This is a thorough and tasteful treatment of a tricky issue by Seb Benthall.
First thing: there’s a lot of problems with the way the article is written that will make those on the
other side of the debate unwilling to dignify it with a response. A lot of the argumentation is built on top of sexist assumptions which have been pissing off feminists for years, so it’s not a critically informed entry into the debate.
That said, it has some good points. It resonates with I’m guessing you and also me and probably a lot of other guys. Why?
Well, it seems to account for a lot of the way I’ve experienced life as a straight man: deliberately competing in abstracted social contexts for respect, which by credible assumption by the author is translatable to, let’s be frank, poontang. Which is scarce in a sense and so worth competing for. And, indeed, there are as many losers as there are winners, so being a man in this context isn’t always peachy. We’ve all been shut out of venues in which we can’t compete. I’m a privileged and lucky guy so I’ve come out pretty well, but lots of men haven’t. However, these social structures that encourage competition for respect are very productive for society—they create art, medicine, governance, etc.
The problem is that this account does not do justice to the problems faced by women (and gay men? unclear) when entering these structures (created by men?). Women’s participation in, say, engineering classes is reacted to very often with hostility and discouragement. There is good reason to believe that this hostility has as much if not much more to do with women’s lack of motivation in these areas as does any innate lack of desire to, i guess, uh, breed “up”.
A charitable interpretation of this would be that the men in these contexts are just exhibiting the same brutality of competition to women in these fields as they extend to each other. But that doesn’t make any sense because women in those fields are not competing with the men around sexually. More likely is that women’s participation in those fields makes it more difficult to treat those social structures as ego battlegrounds for achieving relative dominance over others. Being out-competed by a woman by something you’re doing in order to impress women is a kind of game changer that is difficult to accept, emotionally. Sheer denial could account for the psychological reaction there.
None of which justifies the circumstances, of course. But I think there’s room to accept both Baumeister’s descriptive account of what straight men are up to when they set up these competitive structures without accepting a lot of his (probably just sexist) assumptions that these structures are more “natural” for evopsych reasons. The mechanism for reconciling his account with those of angry feminists could be as easy as recognizing that including women in those structures is bound to create confusion and disturbance in those areas. The question then becomes whether the strict sexual competitiveness of segregated structures is more productive for society than a more openly inclusive but socially confusing structure. The progressive point of response to that question is, ‘of course not.’
But that raises all these other questions…..