and magazine food pages. This happens to be the most usual job for women in public relations, also the lowest paid.) I said I had never done that—my experience was entirely industrial, much broader, on a much higher level, and I was paid accordingly. The only job the agency ever offered me was one for a recipe peddler—at almost $3,000 less than I was earning.
Troubles like this continue. A short time ago I received a letter from a professor in the graduate school of business administration of the University of Colorado that read in part:
- As you well know, it is a formidable obstacle to a woman graduating senior to get through the door into the business world. In twenty-nine years of doing what I can to help men and women find promising positions, I realize that women must have extra help. Most of our women graduates who have gotten into business have proven their ability to carry executive responsibilities, just as have our men graduates. I can point to many around the country.
- More and more men and women executives recognize this and acknowledge that their acceptance is gradually improving, but it is still quite difficult for women to get through that first door. Legislation has not solved the problem.
- Can you help? Will you make yourself available to these proven graduates who wish to start their careers in business? I am not soliciting lip-service, or clerk-type openings for these women, but am requesting your whole-hearted active effort to help a woman graduate when she, or I, contact you for your energetic help.
- We want your name in our active file. The higher you stand in executive position, the more valuable is your personal availability and participation, just as theirs will be when they reach a level where they can help women graduates that follow. You will be greatly appreciated by all concerned, you may be very sure!
- Also, we want names and addresses of those persons who you know will cooperate with this program. Please supply us with their names, and the details necessary for making contact with them.
The Wall Street Journal was impressed enough with this kind of effort (directed to only 200 women in the country!) to give it front-page mention a few weeks later.
Working women have had other kinds of problems in being treated as »equal.« In the late 1940's I was promoted to a »man's job« in charge of technical service and development on food products in a company that sold colloidal materials to a number of different industries. I was promoted in the first place (from the job of technical and patents librarian) because I had the background, and because the technical director judged that I had the »guts« that the depression-wounded, MIT-educated chemical engineer I was replacing did not have. But, he said, very seriously, »Ros, one of the—things the job requires is that you drink with the boys. Can you do that?« As the single female member of the technical planning committee there, I had other problems. We met at the Chemists' Club, and women were not admitted to the bar. I was literally collared on my way out of the meeting room after a long morning by the company president demanding to know where I thought I was going. He had assumed I was heading to the bar. Far from it: I was heading for the ladies' room—which was almost equally inaccessible.
Other public accommodations problems present themselves: the Advertising Club, a professional, not social, organization, segregates members. Women members are only permitted to entertain in certain rooms, far from the nicest. Until recently United Air Lines ran an all-male executive flight to Chicago at 5 p.m. from Newark Airport. I make frequent trips to Chicago, and Newark is an hour closer to where I live than Kennedy, which was for years the only alternative. My secretary pointed out that I was an executive and so listed in several Who's Who's. No admission. I wrote to the Civil Aeronautics Board complaining about discrimination against women on this convenient plane. They said the all-male executive flight was entirely promotional, and that if women wanted an all-female executive flight that they would put one on. I pointed out the explosive black-white analogy, suggesting that they tell black people that they were not discriminated against on most flights, but on one flight a day, which was purely promotional, only whites were to be permitted; and if blacks wanted an all-black flight, all they had to do was create effective demand. United also said they scarcely ever had any complaints from women. This went on all through the 1960s until early 1970. I did not use United Airlines for any flight during that period and only use them now when they are the only airline into a city.
Inside organizations and even among male colleagues whom one likes, other kinds of experience indicate how hard it is for men to let women rise to their own level. Some years ago, I was a department head in a public relations agency, running several large industrial accounts. I was in a small office with a window, equipped with a standard office desk. The agency head learned of the availability, from a travel agency that was moving, of two tiny desks with drawers the size of those in a sewing machine cabinet—big enough to hold spools of thread. He bought the desks for five dollars each and then came into my office to tell me I was about to be the recipient of a »lady's desk«, so that he could give my desk to a newly hired male writer. I pointed out that the folders and papers I used would not fit in the drawers of the »lady's desk«, that my efficiency would be diminished by this inappropriate little table, that he would be wasting part of the pretty good salary I was being paid, that the work I did had nothing to do with being »female«, and finally that I would not accept the little desk. He stomped out of my office virtually apoplectic with rage about »women.« (He had another idea sometime later that my office, with its window, would be more appropriate for a man, who was my junior in age, experience, and responsibility. Again, my answer was no, with an explanation of why I felt it was wrong. The explanation was unheard. The response was that I was an irrational woman, exceptionally difficult to deal with.)
