Men and women apparently are moving toward the kind of roles they enjoyed on the grasslands of Africa millions of years ago, a step toward equality between both sexes, according to social patterns in the 21st century.
And though these patterns evolved gradually, and, in some instances not without conflict, there was a time, not so long ago, when all the answers seemed clear: Everyone knew which the weaker sex was—analyzed in terms of political power and bodily brawn, it seemed obvious.
Girls were told by early 20th century scientists not to get too much exercise or education: too much activity—or thinking—would divert needed blood from their reproductive systems.
Pseudoscientists, meanwhile, meticulously measured human brains and found women’s wanting for several ambiguous reasons.
And when the new science of intelligence testing turned up repeated and systematic superiority among girls, researchers kept tinkering with the tests until they produced the “right” results, outcomes that matched the accepted views of the time-honored male world view. But man’s venerated principle of gender dominance was about to crumble.
In fact, we’ve come a long way since those cloudy old days of gender prejudice. Science has turned up astonishing ways in which men and women differ—about their physiology and psychology—and the ways society influences both but in a positive fashion.
Some interesting scientific questions of the 21st century include topics such as:
- Are women peculiarly protected from the stresses that beleaguer modern men in the corporate world?
- Is there something to be learned from female longevity that might help improve and prolong the lives of men?
- Are men, by nature, better suited than women to lead and manage other people? Or is it possible that society would be better off with women’s fingers near the nuclear buttons?
The old answers, once so sure and accepted, just don’t seem to work anymore. No longer relevant are the proofs of who had the stronger shoulders, who might unpredictably become pregnant, or who is better suited to handle a national crisis?
Reason: warfare no longer runs on muscle power alone and fertility is no longer as fickle as weather forecasts in the days of the horse and buggy.
On the contrary, every American fingertip now controls horsepower by the thousands and can reach around the world with a single click of the mouse. Drugstores and clinics are freedom fountains from fertility.
And while scientists outwardly still have a long way to go, research in a dozen disciplines—from neurology, endocrinology and sports medicine to psychology, anthropology, and sociology—is beginning to point in the same direction.
There are myriad differences between the sexes beyond their reproductive functions, the pitch of their voices, and their muscular frames.
Many of these differences suggest, however, that women are at least as well equipped as men for life in the modern world—and that in some ways they are, in fact, the stronger sex.
What is more, these biological distinctions appear to be more than just skin deep, or as one feminist talk show host observed recently: “If God created man first, He or She apparently took advantage of hindsight when it came to woman.”
Just consider longevity, for instance. In every country in the world where childbirth itself no longer poses mortal danger to women; the life expectancy of females exceeds that of males.
And in the United States, the gap is growing. A baby girl born today can look forward to nearly 79 years—seven more than a baby boy.
For 2 million years, women carried children around and have been the nurturers. That’s probably why tests show they are both more verbal and more attuned to nonverbal cues.
Men, on the other hand, tend to have superior mathematical and visual-spatial skills because they roamed long distances from the campsite, had to scheme ways to trap prey and then had to find their way back.
Nature not only intended men and women to put their bodies together; we’re meant to put our heads together as well.
Perhaps that’s what is so thrilling about what’s happening now. All those male and female skills are beginning to work together again. At long last, society is moving in a direction that should be highly compatible with our ancient human spirit.
Top o’ the morning!