A piece by Tom Whipple, Science Editor, in today’s Times:
We all know what is meant to happen when the genders become more equal. As women smash glass ceilings and open up education, other differences should disappear too.
Without the psychological shackles of being the second sex, women are free to think and behave as they want; to become physicists or chief executives, unfettered by outdated stereotypes.
Yet to the confusion of psychologists, we are seeing the reverse. The more gender equality in a country, the greater the difference in the way men and women think. It could be called the patriarchy paradox.
Two new studies have again demonstrated this counterintuitive result, meaning it is now one of the best-established findings in psychology, even if no one can properly explain it.
In a survey of about 130,000 people from a total of 22 countries, scientists from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have shown that countries with more women in the workforce, parliament and education are also those in which men and women diverge more on psychological traits.
Separately, a research paper published by the online journal Plos One found that in countries ranked as less gender equal by the World Economic Forum, women were more likely to choose traditionally male courses such as the sciences or online study.
Erik Mac Giolla, the lead researcher in the first study, said that, if anything, the results found a bigger difference than in previous work. Personality is typically measured using the “big five” traits. These are openness, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism. Women typically score higher on all of them but there is always overlap.
In China, which still scores low on gender parity, the personality overlap between men and women was found to be about 84 per cent. In the Netherlands, which is among the most gender equal societies, it turned out to be just 61 per cent.
“It seems that as gender equality increases, as countries become more progressive, men and women gravitate towards traditional gender norms,” Dr Mac Giolla said. “Why is this happening? I really don’t know.”
Steve Stewart-Williams, from the University of Nottingham, said that there was now too much evidence of this effect to consider it a fluke. “It’s not just personality,” he said. “The same counterintuitive pattern has been found in many other areas, including attachment styles, choice of academic speciality, choice of occupation, crying frequency, depression, happiness and interest in casual sex.
“It’s definitely a challenge to one prominent stream of feminist theory, according to which almost all the differences between the sexes come from cultural training and social roles.”
Dr Stewart-Williams, author of The Ape That Understood the Universe, said an explanation could be that those living in wealthier and more gender-equal societies had greater freedom to pursue their own interests and behave more individually, so magnifying natural differences.
Whatever the reason for the findings, he argued that they meant we should stop thinking of sex differences in society as being automatically a product of oppression. “These differences may be indicators of the opposite: a relatively free and fair society,” he said. If this contradicted some feminist analyses, he said it was also a surprise to pretty much everyone else too. “It seems completely reasonable to think that, in cultures where men and women are treated very differently and have very different opportunities, they’ll end up a lot more different than they would in cultures where they’re treated more similarly and have a similar range of opportunities.
“But it turns out that this has it exactly backwards. Treating men and women the same makes them different, and treating them differently makes then the same. I don’t think anyone predicted that. It’s bizarre.”
My comments, currently pending approval:
There is only a “patriarchy paradox” if you look at this phenomenon through a feminist lens. But given that all feminist narratives have been debunked many times – including their notion of the patriarchy, which claims that men as a class oppress women as a class – why would you look through that lens? It’s ironic that by looking at phenomena only through feminist lenses, academics fail to understand what people with much less education understand.
If you look through a non-feminist lens, the phenomenon is EXACTLY what you’d expect. It’s driven in large part by gender-typical differences in work ethic, which are manifested more strongly in more affluent countries, where gender equality tends to be higher.
In 2000 the world-renowned sociologist Dr Catherine Hakim published a paper on “Preference Theory”, following her research which showed that while four in seven British men are work-centred, only one in seven British women is.
JUSTICE FOR MEN & BOYS
(and the women who love them)
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