On other occasions where as an »expert« I have organized technical programs and delivered long, well-received talks to large audiences, the only comment from a »friendly« male colleague was that I said »hell« once and »damn« twice, during one speech. The implications were that he had a right to censure my unladylike behavior, and that the audience would be seriously disaffected by it. On another speech-making occasion, I was introduced to an audience of fellow consultants as »our cute, little, bright, girl consultant« When I said I was far from a little girl, being in my mid-forties, and that gender had nothing to do with this kind of work, I was labeled, again, »difficult«!
Another example of unthinking put-down is the story of a professional woman who had been employed as a regional dietitian, supervising the entire Midwestern area's school lunch programs and exercising her own initiative successfully for a number of years. She was hired to do similar work by the public relations agency at which I worked. She made her own schedules and handled her own correspondence and contacts with immense success for the years I was there. My successor was a man, a nice man. The head of the agency told him idly one day that he was to »boss« the school lunch representative, taking over her correspondence and contacts and making her travel schedule for her.
(It should be said, incidentally, to clarify what follows, that I was told while I was there that I was »boss« of a couple of very competent men, and expected to »boss« them. Since they were aware of their assignments and produced their work reliably, and since they knew I would be glad to help if they ran into any trouble with which I could help (technical or writing), I did not exercise my boss prerogatives in any noticeable way. Just saw to it that we got the work out.)
Nothing loath—my successor told the school lunch lady the news and asked that she turn her files and contact list over to him, thereby in one swoop making an independent and capable woman into his flunky. She refused. He called to tell me this story with the comment that she was as irrational as most women, very difficult to deal with. I pointed out to him that he had no real function to serve in this case that she was not already performing better, and that he could have said so to the agency head. Also that her response was direct and to the point. If a man had suffered this indignity, he might not have been so direct. A man might have said, »Yes, but well have to wait a few days till I get things in order«, or devised some other scheme for evading the problem, and finally when it could not be avoided, disappeared into a bar or come down with a psychosomatic disorder that necessitated his absence until, hopefully, it was forgotten.
Men who can stand competent women as long as their biological differences can be ignored become terribly solicitous when biology comes to the fore. Every single woman who has looked for a job has been asked what she would do if she got married. (The responsibility for her departure always seems imminent to men who can ignore their own job turnover very comfortably.) If she is married, the probability of an instant baby overwhelms the interviewer. It required very blunt talks several times to lay that suspicion to rest in my own career. I had been married for ten years before I decided to have a child. When I changed jobs during that period, it was necessary to point out mat I had a diaphragm and a fair amount of successful experience in using it.
Finally, when I did decide to have a child, most people, male and female, were »worried« about my continuing to work. I did work until the night before the baby was born, putting on a very successful client party less than two weeks before, at which I did not sit down at all. Two weeks after, I spent a day touring a client factory. My feeling about work was clued by my observation of pregnant alley cats. Belly or no, they continue to jump over fences and grub around in garbage cans. So can most women. When I was asked how I could continue to work with such a massive handicap, the answer was easy: a big belly only interferes with, tying your shoelaces; it does not impair your intelligence. Ask any man with one.
Blunt, straightforward talk and action, and ad hoc responsiveness to real-world situations are very characteristic of women. But it is precisely because men do not want or expect directness—and often do not get it from each other, particularly in the white-collar world—that they find it incomprehensible. They prefer fantasies about what women are like and about what their work and organization are about.
A publishing affiliate of one of the best-known »thinking« corporations in the country asked me some time ago to write a book about dealing with women in industry and business for the benefit of male executives and middle management. I wrote to the editor and said they would not want the kind of book that I would write: describing many problems as men's problems with their own myths about women. I outlined a few. The answer was that I was right. It would comfort no executive to hear this kind of thing; he would not buy such a book.
But the situation is changing. The most serious business magazine in one field in which my firm works as consultants has for years been ran mostly by women. But the title »editor« or »editorial director"—the magazine's public image maker—has always been awarded to a man of variable competence, who did not last long. Until lately. A year or two ago the farce ended. The woman »managing editor« became »editor«. Other publications in the field have since followed suit as have at least some consumer publications, but the few latter only in the fields defined as »women's«.
There are few women in contact positions in advertising and public relations agencies because the men who run them are worried about whether businessmen may not be disturbed at the idea of dealing with a woman. All other things being equal, agency heads have not wanted to disturb possible client prejudices, even in the interest of getting a good job done. Yet, when the question is treated on its merits—and a matter-of-fact evaluation of the requirement for getting a good job done is made—businessmen in heavy industry, high technology, and other fields can and do deal with women without comment Agency fears have not been justified in my experience, and they are beginning to give way.
The question of competence and ability rarely comes up these days. Most men do not, in the face of evidence to the contrary, say that women cannot by their nature do a job; plainly they can and are doing many jobs exceedingly well.
Mary Wells Lawrence runs a dynamic and highly profitable advertising agency and is herself a very creative advertising person. Katherine Flack, administrator of institutional services for the New York State Mental Hygiene Department, has done the pioneering work on creation of a supplies system meeting the requirements of forty-six institutions which house and feed tens of thousands of people. Esther Conwell Rothberg, a physicist, did most of the theoretical work on the behavior of semiconductors. Vera Jenkins, a manufacturers' representative in the Southeast, has turned in the best sales record in the country for Amco Wire Products. General Electric has appointed a woman sales manager in New York for its commercial equipment. Marianne Moore is widely considered one of the country's foremost poets. Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict have done as much creative thinking in anthropology as any man (and the results do not distort life so much as structural anthropology in the style of Levi-Strauss). Louise Nevelson's and Marisol Bauermeister's works are as serious and consequential as any male's sculpture; Mary Bauermeister and Helen Frankenthaler, Bridget Riley, and Georgia O'Keeffe, are as creative as any male painter. Mme. Alexandra David-Neel is a fair mystic. Susanne Langer's contributions to philosophy are more important in my opinion than those of any other currently working philosopher. Karen Horney's contribution to self-analysis and human typology are wearing better than much work done by male psychiatrists in the same period.
Geraldine Stutz, Dorothy Shaver, and Mildred Custin among others have been extraordinarily successful retailers. Katherine Meyer, Dorothy Schiff, and Alicia Patterson have been exceptionally creative publishers of very profitable newspapers. Margaret Chase Smith has a record of courage and good sense in the Senate equaled by few men. Female writers from Sappho to authors of virtually all the masterpieces of the Heian period of Japan, from Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley to George Eliot to Iris Murdoch, Sigrid Undset, Virginia Woolf, Doris Lessing, and Marguerite Duras, have produced creative work on a par with that of men. Martha Graham's dance compositions surpass those of any other choreographer now working.
Although the number of women physicians in the United States is not high (about 7 percent of the total), in Russia women are 75 percent of the total and they do not treat only women and children (see Solzhenitsyn's The Cancer Ward). The number of women lawyers in the United States is small, about 2Vi percent; the number of woman lawyers in official positions is even smaller. But in 1959, a UN study quoted by Doris Sassower in Trial magazine showed that women were 14 percent of all lawyers in France, 9 percent of the public prosecutors in Hungary, 25 percent of the judges in Poland, and 50 percent of the law students in Denmark.
The trouble with advancement of women in business and industry no longer lies with the idea that they are incapable of doing the job. Plainly women can do well virtually anything there is to do. It lies instead in the male expectation or belief that women tend to be irrational and difficult to deal with. This is a self-serving myth perpetrated by those men who cannot cope with reality, but must impose fantasy on it They define responsible women variously and pejoratively as, »a little nutty«, domineering, masculine, aggressive, feminine, hard to get along with, and impossible to understand. So defined, few women can get past a middle level in any organization or be considered for public »image making« in non-sex-related jobs by the organization.
Are There Biological and Behavioral
There are no absolute biological differences other than the clear-cut differences between primary and secondary sex organs (and even these seem to be blurred in a few unfortunate individuals). Human characteristics appear in distribution patterns like those of any other measurable factors—on a scale from »most« to »least«, with a sizable group in the middle, and a trailing off of individuals to either side. This would be true of height, weight, muscularity, strength, and various specific abilities in verbal ability, math, games and strategies, peak-type energy output versus sustained energy output.
Since this is so for both men and women, it would be idiotic to say without qualification, »All men are good at math, strategy, peak-type pushes, have more mechanical aptitude, are better at manipulating spatial relationships; all women have better vocabularies, speak earlier and better, are higher in sensitivity and suggestibility, and can better sustain long energy outputs.« Men and women vary; there are women who are stronger, more aggressive, and more capable of high-level mathematical abstraction than most men. There are men who are more aware and sensitive, have better vocabularies, and are more nurturing in their responses than most women. (This distribution of characteristics should not be regarded as making a man less male or a woman less female.) The distributions may be affected by social expectations as much as by biology. The precise etiology of human characteristics in inborn temperament or training is far from defined. But where measurements have been made, it would appear that the above differences are more likely to be true. Most of these differences are suggested by Human Behavior: An Inventory of Scientific Findings (Berelson and Steiner), by M. F. Ashley-Montagu, and others.
Unquestionably, most people perceive that there are differences between men and women, although one should not demand them of any individual man or woman; if one examines the statistical distribution of characteristics, the median for men will be in a different place on the curve from the median for women. These differences manifest themselves early.
One of the easiest to see is musculature. Boys and men have, on the whole, larger, stronger muscles and considerably more muscle tension. This is clear, for example, in classical and folk dancing—where with equivalent or less training, men jump higher—and in athletics, where even the best women do not compete with men in track events.
There is an interplay between body structure and temperament. The tension in muscles requires release in activity. In our society boys are often called »immature« (in nursery and elementary school), »hyperactive«, and other pejorative terms. The basic fact is that they are likely to require more activity to release perfectly normal muscle tensions that build up as a result of their normal structure and hormone supplies. Instead of seeing that the »trouble« lies in muscle tension that can be utilized physically and creatively, educators tend to equate maturity and the capacity for learning with the ability to sit still and look attentive. This may explain why girls get better marks in school until adolescence—when they discover that they are not supposed to be smart.
Any kind of tension, including normal muscle tension, is released by strenuous physical activity. It may be expressed by aggressive behavior. Our society tends to deplore acts it labels aggressive as if they were bad. But seizing a problem, attacking it with energy, and worrying it through to some kind of solution are all aggressive, human, and necessary. If, as is generally the case, men have more muscle tension and tend to be more aggressive as a result of biological structure, recognizing the biological base for such characteristics and planning to enjoy and use the results seem no more than common sense.
The paucity of research on any of these differences is pointed up by the few reports we do have. For example, J. J. Gallagher makes the point that differences between boys and girls on written tests were undetectable. They score about the same, except that the girls were better at giving solutions to hypothetical problems and the boys were more expressive (should we say aggressive?) in the classroom.
Another possibly biological difference between men and women that has not yet been adequately investigated, but seems to express itself in behavior, has to do with rhythmic cycling and peaking of activity. Possibly because of differences in muscle and hormone tensions, men seem to require a peak-type push and all-out activity at fairly short intervals, with all-out relaxation between. Observation indicates that most women prefer sustained activity without high peaks or deep drops of energy output. Women's activity preferences are much less on an »either-or« basis.
Many primitive societies take advantage of the probable difference in biological rhythms to divide the work between men and women accordingly. The intermittent, maximum-energy-output, then-relaxation jobs are usually men's jobs. In primitive society, hunting is the man's job. The men organize for a hunt, mobilize maximum energy and strategic capability in doing it, encounter very real danger and hardship, and come home with prizes. They then relax, tell stories, fantasize about hardships and danger, reconstruct heroic acts, eat, sleep, and gossip. Women in such societies handle the day-to-day activity, all the businesses, farming, and maintenance.
Aside from possible quantitative differences, there are qualitative differences, some of them perhaps because of training, but many at least partly inborn. One is the nature of perceived reality and how it is dealt with. For reasons that are not entirely clear, men seem to fantasize more than women. This may be one component of their biologically determined aggressiveness. Aid, perhaps in consequence of an innate difference in ability to perceive spatial relationships and of an interest in strategy and games, men tend to impose abstract structures on reality, and then to perceive reality in terms of their abstractions.
This could be, and often is, extremely fruitful. Abstractions are needed for thinking, for predicting, for developing new ideas. But if the map (the abstraction) does not match the territory (reality), it misleads and confuses. A great many masculine generalizations, abstractions, and »theories« are fake maps aggressively imposed on the real world. Their presence hampers perception of the real world and flexibility in response to it.
With a generally lesser component of aggressiveness and a generally smaller need for fantasy, women are often quite free to perceive the world as it is. The directness and organic wholeness characteristic of feminine perception is called »intuition«, »earthiness«, »common sense« in everyday affairs. It is also often strikingly new and insightful, creating great »maps« of previously uncharted »territory« like Susanne Langer's Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling.
Greater responsiveness to human situations—unvoiced and abstracted—may be somewhat more characteristic of woman only in consequence of the absence of the hormone and muscle tension that makes males aggressive. On the other hand, some investigators think there are real nervous system differences between men and women. Most women, however, are more likely to believe that sensitiveness and responsiveness are not necessarily positive, feminine, built-in characteristics, but qualities that are present in both sexes as part of the human endowment, but are covered up by tensions and aggressiveness in the male. The latter are reinforced socially and later become habitual. Possible innate female sensitivity is enhanced by women's experience of nurturing new life and of other roles—working and family—in which it is reinforced and deepened.
Apropos of biological differences, it is sometimes said that women are more emotional than men. It is more accurate to note that in our society it is not permitted to men to be as expressive of emotion. Women are permitted to be expressive in situations where men are not considered manly if they are expressive. Easy expression of feeling should not be assumed to correlate with intensity of feeling. Women are not necessarily more emotional than men; these things are individual. It may be that the habits of repression of feeling (which is masculine) and of imposing abstractions and fantasies on reality actually make men more »emotional.« (Evidence exists in their fantasies, in their responsiveness to abstract stimuli for sex, in their preponderance in the crime and violence statistics.)
"Emotional behavior« by women may be related to frustration of their intelligence and capacities, to being put automatically in second place when they are capable of better. Women who work their way out of the second-place role tend not to have to be »emotional«.
Granting the really minor differences between men and women, a question arises in the minds of both men and women as to why men have been permitted to dominate affairs for so long. There are several factors involved. First, most women know that the relationships are skewed, but they also know that men have been taught to relate their ego needs to their mythical superiority. Destroying the myths would be destructive of many men. Few women are willing to undertake a destructive program even for their own advantage. They know they themselves can readily make adjustment to reality. With their emotional affiliations to particular men, they cannot lightly countenance the possibility of damage to them. (This is not to say that in women's frustration and ambivalence toward the situation in which they find themselves they do not sometimes engage in destructive behavior. They do. But not with that avowed intent)
Second, although most women perceive the masculine-imposed abstractions on the real world to be faulty, good new structures are not instantly available. In the meantime, it is extremely difficult to substitute for a dazzlingly simple structure (no matter how poorly it matches reality), a nonstructure, a set of ad hoc behaviors that cannot easily be taught or learned, but must be felt. Even discussion or argument about some male-made abstractions is difficult. As the semanticists would say, the formulations may be ultimately meaningless—not discussable.
The problems with the masculine imposition of not-necessarily-matching structure on the working world are all too evident Economic theory is elaborated but quite often fails to be predictive, although that is its ostensible purpose. »Games« and »strategies« are pursued in business and politics, with immense waste of energy and loss of real purpose. Abstract structures are mistaken for reality, metastructures are imposed on the original abstractions. The whole male-dominated world shows symptoms of a progressive removal from the red world with its stubborn ad-hoc-ness and variability. The faulty abstractions aggressively imposed by men on the real world condition decision-making. The new nonverbal, reality-oriented »human potential« and »sensitivity training« movements suggest how urgently a counterbalance is needed.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The division of responsibility between men and women is beginning to right itself. Perhaps the recent progressive trivialization of women, in which a woman who could do effective work or even think was regarded as a freak, has run its course. The mere fact that a Gallup poll could question women recently as to whether they or men have a more »pleasant« life is a sign of change. The majority of women said that women have a more pleasant life. No one asked what has happened to their self-respect in accepting it
It would be interesting to examine the death rates of men and women in societies in which work and responsibility are shared, comparing them with those in the United States, where women outlive men by seven or eight years. It seems probable that if the hazards of childbirth (which increase the death rate of young women in primitive societies) are not present, and work and responsibility are shared equally, the death rates should be more nearly equivalent.
Men die much earlier in industrial societies mainly because of undue stress. There are a number of factors involved in creating stress. One may be the unnecessary and excessive organization and routinization of work in modern society. This requires that men supplant their possibly more »natural« high-energy-output/relaxation cycle with sustained day-to-day routines that do not suit them as well. The other factor is the overload of responsibility they take on in most families.
Most married men take on the responsibility of earning most, if not all, of the family income. Where necessary, that may mean carrying two wage-earning jobs. Since most families are really economic arrangements, to which the money coming in is basic, this is an enormous responsibility. In addition, most men take on the responsibility for making major decisions about where to live, the kind of domicile, the kind of education for the children, the exterior and large-scale maintenance of housing and furnishings, as well as the care and repair of autos, dealings with government, and care of tax, legal, and financial matters. Women in such families do the shopping, take care of cleaning, cooking, laundry, children's errands, some bill-paying, and the social and cultural activities. They are generally under no time pressure. There is no demand that they politic in a hierarchical structure, waste time commuting, or live by the external pressures of the clock. They have reserved much of the very pleasant family business for themselves: the children, entertaining, and cultural activity.
In families where married women work full-time (fewer than half), they usually carry a double burden of household activity and work, and the responsibility may be more nearly shared. But often these women are doing too much of the routine work which should also be shared.
The result of this inequity in most families is tremendous responsibility and stress for the man, not enough responsibility for the woman. He may be ambivalent about the results, however gratifying they are to his sense of masculinity and power. He may want or need some time off from the treadmill. He may be envious of his wife's time for reading, for museum-going, or for children. He may resent how she uses »his« money—as if she earned no part of her own maintenance, in baby-sitting, cleaning, cooking, and shopping. He may actually feel that he works, and she spends. But he may also prefer to have it that way because he is thereby superior and she knows it.
Better arrangements can be made. If we define husband-and-wife as an equal partnership, then both should be expected to develop to their maximal potential at work and at home. In the partnership's domicile, maintenance activity should be shared. Housekeeping activities can easily be shared by two people on the basis of taste and time. If there are children they should learn that some of the maintenance chores are theirs. They should also be systematically taught as early as possible, how to fix simple meals for themselves, shop, use the phone, use public transportation, read a map, and pay attention to written messages directed to them as well as to record messages for other members of the family. In other words, they should be taught whatever adult competence they can learn.
Child care arrangements are far from ideal now, but Margaret Mead suggested many years ago that children raised with more than one adult reference point and with less tight one-to-one relationships with their parents tended to be less neurotic. Recent research by Stolz reported in Child Development magazine showed that children of employed mothers were likely to be neurotic only one-third as often as children of non-working mothers. The children in both studies were from intact homes. (Other studies have included the children of broken homes whose mothers were employed. The broken-home syndrome was a major factor in the report of neurosis in children of working mothers.)
It will take more than an equal assumption of responsibility by women to make a salutary change in working arrangements, as well as in economics and politics, but the assumption of decision-making power by women is indispensable to serious change.
It has been pointed out rather frequently in the past twenty years that industrial organization no longer requires the presence of large numbers of people in the same place at the same time. This was certainly the case in the primitive factories of the nineteenth century with their steam-powered machinery. With other sources of power such as electricity that are relatively easily disseminated, only certain process industries require centralization; others can be decentralized.
It is also the case that there is no particular rationale for a seven- or eight-hour day. Businesses and industries that arrange part-time schedules for their workers have found that they get more work per hour from part-timers, whose satisfactions in doing the job well are not dissipated by the requirement of spending the best part of their day on the spot. An examination of most jobs makes it clear that they are poorly planned on a management level, that most of them could be accomplished in less time. Part of the reason is that human energy and interest flag after a few hours, and the rest of the time on the job is devoted to fiddle-faddle for which the employer is paying. A rational working world would have people working on schedules they could choose for themselves in some measure, with employers paying for the fraction of the usual eight-hour day's work actually done in that period. Everyone would come out ahead—employer and employee—in terms of freedom, flexibility, and increased production.
This type of work scheduling, with increased sensitivity to human capacity, is something women understand very well. Attentiveness to human working rhythms could generate much greater productivity. I have had employees who could not get up in the morning, but could do a great job on a noon to 7 p.m. schedule. One young man worked best from midnight till 6 a.m. Why not?
With both members of the husband-and-wife team working sensible hours, neither of them need suffer the syndrome of being trapped in an economic rat race. Both could enjoy the freedom of thinking, reading, esthetic experiences, continuing education, and regular exercise. The tight family structure and land misuse that characterize the suburbs would go, in favor of more rational living arrangements near work (or more work at home) and better use of open land.
With equal partnership arrangements in families, another blow could be dealt to the rigid hierarchies that pass for organizational structure in most working places. Instead of bureaucratic pyramids with people walled into boxes in an organization chart, ad hoc structures could be developed for finite periods of time to do specific jobs. The resulting working flexibility and openness to new questions, problems, and activities would keep all human beings developing as individuals all their lives, making maximum personal and social use of potentials they scarcely know exist now.